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Project Breakdown: BART Market Street Canopies

Feb 13, 2019


VIA provides a breakdown review of the BART Market Street Canopies project. VIA’s team worked closely with BART staff to create the designs for two prototype entrance canopies, one for Powell Station and one entrance to Civic Center station.

New canopy as seen at BART Powell Street entrance.

Over the next five years, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in collaboration with the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (MUNI), will be installing new canopies at the BART/ MUNI subway entrances along Market Street in San Francisco. The BART entrances today are non-descript, unprotected portals with little indication for riders to know they are even there. New codes require BART to protect the escalators from the weather, which presents new placemaking and wayfinding opportunities while increasing the reliability of the station infrastructure and  improving user experience along the most important multi-modal corridor in San Francisco.

Market Street cuts a diagonal between colliding neighborhood grids beginning at The Embarcadero, located on the waterfront of San Francisco Bay, and extending through historic financial, shopping, civic, and cultural districts. The twenty four BART and MUNI entrances serving the four major stations on Market Street are a hub of activity day and night. Each of the stations reflect the confluence of the unique cultural  identities that permeate the street.

The City of San Francisco is simultaneously implementing a project called Better Market Street; a transformative urban design project reinvigorating the streetscape to anchor neighborhoods, link public open spaces and connect the City’s Civic Center with cultural, social, convention, retail and tourism destinations along 2.2 miles of Market Street. BART and MUNI are embracing their role in the project, designing the canopies to reflect the unique character of San Francisco’s most iconic thoroughfare.


Design Challenge: Balancing functionality and place making

The canopies need to provide protection from the elements, secure the stations at night when the trains aren’t operating, and not obstruct visibility at street level for safety as well as retaining visual access to the businesses along Market Street. With the introduction of twenty-four new large structures, the architecture had to be beautiful, unique, while not being imposing or in conflict with the other elements of creating a Better Market Street.

Maximizing transparency of the vertical elements (glass wall and minimized load bearing columns) presented a design solution that provides the greatest visibility and not obstructing the adjacent businesses. The ceiling soffit is separated from the walls invoking a floating effect creating a lightness of structure. The edges of the canopy lift upwards, creating a welcoming transition for transit users both entering and exiting the transit station. The uplighting of the curved ceiling creates a soft glow of reflected light that both identifies the entrances for pedestrians and provides illumination for security purposes. The sandy white texture of the ceiling eliminates glare and harsh reflections from the subtle bank of lights running along the top of the glass walls. This even and ample lighting make for a safe and welcoming space.

Canopy at the Civic Center entrance.

Integration of new formal elements into existing place

The new structures need to contribute to Better Market Street’s unified identity while celebrating the unique character of the different districts the stations occupy. To do this, the canopies employ elements of continuity and elements of distinction. Architectural and material elements remain consistent while distinctive elements of civic art, reflecting each station’s neighborhood context, is  integrated into the canopy ceilings.

The art program was a collaborative effort engaging the many business and neighborhood stakeholders along with city leaders. Representatives of the local art community, including SF MOMA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, were brought in at early phases to help select the format and establish guidelines for art integration. The designs will be unique to each station while the material and methods used to render those designs serves as an element of continuity between the stations.


Kit of parts:

  • A floating, horizontal canopy – a simple and robust structure containing a roller shutter that completes the security enclosure at night. The curved, cloud-like shape of the canopy becomes a recognizable systematic element for transit and for Market Street. Its underbelly has been sculpted so it is easily seen while approaching it along market street or coming up from the station. Its horizontal orientation means it does not block facades of adjacent buildings.
  • Incorporation of art – the canopy ceiling becomes an element of distinction at each entrance – reflecting the cultural context with civic artwork produced by local and international artists. It is shaped to draw interest down into the transit levels below grade, to accommodate structure, and to provide modulation of lighting from daylight to underground.
  • The roof surface becomes responsive to the environment – an opportunity for a future green roofs providing local Tiger Butterfly habitat, drainage, and shade.
  • The “working wall” is comprised of 10’ glass walls which protect the entrance from weather, traffic, and intruders.
  • The “station identification column” acts as a structural wall with wayfinding information, integrating electrical and drainage elements, and an automated roller shutter for securing station access at night.
  • The “system information column” includes station information, a local area map, and dynamic signage.

Sustainability measures:

  • Long-lasting and low-maintenance materials were chosen for the design. Stainless steel, coated, laminated glass, and fiberglass reinforced polymer ceiling panels –less common, but extremely resilient to weather and damage.
  • LED lighting reduces the energy consumption of the canopy while maintaining an inviting atmosphere
  • Use of fabricators local to the Bay Area minimized transit of assembled materials, reducing the embodied energy of the canopies.