Union Station Bus Plaza - CODAworx

Union Station Bus Plaza

Submitted by Ben Hoelscher

Client: Union Station Redevelopment Corporation

Location: Washington, 20002

Completion date: 2013

Project Team

Interior Designer

Jim Gardniner



Todd Ray

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture


Jonathon Grinham

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture


In 2012, Union Station became the new central location for intercity bus travel. The bus transit center is located in the parking garage next door. Studio Twenty Seven Architecture designed a solution that would provide amenities to the bus traveler without requiring them to leave the bus deck.

Using the metaphor of a Zen rock garden, the new bus transit center is comprised of three pavilions. One of the pavilions serves as “rocks” in the field. This is formed from two natural, ovoid shapes, merged together. This pavilion contains ticketing and shopping, and a coded message on its ends.


Studio Twenty Seven sought an iconic and meaningful design that conveyed a message. “We wanted something less random, something imbued with meaning,” Todd Ray, principal of Studio Twenty Seven, remembers. “The real fun started with the end walls,” says boatbuilder Jim Gardiner, of Compmillenia. “At first, it looked like splashes of water on a panel. Then they came through
with the Morse code.” Indeed, S27 decided to etch on the panels, in Morse code, lyrics from a song by the group Death Cab for Cutie, called “Soul Meets Body.” The lyrics of interest, says Ray, convey the sense of impermanence and transience that is a bus depot:
’Cause in my head there’s a Greyhound Station
Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations
So they may have a chance of fi nding a place
Where they’re far more suited than here


The coded lyrics were routered by signage fabricator Smart Design Inc. (Woodbridge, Va.) into several sheets of medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Six sheets were then laid out and pieced together. The trick, says Gardiner, was to get gel coat into the Morse code dimples in the MDF without destroying the tool or the part. “Maybe it’s been done before,” says Gardiner, “but I hadn’t seen it, so we had to make it up.” MDF is porous, so a film was required to coat the tool surface, hold the vacuum while it was sucked into contact with the routered design and then release the finished part afterward. Gardiner turned to a marine-industry staple for a solution: the white plastic wrap used to cover boats for protection from weather. With a tooling strategy in place, the next step was to spec the gel coat. S27 had specified a custom yellow color that, as it turned out, is the same color as the paint used for parking lot lines — more symbolism from the parking structure. (We could go into much more depth!)