Slick Transit

Scottsdale's Loloma transportation station goes against the flows

Architect Doug Sydnor recalls that when the team went up in a cherry picker to test the idea, "There was no question about its merit. There were some beautiful views of Camelback Mountain, Papago Buttes and the McDowells."

But turning the idea into an affordable and a practical architectural plan was another matter. Acconci's first models proposed a ramp spiraling upward--the ground unpeeling like the skin of an orange.

"The result was a kind of raised lid that served a number of purposes," says Sydnor. "It was an inclined walk, and as it rose into the air it became a shade structure and a roof over the passenger-services building." But before long, reality struck. Some city officials saw the ramp as a death run of young skateboarders colliding with elderly tourists. Reflecting pools around the base of the structure raised concerns about water use. The numerous changes in levels filled the site with obstacles that would make it virtually impassable. Trees typically don't do well in planters up in the air. And without trees, the elevated ramp promised to be a commuter cooker in the summer. Moreover, the scheme far exceeded the project's $2.1 million construction budget.

Nevertheless, say Sydnor and Dye (Acconci was unavailable for comment), the first take contained the key concept found in the station's final plan: that of transforming the ground plane into vertical structures. Sydnor says it took a year and a half, and about 20 generations of architectural plans and 15 site plans, to reach the built design. "What it boiled down to," says Dye, "was deciding which of Vito's ideas were really viable and which ones weren't. Often the ideas we tested had only a kernel of usefulness. And many others just fell by the wayside."

Time will tell whether the station becomes the urban catalyst the city hopes. What's clear for now is it brings some welcomed new meaning to the idea of Southwestern design.

Loloma Transit Station occupies a 1.8-acre site at Marshall Way and Second Street in Scottsdale.

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