7N Architects, proposed kit of parts for a railway station

The public is being invited to take part in immersive virtual reality experiences and design workshops across Britain in May 2022 to explore emerging designs for small and medium sized railway stations.

ExploreStation is an ongoing initiative with the goal of finding out what people need to create great station experiences for passengers and communities now and in the future.

Ahead of the May events, designs have been published online in March, with the public being asked for their views in a comprehensive and inclusive digital engagement platform.

Commissioned by Network Rail and delivered by Design Council in partnership with The Glass-House Community Led Design, Digital Urban and Commonplace, ExploreStation offers exciting ways for people to engage with new station design concepts from 7N Architects.

The architectural practice won a 2021 RIBA international design competition to create design principles for local stations across the country.

7N Architects has produced a design that can work in different places and in different configurations – known as a kit of parts. The end result will be an overarching design blueprint for our stations of the future.

The public engagement programme enables participants to interact with 7N’s proposals in depth and in a variety of ways, including experiencing what the proposals will look and feel like.

People’s points of view are a crucial part of the conversation, helping to shape the evolving design in different areas of focus – from feeding back on the design principles to the way the station will be integrated into local neighbourhoods.

The innovative approach to engagement embodies Network Rail’s design principles, which include putting passengers first, being community-focused, collaborative, inclusive and innovative.

Everyone can participate in ExploreStation, whether giving their thoughts online, joining immersive pop-up experiences or attending hands-on workshops.

ExploreStation’s activities will take place across Britain through May 2022.

At immersive virtual reality pop-ups from Digital Urban, visitors will see a modular station materialising before their eyes.

Wearing headsets, they’ll get an opportunity to test out what if feels like to move around a new station with luggage or pull up in a train alongside the platform and new-style roof canopy in view of a distinctive clocktower.

They’ll hear train announcements and experience the new design right down to the detail – including how the design concept responds to local communities and the character of different places. The aim is for people to have fun while finding out more about the proposals, so they can offer their informed views.

Offering the opportunity to explore and have conversations about the designs in further depth, ExploreStation is convening a series of in-person and online workshops across the UK.

Workshops will be independent and playful spaces to engage with the station design through a series of hands-on and creative design activities.

Led by The Glass-House Community Led Design, the free events in May will create time and space to ask questions, share ideas, and consider how the design will shape people’s experience of stations in the future.

The contributions of those taking part will inform how the stations will be delivered at individual locations, helping to ensure the design serves the diverse needs of the Great British public now and in future generations.

The story so far

The predecessor to ExploreStation was ThinkStation, a programme engaging with over 300 people across Britain, asking for ‘blue sky thinking’ about what people and communities want from local stations.

The findings from ThinkStation informed the brief for the 2020 international design competition, ‘Re-Imagining Britain’s Railway Stations’, run on behalf of Network Rail by the RIBA.

7N Architects won the competition with proposals that cleverly responded to the brief, including ThinkStation’s recommendations.

So far, ExploreStation has already engaged with thousands of participants at workshops in Bristol, Cardiff, Sheffield and online.

Together with comments from more than 6,000 visitors to the website, this feedback is informing the detailed design proposals that will be presented to the public by ExploreStation online in March 2022 and in the second round of engagement in May.

Employing a modular approach, the design is intended to work across different locations in varying configurations, with a key aim of enhancing the ways stations contribute to their local communities.

The design proposals address spaces in and around stations, planting and landscape, as well as ideas for new facilities and features. 7N’s design approach also sets out coordinated approaches to sustainable, safe and inclusive travel, energy use and generation, and maintenance and management, while investigating how the new station environments can reflect local and national identities.

Immersive virtual reality pop-up events

Each pop-up offers the option of bookable or walk-in slots from 10:00–17:00 each day (10:00–18:00 in Hereford and Paisley). The full guided experience takes between 15 and 20 minutes. In line with Covid protocol, all touch points will be cleaned between visits.
• York (National Railway Museum) – 4, 5 May
• Shildon (Locomotion Museum) – 7 and 8 May
• Manchester (Science and Industry Museum) –11, 12 and 13 May
• Hereford (Shell Store) – 16 and 17 May
• Paisley (Telfords Paisley) – 19 and 20 May
Each event is accompanied by a mini exhibition presenting the ExploreStation journey so far.
Design workshops
• Central Liverpool – 11 May, 18:00 – 20:30
• Central Manchester – 12 May, 16:00 – 18:30
• Central Brighton – 25 May, 18:00 – 20:30

An online workshop focusing on how the station accommodates those with diverse disabilities and needs will also take place in May.

ExploreStation online feedback portal

Anyone can explore the design proposals online in a clear step-by-step format that addresses overarching principles before presenting further areas of focus in more detail. The portal is now open for feedback on the second-round design proposals at explorestation.commonplace.is.