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Transforming the Bus Stop Experience Through Architecture and Engineering
The collaborative relationship of engineering, architecture and art By John Marhoefer and Walter Geiger

Introduction

John Marhoefer, principle engineer and CEO of Entech Creative Industries, and Walter Geiger, AIA, of Walt Geiger Studios, have a longstanding collaborative relationship which capitalizes on their complementary disciplines - engineering and architecture/art.

Together, they recently designed and built the award winning art shelters that have been installed at several bus stops in Orlando, Fla., home to some of the world's most famous tourism destinations. These structures combine form and function, enhance the aesthetics of their surrounding landscape, bring art into the community, and break new ground in construction. The art shelters are the product of collaboration, vision and technological innovation.

Q. How did this project come to fruition?

Walter Geiger (W.G.): I would often meet with John at the Entech Creative fabrication plant. As we would walk through the facility, I became interested in the process of forming composite materials into organic shapes. I realized that if the material a structure was made of did not require internal armature to be structurally sound, then artists, architects and designers would have a wide array of new possibilities. We saw the possibility of new freedom in the creation of organic, nonlinear, architectural structures - and that's how the concept was born.

 

Q. What prompted the need for the project?

W.G.: As an artist, I believe everyone benefits from the opportunity to interact with art, and people who prosper in a community have the responsibility to give back. I prefer to have my art pieces be a part of the fabric of a city, accessible to everyone, rather than placed in a museum. These shelters are meant to provide the expertise of professionals and give back to the community something that is inspirational.

Q. How did it progress from an idea to reality?

W.G.: I met a LYNX (Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority) official at an Orlando charity event. She was committed to incorporating art that serves a functional purpose into the transit system as a part of LYNX's community involvement. She and I essentially had the same philosophy. That's when we came up with the idea of converting bus stops into "art shelters." After a series of discussions, John and I embarked on a research process to pave the way for this project.

Q. What was the design inspiration?

W.G.: I studied the surrounding environment to create a "visual language" that artfully contrasts with the lush landscaping and the architecture of luxury hotels and the Convention Center located on International Drive - Orlando's popular, bustling tourist area. This resulted in a series of fluid-looking designs which complemented the natural flora and the rectilinear faces of adjacent buildings. I named the shelters the "Cascade Series."

Q. Describe the various parts of the art shelters. What are they made of?

John Marhoefer (J.M.): Walt brought up an interesting challenge for our team at Entech: create sound civil structures in an organic shape utilizing only composite material. Since Walt designed a free-flowing shelter, standard construction materials would not be practical. Therefore, to make this happen, we employed an extensive prototype process, wherein we designed and conducted structural strength tests, in part to demonstrate to the building department that these bus stops would meet code requirements.  During the process, we developed the Entech EG 21 Series Formable Composite Panel, which is both malleable and strong enough to sustain hurricane force winds.

We presented several designs to LYNX - and, after obtaining their approval to proceed, laser-scanned the 24-inch models to create a CAD model. We then cut life-size patterns using a 5-axis computer numeric control mill to create the molds used to form the panels. Once fabricated, the panels were anchored into a reinforced concrete slab base to create the structures.  The panels feature a honeycomb interior sandwiched by layers of resin and fiberglass skin. Walt chose white because it would differentiate the forms in a variety of rural, suburban and urban environments.

Q. How big are the shelters?

J. M.: The "Cascade Series" is composed of four different sculptures, each approximately three feet wide and fifteen to sixteen feet high, which are combined into groups of two to five.

Q. Where have the shelters been placed? How many are there?

J.M.: The art shelters are currently installed at four stops along International Drive, near the Orange County Convention Center. Three more shelters are slated for installation in the coming months. Each site is a unique compilation of the artforms, so no two bus stop art shelters are alike.

Q. How long did they take to construct?

J.M.:  The full process - from research through final installation - took approximately three years.

Q. Are they functional (i.e. do they protect pedestrians from the weather, sun...)?

J.M.: Yes, the art shelters are considered "functional art" and provide a measure of protection from the elements, such as providing shade from the sun and protection from wind.

Q. What is the significance of the art shelters?

J.M.: They are important on many levels. They offer protection, beautify the environment, challenge observers to interpret them. But, perhaps the most important achievement they represent is the expansion of accepted building materials for civil structures. Composite materials are not widely accepted in construction. However, this is changing and the art shelters are playing a significant roll in the future acceptance and use of composites. This achievement was recognized recently when the American Composites Manufacturers Association awarded Walt and I the 2012 ACE Award for Design: Most Creative Application. We have a long way to go before composite materials will be common in construction, but they offer advantages other materials do not and I am pleased to have played a role in opening that door.


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About John Marhoefer, Entech Creative Industries
John Marhoefer is a professional engineer and has over twenty five years of experience developing special systems for the entertainment and leisure industries.

With a professional background in mechanical and structural design, John also possesses broad knowledge and experience in electrical power control and hydraulic systems.

John's focus on meeting clients' needs, passion to innovate, and proven technical ability has made Entech a respected "go to" company for challenging projects.

About Walter Geiger, AIA, FARA, PE
Throughout his architecture career, Walt has led diverse teams of industry professionals, including architects, landscape architects, engineers, fabricators, lighting designers, graphic designers, artists and a wide spectrum of specialty consultants. Complex and challenging projects in the United States, Asia, South America and the Middle East comprise his portfolio.

As a sculptor, Walt draws inspiration from natural land forms and observations of water, flora and atmospheric cloud patterns. As in his professional work as an architect, his work as an artist involves creative teams who study and utilize technological innovations and applications to achieve dynamic, free-standing forms.


 







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