Contemporary Congregation Space Needs in Stations and Shopping Centers


When designing public spaces such as retail buildings or transportation hubs, circulation is no longer the only priority; while circulation efficiency is still a critical design element, there's another component just as relevant in contemporary times which is the need for integrated congregation spaces for commuters or shoppers on the move.

Shoppers have evolved in the way they relate to their surroundings, spending their leisure time in retail facilities which grant a convenience element: everything in one place. Commuters have also evolved: more and more people opt for public transportation, whether for economic reasons or sustainability reasons, which means more people are spending time in transportation hubs and stations, either by actively waiting for their commute or standing by for different reasons.

This shift in user behavior translates into a change in the character of a building; a shopping place is no longer just for shopping, and a station is no longer just a place to wait for transportation: they've turned into modern day agoras, where people congregate and socialize. But most buildings aren't programmatically prepared for this change, which means they're not being utilized to their full potential.

Shopping Centers
Shopping centers are usually designed as hermetical boxes with elliptic circulations, void of natural light; these characteristics create a hostile environment towards the user. The food court is a shopping center's most socially active area due to the sitting areas available- but they're not designed for permanence. To make a shopping center into an optimized congregation space, they need to respond to their users' spatial needs.

Stations are usually designed in a practical fashion: focused on the fastest way to get from the entrance to the platform, followed by an austere waiting area. Stations are no longer just transitional spaces, they've turned into meeting places, performance stages for street artists, waiting areas and important convergence points inside a city. This leads to congregational spatial needs most stations are not fulfilling.


Natural light is a desirable element, as proved by the Chadstone Shopping Center or the Guangzhou South Railway Station; natural light improves spaces, making the user comfortable. Underground stations or shopping centers could use complex interior design elements to oppose the lack of natural light and views such as the Twin Stations in Budapest.

Outdoor spaces, such as the one found in the Parc Central shopping center or the Taipei MRT Daan Park Station, are also beneficial as they connect the user with their surroundings and offer quality leisure spaces.

Rich dynamic circulations, as opposed to rigid circulations, mixing different heights and facade openings also add to the connection between space and the user. Breathing spaces among circulation areas- coupled with a lingering-friendly design such as flexible seating areas capable of accommodating any number of parties at the same time- are also important to build a connection with the contemporary user. In stations, these spaces could be used by urban performers as well, as they don't interfere with the main circulation.

Finally, improved retail areas within stations could make the relationship between user and space stronger, as they offer additional leisure options; The Oculus at the world trade center is a good example of how a retail space and a station can fit seamlessly - and are now very similar in some aspects.

Contemporary Congregation Space Needs in Stations and Shopping Centers

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Rana • 2017