Ever since the invention of the steam engine, the human race has been evolving rapidly in terms of transportation. The growth of inventions in technology has led to a massive shift in the mode of transportation for human beings. From walking on foot to travelling in public transport like trains and buses and eventually use of private vehicles like cars and bikes, all within 250 years showcases the development of the human intellect. The development of a variety of transportation modes has also led to the development of spaces that accommodate these modes of transportation. Transportation design has become a part of the daily life of an individual, especially in urban areas. Successful designs make the physical as well as the mental journey of an individual easier and more comfortable.

Architects and their impact on Transportation Design - Sheet1
Victoria Terminus_©namasteindiatrip.com, Transportation design

One of the most iconic transportation hubs of India and the lifeline of Mumbai city, the Victoria Terminus or Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a historic terminal train station and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Designed by British engineer Frederick William Stevens in an Italian Gothic style, the terminus serves as the headquarters of India’s Central Railway and is a terminal for both long-distance and suburban trains. During that period, the station took ten years to complete, the longest for any building of that era in Mumbai. Over the years, this transportation hub has become a part of people’s physical as well as emotional journeys.

Transportation design opens up an entire sector of new design opportunities for architects and designers as these spaces become a part of the everyday journey of an individual. Along with design and form, structure and long spans play a massive role in the involvement of structural designers and engineers in the field of transportation design. Along with creating an impact on the journey of an individual, the structures become synonymous with the identity of a city with the arrival and departure of individuals. This gives architects and designers the chance to create historic and iconic landmarks that will define the identity of that city.  

Architects and their impact on Transportation Design - Sheet2

As the population of the world boomed, multiple modes of transport were introduced. While a majority of the population depended on public transport during the 20th century, the graph for private transport needs has seen an upscale for intra-city travel in the 21st century. With a single point of a congregation that can cater to multiple modes of transport like trains, buses, and metro links, transportation hubs become a focal point for the population of the city. And with smoother and more comfortable public transport, the need for private transport might reduce exponentially. The congregation of multiple modes of transport also puts the onus on architects and designers to create spaces for waiting lobbies, last-minute souvenir shopping, and parking which also hold memories of emotional reunions and teary departures. The Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Centre (ARTIC), designed by HOK Architects, serves the transportation needs of three million people annually while integrating amenities such as transit-oriented retail, Wi-Fi and charging stations, parking, bike racks, lockers, community space, and speciality dining.

Architects and their impact on Transportation Design - Sheet3
WTC Transportation hub_©Calatrava, Transportation design

Along with fulfilling the functions of transportation, the form, structure, materials, and colours have a profound impact on the user. Bright and cheerful spaces create an atmosphere of safety and encourage happier utilization of the facilities. The universal design of spaces triggers community sensitivity and accommodates all sectors of the population, leading to a happier population. This is where architects and designers can make an impact by catering to a wide spectrum of communities. Thus, architects play an important role in generating pro-social interaction in communities in an indirect sense where positive mental health from such spaces triggers conversations with society and a public sense of care from fellow travellers.

Jewel Changi airport_©burohappold.com

While Calatrava’s ‘Phoenix’ makes us wonder about the flexibility of the design mind, Moshe Safdie’s Jewel Changi airport is a natural getaway right in the centre of a bustling airport. A space full of hope and calm in the post-pandemic era, the Rain Vortex, along with the Forest valleys, provides visual relief for travellers, reminding them of a much larger truth. Along with being a transport hub, the Jewel Changi hub also acts as a retail complex and a spectacular urban park. Safdie and his team have used elements connected to the human DNA like light, water, nature, and gravity. The feeling of walking through a utopian space like the Jewel Changi restores a certain faith in the commuters while listening to the natural elements of water and experiencing the calmness of the green.

Transport with Sustainability_©chapmantaylor.com, Transportation design

The main intent of any transportation hub is connectivity – connectivity of modes of transport, connectivity of places, and eventually connectivity of people and cultures. While transportation also leads to the loss of energy resources, it becomes more important to restore energy or reduce the loss of natural resources. Encouraging the use of natural light and ventilation, the use of natural materials to a maximum extent, and the incorporation of native biodiversity will not only reduce the impact of transportation on the natural resources but also help the community stay connected to their natural surroundings. With aspects like sustainability and a sense of identity in the designs, architects can create an impact by bringing about unity and connectivity with communities and the surroundings.


  1. Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health (2017)

Available at : https://www.urbandesignmentalhealth.com/journal-3—transport-and-mental-health.html 

  1. Sustainable Transportation Planning (2012)

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  1.  World Trade Center Transportation Hub (2016)

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  1.  Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center / HOK (2015)

Available at : https://www.archdaily.com/615466/anaheim-regional-transportation-intermodal-center-hok 

  1. Martin C Pedersen (2020). Changi Airport’s Jewel: For every traveller, a garden.

Available at : https://commonedge.org/changi-airports-jewel-for-every-traveler-a-garden/ 

  1. Peter Farmer (2020). Designing for the future of transport hubs.

Available at : https://www.chapmantaylor.com/news/designing-for-the-future-of-transport-hubs 


Poornima is an architect from the city of Pune. Being a heritage enthusiast, she loves to explore the various threads of architecture, culture, and ecology that tie a community. She hopes to bring about a change in the perception of development in India.