Located at 749 Street LA, California,Recharge LA is a concept proposal, done for the Pump to Plug Symposium organized by the City of Los Angeles, USC’s Dornsife School, and Cleantech Incubator. It is an electric mobility hypothesis that re-activates and re-energizes future mobility infrastructure and creates high-quality and evolving community-oriented places. To look again to the potential of this typology of space for inspiration and create a cultural currency better suited for the sustainable future of LA. “Our team realized that gas stations can be powerful places in an area. Automobile culture generally has long been held in the American imagination, and above all in Southern California,” said Woods Bagot. 

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Drive-in cinema during night_©Woods Bagot

“Everything from the paintings and photomontages of Ed Ruscha, to memorable film scenes in Back to the Future and countless Hollywood features, to innovative mid-century modern gas stations around the Los Angeles region.” (Bagot, 2021)

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Pump to Plug_©Woods Bagot

Evidently, gas stations and automobiles were important in West America since decades. They were technology and infrastructure driven which once spoke to freedom of movement and invoked an excitement around future potential on how it could change daily lives of the user group and people around the area. However, their impact on the urban fabric and natural environment has been dramatic, unexpected, and has not lived up to the original dream.

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Parking Lot vs Town Sqaure_©Woods Bagot

There are 3,970 charging stations in all of Los Angeles as of now. As the electric vehicle (EV) industry continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, with EVs expected to account for nearly 30% of new vehicles sold by 2025 in the U.S., the city will need approximately 536,000 new home chargers to accommodate roughly 1.3 million electric vehicles by 2030. Joe Biden has announced a $15 billion grant & incentive fund for electric car charging stations in the country since the United States is about to start a building spree for such new kinds of electric stations. In September 2020, Californian Governor Gavin Newsom announced that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state will have to be zero emissions by 2035.

Realizing the situation of these electric vehicle charging stations before designing, it was noted by the design and research team at Woods Bagot that at present, it takes long hours to recharge the vehicles at these charging stations. Fully charging a car can be done in just 30 minutes to 50 minutes, or it may take as long as half a day.

“The question was how to create a space that can be used for a variety of activities and can be lively and inclusive simultaneously?” said Woods Bagot.

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LA’s gas stations map onto the need for green space throughout the city_©Perkins Will

Woods Bagot narrowed the problem down to these three fundamental questions that would pave the design further –

  1. How can these charging stations represent their local communities?
  2. How can we promote the incredible forms of expression and cultural identity through a new type of automobile? 
  3. How do we create an adaptable and embedded infrastructure that has different lives (uses) throughout the day and over time? 
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Pump to Plug Infrastructure Modules_©Woods Bagot

Woods Bagot also included a modular floor system in the design keeping in mind the future technological developments that could allow for contactless charging of the electric vehicles. Currently, electric vehicles must be plugged into an electricity supply to charge them before use. The ground surface is a layered infrastructure, with permeable pavers, an inductive charger, and greenspace

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Modular Paver System_©Woods Bagot

The first study conducted by the firm for the design of electric charging stations focused on the urbanism and potential of landscape and community-serving elements. The second was for planning, how the city should approach upcoming gas station sites in the country, with a focus on remediation, environmental justice, and potential conversion to housing. 

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Daily Transformation_©Woods Bagot

The proposal imagines a charging station that would change throughout the day and over time through the years. It envisions a digital screen that could be lowered to form a canopy for the cars below during the daytime, then raised at night to become a cinema screen where people could watch films from their cars. The adaptable canopy structure can also be used to provide multiple different uses: shade, solar panels, and art billboards. On weekends a gathering of cars for sale would also be displayed on the screen and broadcast over the internet to gain potential buyers. At weekends, food trucks could be parked at the forecourt to create a street food market.

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2032 Uses – Plug and Play_©Woods Bagot
A screen that can be doubled up as a shady canopy during the day_©Woods Bagot

The forecourt could also be used to hold classic car meets, and at the same time, to connect California’s history of car culture with the next generation of transportation, suggested the studio.

Woods Bagot is a global architectural practice based out of Adelaide, South Australia. It specializes in the design and planning of buildings across a wide variety of sectors and disciplines. They span 17 studios across 6 regions around the world.

More concepts for electric vehicle charging stations include Graft and EON prototype for ultra-fast chagrin station in Germany and Cobe + Clever’s new electric car charging stations. 

References : 

  1. Ducharme, M., 2021. Re-Charge LA, Woods Bagot.
  2. Architect. 2021. Pump to Plug: Recharge LA. 
  3. Block, I., 2021. Woods Bagot reimagines electrical vehicle charging stations as drive-in cinemas, Dezeen.
  4. Plugshare.com. 2022. Los Angeles, California EV Charging Stations, PlugShare. 

Riya is a final-year architecture student passionate about architectural design, and its impact on humans and around the world. She loves to plan things and seeing them come to life makes her extremely gratified. What's more, she strongly believes in the power of words and experiences.