It has been the starting point for an investigation into intelligent mobility that we have been conducting for the last few months. We have looked at how, just like a Routemaster bus, the vehicles that will carry us around our cities in the future can become a coherent element of the visual language of our environment.
Inspired by the Very Light Rail project, that is introducing technology from the automotive field into the world of trams and creating a new public transport network for the City of Coventry, we started by looking at the simple surfaces and tall, slender columns of Coventry’s Grade 1-Listed Cathedral to create a moving architectural space. This helped us define a visual language for the design, creating details such as the ceiling structure of the tram which draws direct inspiration from the vaulted ceiling of the Cathedral, as do the faceted, side windows and the floor-to-ceiling columns in the door areas.
Our intention was not to evoke speed, the exterior of the tram is not a wedge-shape or speedform but a clean, architectural volume, vertical yet flowing with one end of the bi-directional vehicle smoothly curved and the other dramatically intersected by a glass façade.
The semi-circular plan shape of the exterior is reflected on the inside of the tram, framing an area of bench seating ideal for families or groups. On one side of the interior, the seating takes the form of a ribbon of wooden ply. This rises next to one set of doors, creating space for wheelchair users, prams or bicycle storage, ensuring the tram is accessible to all and can integrate into a multi- modal public transport system.
We believe that key to the success of mass transport systems is an enjoyable user experience that makes travelling in the company of others a pleasurable choice. Public transport is one of the tools that 21st Century cities can use to help people move around efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner. This shared experience can become part of the fabric that binds communities together, a foundation for a better quality of life in work, rest and play.