Post by Steven Dale
When I first started this system profile earlier in the week, I’d originally intended to discuss the stations collectively. But once I sat down to do so and began reviewing my notes and photos, I realized that was a ridiculous idea.
Firstly, I had way too many photos of each station to fit within a single column. Secondly, I had way too much commentary on the various stations to fit within a single column. And thirdly, I realized such a structure would be disrespectful to what makes this system really shine. As I’ve stated previously, it’s the station design and configuration that makes this project important. To really appreciate the Yenimahalle Teleferik, you need to understand the stations. Hence the reason I’m going to dedicate a single column for each and every station before I wrap up with some final thoughts.
So let’s begin . . . .
Station One (Yenimahalle Station) of the Yenimahalle Teleferik is the station that most people familiar with the system have seen. It’s the one that was originally used to market the system and is in my opinion the most important. It is not, perhaps the most innovative. That distinction I believe should be clearly bestowed upon Station Two as we’ll see in the next post.
But there’s a difference between being the most innovative and the most important. Station Two occupies an oblong-shaped traffic circle. Is that innovative? Undoubtably. But how many oblong-shaped traffic circles are there in the world? How important will that design choice be as an inspiration to future projects?
Station One, on the other hand, occupies the airspace above a four-way intersection. How many of those are there in the world?
Station One directly addresses the problem or integrating cable propelled transit systems into the urban fabric by leveraging the airspace above public rights of way. That’s dramatically important because of the opportunities uncovers and because—at least to our knowledge—no one’s ever tried it before.
Located adjacent to the end of the Yenimahalle Metro Stop, Station One of the Teleferik projects out into and above the nearby intersection. Due to the surrounding land-uses and inconveniently located apartment buildings that surround the Metro Stop, this was the only logical means possible. It’s curious because it seems so obvious and because it works.
Placing the station at the end of the Metro Stop disperses commuter traffic and prevents significant queues from forming. The journey from Metro to Teleferik is sizeable enough to accomplish this task but not so sizeable as to make it onerous. They hit a perfect Goldilocks Zone. The ascent, meanwhile, from ground level to Teleferik platform level is made easy with the inclusion of escalators. The metal ribbing of the station walls follow the shape of the stairwell thereby adding a bit of drama to the approach.
The metal ribbing, however, is a curious choice. It adds texture and flair but is also prone to collecting dust. And Ankara—as befitting its Turkish location—is a dusty city. During my time in Ankara it was hard not to notice the amount of dust that had collected on the station’s ribs.
Despite being barely a year old, the entire Teleferik had a distinctly worn feel. System operators and maintenance staff should take better care of the system. Having said that and without sounding like an apologist, that seems to be the case not just with the Ankara Cable Car but all forms of public transit around the world. Loss leading mobile pieces of infrastructure rarely get the love they deserve.
At platform level you are faced with a fantastic example of a point we make continually — station architecture and infrastructure are two completely separate things. The interior of the station is Spartan to say the least and the electro-mechanical infrastructure is just-kinda-there, hanging out. No attempt has really been made to integrate the two into a cohesive whole, likely due to budgetary constraints.
I don’t see that as a bad thing. I like the idea that I can point to Station One and explicitly separate which part is the architecture and which part is the electro-mechanical infrastructure. It also makes system maintenance easier as complex architectural integration of the electro-mechanical works would make the changing of parts much more time consuming and expensive.
Perhaps my one major gripe with Station One would be the street level integration of the Teleferik into the overall urban fabric — as in, there isn’t one. The space below the station is treated as an afterthought and creates an overall deadening effect in the immediate vicinity of the station. It’s not pleasant to be below the station and that’s a shame because it’s a hard point to ignore.
Where a building and the street intersect is deeply important. It is the seam that stitches together the vertical and horizontal dimensions of our urban areas. To ignore the area below the station when you’re making the bold decision to build a public transportation platform in the sky above a street seems like a missed opportunity. But again, this is not a problem unique to the Teleferik. Most infrastructure ignores that which is below it.
I don’t think that’s a good excuse though. Just because something’s common, doesn’t make it right.
That gripe though, is somewhat minor and exposes my bias for having studied a little too much urban design in school. I also acknowledge that budgetary constraints likely forced the designers to focus their attentions on the Teleferik itself to the unfortunate disservice of street level matters.
Instead, however, of focusing on the missteps, I’d rather focus on the successes. This is the first cable car station in an urban environment to colonize the area above an active intersection (maybe there are others, but I’ve never seen one). That’s important because it takes us a step in the right direction of how to best tackle the challenge of effectively integrating urban gondolas into our rapidly growing cities.
We’re not going to solve our urban problems by thinking in two dimensions. Cities are creatures that exist in all dimensions and attempts such as the Ankara Cable Car which recognize that deserve our accolades.
It may not be a perfect station, but it’s a bloody important one.
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