Students from Virginia’s architecture schools competed in January in the 2011 Virginia Society AIA Prize competition, sponsored by The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

Students were given one weekend to create a solution to a design problem: design a new Amtrak station in the town of Clifton Forge, Virginia. The current passenger train stop at this location is equipped with minimal facilities, consisting of a very small waiting room and bathroom, and is housed in a structure that is primarily a freight yard office building.

Program elements included a waiting room for approximately 25-30 people, a ticket counter with attached office, a small room for office and custodial storage, bathroom facilities, and onsite parking for 24 cars. There is a vacant one-story building on the site, which formerly housed a diner, but the competition assumed that it could be removed and/or replaced at the competitor’s discretion. Competitors could also alter or adjust the configuration of existing parking areas and driveways on the site.

The site is located along the main commercial street in downtown Clifton Forge, and competitors were encouraged to consider both pedestrian and vehicular connections to the street, such that the project could improve both the quality of passenger service as well as make a positive contribution to the town.

Each entry was required to be the work of one individual — no collaborative projects were allowed.

The jury was comprised of Timm Jamieson, FAIA (chair), Michel Ashe, FAIA, Joe Atkins, AIA, and Steven McCurdy of Norfolk Southern Railroad. They met March 30, 2011, to deliberate and select honorees.  Those honorees and the jury’s comments follow.

Congratulations to all those students who competed and a special thanks to our competition sponsor The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

2011 VSAIA Prize and Jury Comments

All the honorees had clear and complete communication of the elements and the plan.  Those honored had the strength of an idea, coupled with representation that lifted the idea up and made it clear.

Noteworthy original thought was characterized in a number of entries.

2011 VSAIA Prize Winner

Siim Tiisvelt, Virginia Tech Washington Alexandria Architecture Center
Said the jury:

Click to enlarge

This entry made an interesting pedestrian connection to the town, providing a view of the river and trains.  A simple, straightforward, and elegant solution.  One simple gesture provided a drop-off for people coming by car and a straightforward procession to the platform, with an extension of the street above for anyone to view trains and river beyond.  Civic minded seat steps reflected back to the main street.  This entry clearly understood the topography of the site well, as the whole sense of arrival seems more in scale than any other scheme.  This was the best implementation of the concept of giving people a place to watch trains.


Best in School Virginia Tech Blacksburg

Garrett Reynolds
Said the jury:

There was good recognition of the topography.  The site section at the bottom grabbed our attention.  The civic scale canopy was reflected in the mountains and to the town, almost as Saarinen did with Dulles Airport.  Tucking the parking under was nice solution to a tricky problem.  This is almost too much architecture for the town, but the resolution of the design was strong.  The double acting canopy is very nice, however, the sense of arrival is not very sophisticated.

Best in School Hampton University

Biyengo Lwandiko
Said the jury:

Nice neoclassical set of pieces.  In scale with the site; the entrance addresses the street and allows entry from the sidewalk into the building and progresses nicely as you get onto the train.  The town would love it.  Very nice presentation.  Complete…we fully understood all the parts. The jury wished the two building components had been better connected somehow.

Honorable Mention

Gui Talarico, Virginia Tech WAAC
Said the jury:

This is a wild and wonderful concept.  We laughed out loud at “Why the hell are we stopping a 750-ton, 800 foot long train for 180 pound people?” In all seriousness, we like that someone devoted thought to ecology and saving fuel.

Michael Smyles, Virginia Tech Blacksburg
Said the jury:

Very nice portal, with good imagery of the procession from platform to train.  A container that has an object — it’s a nice miniature version of larger train station a la Grand Central.  Special note: the jury members all mentally moved the newer building to be in harmony with the old building.

Recognition for Artistic Merit

Natalie Mutchler, Virginia Tech Blacksburg
Said the jury:

Very nice graphic representation.  We would have liked to see more addressing of the site plan. It is Hopper-esque, almost a frame-able poster.