Austin Transit Partnership Announces Collaboration with HKS, UNStudio and Gehl to Lead Architecture and Urban Design for Project Connect

Austin Transit Partnership Announces Collaboration with HKS, UNStudio and Gehl to Lead Architecture and Urban Design for Project Connect

Team to Emphasize Human-Centered Design in Transformative Expansion of Austin Transit 

AUSTIN, Texas, March 6, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) announced a partnership with an international design team led by HKS, UNStudio and Gehl to create system-wide architecture and urban design for the light rail program of Project Connect, a major expansion of Austin’s public transit system. Project Connect is a transformative, voter-approved investment that includes light rail, expanded bus routes, and more services across the city.

HKS, UNStudio and Gehl will design a technologically advanced, human-centric transit experience true to Austin’s culture and landscape. The team comprises architects and planners with collaborative mindsets and local knowledge. Their global infrastructure expertise includes similar award-winning projects in Los Angeles, Melbourne, The Netherlands, Doha, and Beijing.

“We are thrilled to work with this visionary, interdisciplinary design team” says Peter Mullan, ATP Executive Vice President for Architecture and Urban Design. “The design team brings both broad international expertise delivering transit and public realm projects at the highest level of design and an acute sensitivity to Austin’s specific culture and heritage.  Project Connect gives us the opportunity to stitch our community together more closely and to adapt our core values to our continued growth and our increasingly urban future.  To deliver on that promise, we need to bring a human-centered approach to the center of our design process, and this team brings that focus to our collective work.”

In November 2020, Austin voters approved Project Connect and the creation of the independent entity Austin Transit Partnership to implement this landmark investment in transit. In partnership with the City of Austin, CapMetro and the community, ATP will deliver on the community’s vision for transit in a way that embeds equity, sustainability and transparency as overarching priorities.

Design research and visioning will begin in March 2023, and will continue through the Project Development phase. ATP will share an updated light rail implementation plan in spring 2023.

HKS is a global architecture, design and planning firm with offices in Austin. Chi Lee, HKS Principal and Austin Office Director, says: “We are humbled by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to demonstrate people-first design that prioritizes equity, well-being and resilience as we design stations for the future light rail program. Project Connect will transform Austin by making more neighborhoods accessible and affordable while promoting sustainable growth and development.” 

Ben van Berkel, Founder and Principal Architect of global architecture design network UNStudio, adds: “Project Connect will be transformational for the City of Austin. Austin is a city experiencing rapid change as more and more people are drawn to its high quality of life and vibrant cultural scene. Project Connect will advance this by creating a human-centric transit system that celebrates Austin’s culture, history and diversity, while making the city more accessible for all of its citizens through an efficient and sustainable transportation system. We are thrilled to contribute to the city of Austin in such a meaningful way alongside our partners HKS and Gehl.”

Gehl is an urban strategy and design firm that centers public life and the human experience in the city transformation process. Anna Muessig, Director at Gehl, concludes: “Mobility systems work when they center people’s needs in the design process and when mobility infrastructure is an integrated part of a high quality public realm. We are honored to be part of this fantastic team and to work with ATP and the people of Austin to design a station system that celebrates the city’s culture and invites people to choose transit to get around.”

Project Connect is designed to improve access to essential jobs, health care, education, entertainment and more—making our communities more livable, equitable and sustainable. This transformative investment includes $300 million in funding to prevent the displacement of people and creating more affordable places to live.

Citizens of Austin who would like to get involved in Project Connect are invited to do so. Click here to learn more:

About HKS

HKS is a global firm of architects, designers, planners and advisors who create places noted for their beauty and performance. Our 1,500 people in 26 offices are united by the belief that an environmental, social and governance approach to design achieves design excellence. We value honesty, diversity and inclusion and we celebrate creative thinking. In partnership with our clients and collaborators, we craft powerful ideas and solutions. Together we create places that stand apart. 

About UNStudio

UNStudio, founded in 1988 by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, is a Dutch architectural design studio specializing in architecture, interior architecture, product design, urban development and infrastructural projects. The name, UNStudio, stands for United Network Studio referring to the collaborative nature of the practice. Centrally located offices in Amsterdam, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai, Frankfurt and Melbourne enable UNStudio to work efficiently anywhere in the world. With a passion for innovation at the heart of their work, their designs stand for quality, originality, optimism and intelligence. 

About Gehl

Gehl is an urban design and research consultancy offering expertise in the fields of architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, and city planning. Headquartered in Copenhagen, with US hubs in San Francisco and New York City, Gehl is a networked organization working globally on urban strategy in a wide range of contexts. Gehl partners directly with both public and private sector clients to envision better futures and better outcomes for people. We address global trends with a holistic, people-focused approach, utilizing empirical analysis to understand how the built environment can promote well-being. We apply this analysis to strategic planning and human-centered design to empower citizens, decision-makers, company leaders, and organizations.

About ATP

Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) is the independent entity, accountable, and responsible for the financing, design, construction, and overall implementation of Project Connect—the transformative, voter-approved investment in new transit services. ATP’s charge is to deliver on the Austin voters’ transit vision in partnership with the City of Austin, CapMetro, and the community – and in a way that embeds equity, sustainability, and transparency as overarching priorities. 


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