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Chaos and calm capture the essence of transport dilemma

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As a rule, magazines like their buildings to be brand new.

In the lead-up to the AJ's interchange conference (April 5) this issue revisits an existing and evolving transport hub - East Croydon - to examine some of the issues which concern a transport building in use. Transport architecture is tied up with today's big issues - density, planning policy and the environment will all be up for discussion at the conference, but the study of East Croydon highlights some of the micro-issues which are specifically concerned with design.

The perfectly-framed, large-format professional photographs with which we usually illustrate our building studies have been replaced with photojournalism-style snapshots jammed together to create a multicoloured hotchpotch, which is either jarring or stimulating, depending on your point of view.Either way, it captures the confusion of an environment where a multitude of conflicting interests jostle for attention.

Signs for Sockshop, Starbucks et al might offend our aesthetic sensibilities, but anybody who has endured a lengthy wait at the station will accept that these facilities can be a welcome addition to the public realm.

More valuable still are the public service signs - train times, platform numbers, signposts and so on. As well as making the facilities more user-friendly, a well-placed sign in a major transport hub can do as much to draw visitors to an attraction or a particular part of a town as substantial investment in the destination itself.

Information is an essential part of any transport hub, and our photomontage of Croydon - with its cacophony of competing symbols and signs - is an effective means of conveying the experience of movement through an interchange.

But while transport hubs are places of movement, they are also places where people spend too much time standing still. The fact that the article lacks the serenity of the average AJ building study is symptomatic of an aesthetic dilemma which faces everybody involved in transport design: how do you deliver a space which shouts loudly enough to capture the attention of the person in transit, without being a constant cause of irritation to the person at rest?

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