A Place for Cycles

Designed by Donald C. Paine Jr. of KGB Design Studio, this boldly shaped pavilion is a storage and repair facility for bicyclists.  It is located to the west side of Union Station.

An interview with the Architect:







13 Responses to “A Place for Cycles”

  1. AJ Aronstein Says:

    Sweet. Just in time for winter. Perfect, DC.

  2. Nathan Says:

    I might reject the notion that the bike shed is an appropriate intervention. It seems it elevates the use of bike but in realty hides them away in extravagance. What was here before? Maybe the photos are misleading but i question the appropriateness of this thing. Do you have justification or more photos so i can better understand the site and what might have been there before. While I think the construction system is interesting and don’t reject the type it seems a bit in the wrong direction.

  3. jz Says:

    what, bicyclists can’t get repaired at a hospital like everyone else?! elitist jerks…

    nathan, it was previously a median… i reject your notion to reject!

  4. The Straight Torquer Says:

    Well nathan does have a point. Especially since in the interview the architect admits the project went over budget. Reportedly it came in at a cost of 4 million dollars. That’s an expensive bike rack!! The architect claims they were motivated by efficiency. The structure is a highly refined and technologically fascinating piece of modern architecture. But efficient….?

    That being said, the original plan called for a an addition on the side of union station. To put a shed on such a building was not the right move and the architect pressed for a free standing structure that would not compete with Union Station or try to copy it. This seems to be the right decision.

  5. Ryan Says:


    I love all the opinons. I think Nathan and Kash raise a very different and at the same time similar issue, and that is the perception of the bicycle and cycling in Washington DC. In a city where everyone travels by car or public transit and very little bicycling (as seen in the absence of bike lanes) I think that a structure that stands out in aesthetics, function, and even atmosphere brings attention to what is held inside.

    For example, if the new structure were to look like an everyday row of bike racks (for functionality and budgitary concerns), the common passer-by wouldn’t look twice. They would wander right by to get to their more “Washingtonian” form of transportation, the Metro. But, with this structure that stands apart from everying that Washington knows (in function and aesthetics), there is more of a chance of someone walking over, taking a look inside, and either getting excited about getting their own bike to store there, or renting a bike to ride around the city.

    The form might be radical (which I love and want to see more of) and the price tag may be steap, but if it gets people to get excited about riding a bicycle thru our beautful city, then it has my two thumbs up. As for “hiding the bikes in extravegance,” sometimes you have to wrap your present beautifully to get someone excited about it (think Christmas).

  6. Elizabeth Says:

    I think efficiency is a pretty myth. It allows us to do all kinds of fun things–such as risk our helmet-less heads sans petrol on busy highways. This morning, it got me out of having to take a shower. This is not an efficient means for protecting bicycles, but hell: sure is purdy. So what does its beauty allow? For one thing, I’d say it elevates the position of the bicycle. It makes what is pressed to the sidewalks and curbsides of road systems, central and celebrated. I rather love it.

  7. Marie Says:

    I think the project could have been much better placed. He says it’s close to the mall and close to a transportation hub, but tourists aren’t bike commuters and bike/ train transitions aren’t easy during rush hour. Not sure how many folks use the Metropolitan Branch Trail, but that hardly seems like justification for the spot–aside from the fact that there was some unused space right next to Union Station.

    Elizabeth, I agree–it’s a monument to cyclists in a way and there are not a lot of those in D.C. But I’d say use the money for bike racks and bike lanes.
    If a standard bike rack costs $500ish, then that’s 8,000 new bike racks that could be placed elsewhere in the city. Seems like a better bang for the buck.

  8. Mauricio Says:

    Holy cow!!

    I am appalled by this capitalist bike rack. This design defeats the notion of environmentally friendly bikes. Just take all the custom fabricated pieces that went in to this design, how much material (+ waste) and pollution went into the environment to create this piece of art, wow.
    I did a little math here $4,000,000/$200 (cost of a good quality bike)=20,000 bikes. Holy s…
    I participated in the bike rack competition for the golden triangle Washington DC. The budget was like $10,000, I understand that Union station deserves a little better design. But this, I think is a little overdone. Look at the winner in NY city


    Simple, yet beautiful.
    Besides how the hell can you reach the last bike at the end of the structure? is like a 4’ height clearance.

  9. jz Says:

    why does architecture have to be a gun to the head? i don’t think it can (safely) be so. whether or not it elevates/promotes bicycles is the result of the social issues that haved formed this structure as a human institution.In the larger realtiy I don’t think it’s architecture that’s got us riding our bikes more… i think us riding our bikes more has formed this architecture.

  10. jaf Says:

    yeah, I saw this a few months ago and had to think about it…it was over-whelming and I’m not going to lie but initially thought, “why?”. In terms of the form and usage of glass, I see it comparable to similar context of IM Pei’s pyramid within the Louvre with history is a backdrop…kinda nice.
    I’m usually supportive of architectural pieces that push the envelope but wish this, at least from a monetary standpoint, was more focused on human functions and protection like bus shelters. I’m a big bike rider from being a commuter to leisure weekend riding and having it under cover if it’s wet outside is great but I feel this may be over the top. It just seems not to justify the costs. I appreciate hiding the sea of dis-arrayed, mangled bikes but feel there could have been other, simpler moves to achieve a similar result. In reading the weblink of an article at the end of my comment, they are charging a monthly or annual fee for it’s usage. I sure hope they did their homework and the pay back is sometime soon.
    Also, is there a huge influx of bicyclists that uses Union Station? This is truly a question rather a comment. I had just thought that Union Station is either business hub oriented for people to attend their meetings in NY, Boston or whenever else they may be so they are both dressed up or have baggage due to their stay. Otherwise, it’s visitors to the city which again probably even have more baggage and more than likely just want to catch the next available form of transportation.
    So I’m not sure if this is the most appropriate location. Or maybe it would help to blend the program with another function such as retail…a cool bike shop? Bike center with bike trail maps, rentals and etc? It could help to glorify the bike riding aspects of the city, in relating to earlier comments.

    Below is a link for AIArchitect:


  11. Nathan Says:

    I hesitate to respond to this discussion further since I do not feel that I can make the criticisms that I am about to without actually visiting this structure. But I will anyway. It is important to not a difference in appropriate and efficient. I’m not sure being efficient is really the question here as the basic bike rack is a fairly good example of an efficiency. This does seem to provide things that aren’t normally provided by a bike rack, like shelter. If you were to take on the argument, which I wont, regarding the environmental aspects that were mentioned earlier it might be nice to see how many people would have to bike a certain distance to make up for what went in to this structure. While this does stand out in construction type to surrounding architecture It is not apparent that this example should stand out. If you were to remove the bikes this might be an interesting space but rather than work with the bikes to create space it seems that the space is just conflicted by the cluster of bikes. The relationship, if there is one is questionable. I would disagree that putting the bike in a nice package elevates it. It seems rather that the structure competes with the bike in terms of their status as an object. Both are technically and interesting in their own right. The bike however has a functional purpose that drives its beauty, even an ugly bike holds a certain beauty in its functional driven form. The shelter takes on a certain visual similarity in that it is appears to be a refined mechanical object that solves a variety of purposes.How well it solves anything is unclear. Rather than respond to this prominent commission with a bold structure that makes a statement this solution seems to engage the project in a more rhetorical sense. this being said, if the intention is not to elevate the bike or make a statement I would have to default to a design criticism. I like this object but i am unclear on how it relates to its program. Is it good at storing bikes? does it allow people to move in and out with ease with bike in tow? Does the storage make sense? Do the bikes take away from the space? I cant answer these questions.

  12. Laura Says:

    A few thoughts on the above discussion:
    1) DC never does anything efficiently (it seems). And keeping to par, unfortunately it is not stepping out on a new leaf with this project. That being said, I do think that part of being a good design (or a good designer) is the ability to create beauty without always breaking the bank. Most of the time good architecture and good design will cost more, but props to the person who can create good design AND do so at a reasonable budget. (Also I bet the budget of the project isn’t helped when you take into consideration all the bureaucracy in DC / the Nations Capitol.)
    2) I’m pretty sure planners and several agencies are trying to make Union Station a multi-modal hub of transportation. With the current types of transportation that people use to and from the station (train, Metro, taxi, walk, bike, car?), I applaud the effort of trying to strengthen the multi-modal nature of the facility. While not everyone’s luggage and trip patterns are condusive to riding bikes, expanding the opportunity for biking to be a viable connection option is not only an investment in how we commute today, but an investment in how more people may commute in the future (and I think i’ve seen biking grow in popularity in DC in just my two years here).
    3) And if nothing else, I feel the structure does help enhance that side of Union Station, which I feel before had always been a “left over space” – unclaimed or unkept in many ways.

  13. thb Says:

    since i don’t bike in the city i can only vote for how beautiful this glass structure is, both to look at and see through.

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