After moving to Remington this past summer I have become accustomed to walking, from my home, to the MICA campus on a regular basis. With the exception of having to trek through a heavy rain, I almost always enjoy making my way through the small neighborhoods tucked behind Howard Street. When the rain comes, I scramble from overhang to awning, and have convinced myself that even in a vertical downpour, the closer I can scurry next to a building the dryer I will end up.
Keeping this daily routine in mind, while thinking of methods to travel in less cumbersome ways in and around the city, I am proposing the awning, and specifically the bus stop awning in the arsenal of inclusion.
The awning is a familiar and compelling image to urban and residential life. To an older generation it is probably sentimental to think of times when business owners would roll out their awning at the begging of a workday, with their company name proudly exhibiting itself. Today, awnings in Baltimore, the ones that I experience, seem to be scarce and certainly less personal. But similar to older awnings, the more permanent awnings of today are just as practical. Because of their permanent structure they offer protection from the elements that surpass Joe the Barber’s business hours.
A type of contemporary awning that is found throughout Baltimore today would be a bus stop awning or shelter. I think you can argue that the contemporary bus stop awning differs from a storefront awning in that it is clearly more public. In the case of a storefront awning, you can be asked to leave due to loitering, where as with the bus stop awning there is a condoned social element involved. Here you are not obstructing anyone’s walking path and/or blocking an entrance to a facility. A person can choose to be there momentarily or set up camp; it can be used by those awaiting a bus or someone in need of a place to rest. The bus stop awning provides shade, breaks gales of wind, and protects from rain or snow. Because the bus stop awning is a sheltered waiting area it naturally brings people to a closer vicinity. Therefore the bus stop shelter opens up chance for social interaction, a place for people to strike up a conversation. It is a place of arrival and departure, where diverse groups of people are heading to multitudinous locations.
This somewhat primitive weapon in the arsenal of inclusion offers possibilities for progression. In some American cities bus stop shelters have been designed to have green roofs, and solar panels. This is a small action with probably minimal environmental impacts but it can improve the moral of a city. It may not be the most efficient place but because the bus stop shelter often has glass walls it seconds as a bulletin for people to post flyers for local events in and around Baltimore. This makes the bus stop a means of communication, despite the shelters primitive nature. Being comfortable is very important to people and the bus stop awning is something that is malleable enough to make public transportation more appealing to the masses, thus opening the city.