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 

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.” 

“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.