Explained: AIA Virginia Competition

Today’s Topics:

  • What Was I Trying To Achieve?
  • Community Spaces
  • Reflection

What Was I Trying To Achieve?

For the AIA Virginia Competition, we were given a weekend to design a train station at a site in Christiansburg, VA. We were given a list of requirements, but I knew that if I was truly going to accomplish anything, I would have to do more than just design another train station.

I spent the first day trying to understand train stations and the idea of it existing as a non space. Train stations don’t hold enough significance to be called a place. In the context of who goes to these spaces, ultimately it does not serve the town. It just connects various destinations.

But what if this could become a destination? I wanted to change the notion of a train station. Another part of the brief is that there is a park being developed nearby, and it intersects with the Huckleberry trail. So instead, I changed my intentions to design a space that works to serve the community as an extension to this train system to become a hub. In this sense, lingering is not only permitted, but it is encouraged.

Community Spaces

During this competition I had to be very conscious of how I was spending my time. Going from my idea to actually implementing everything into the context of the site presented a challenge. I wanted to create a space that works to incorporate a variety of transportation modes.

In the entrance of the site is a celebration of new transportation with an exhibition space. Under a covered roof there are electric vehicle charging stations. This invents a way to interact with a space while your car is charging. Instead of just sitting in your car for 30 minutes, you can walk through the community hub and interact with the space, then come back to a fully charged car.

The following space becomes the hub of intersection for all of these paths as a picnic space. It connects passengers from the trains, it receives people from the bus loop, and it accepts people coming from the trail paths. The building exists as a glass block that reflects the nature of the site with the trees all around. As an inner core, the building contains a ticket booth at the entrance and a cafe that serves the entire space.

The nature of this project being an extension to the idea of the trail, there is a play space. Kids can come here to interact with their friends and hanging from the suspended objects. There are zip-lines, monkey bars, and much more that present an option for families.

Lastly there is a rest space. A place that exists at the end of the site secluded in its own corner. This space is created with resting pods as a relaxing space where people can come to read, wait for their train, or take a nap.

Circling back to the original goal of designing a train station, the platform becomes the primary need for structure with this station. From this platform the structure extends out into the community spaces to provide structure for the functions of each space. The platform itself is a space to look out at these communities, but also to exist as a space serving people here to travel. As the train is coming in, there are chimes that start off large at the beginning of the track, and get smaller as the train is slowing down.

With the structure spanning out like this, it becomes an extension to the woods and vines start crawling across the wood beams. This station is designed to span past our generation and into the future. It has the ability to adapt to the needs of its users over time as the town continues to urbanize. On the flip side, it has the ability to return itself back to nature allowing the vines take over the structure where this site starts to become ruins.


Completing this competition I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want out of a career in architecture. For starters, this has been the fastest that I’ve ever been able to model a building. This is something I would love to carry over to how I work for every project.

Even though I won 2nd place, I have been very critical of myself. I’ve started to examine where I’m at now and what that says about me, in comparison to who I want to become as a designer.

My preconceived notions about architecture was that I would need to go to school, become the best 3D modeler, the best renderer and everything would be fine. I walk around buildings and I’m looking at little details of how the structure connects things, or the order of the millions, or what’s happening in the ceiling.

I really do enjoy this aspect of design and architecture, but I know that I want that to only be a subset of who I really am as a designer. I want to have an impact with my ideas of how spaces work, how I’m positively changing the lives of others, and how I’m innovating in society.

Thanks for tuning into this week’s blog post, I hope you enjoyed it and got something insightful out of it. I’m always open to feedback and constructive criticism, so please feel free to leave comments. As always, Dream Big!

Published by Alonzo Colon

Architecture Student at Virginia Tech

3 thoughts on “Explained: AIA Virginia Competition

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