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The Rapid Central Station

The Rapid Central Station
The Rapid Central Station
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Harkening to its region’s free-flowing past, The Rapid Central Station Bus Terminal in Grand Rapids, Mich., offers travelers a unique public transportation facility that combines rich history with award-winning, tensile architecture design.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Fabric Type: 
PTFE Fiberglass
Market Sector: 
Project Size: 
56,000 sq.ft.
Progressive AE, Grand Rapids, MI
Interurban Transit Partnership, Grand Rapids, MI
Wendel Duchscherer, Buffalo, NY
General Contractor: 
The Christman Company
Completion Date: 

The 17-bay terminal, completed in 2004 as part of a $19 million complex for the Interurban Transit Partnership, features Birdair’s custom tensile fabric membrane and steel structures in a kinetically styled roofing system that encompasses more than 56,000 square feet.

The two-tiered, PTFE Teflon fabric canopy undulates dramatically over the terminal and platform, rising and falling from 14 to 45 feet to remind patrons of the once-swirling rapids of the Grand River, calmed long ago by dams and locks. This fabric membrane, with its inherent translucent properties, floods the 1.25-acre terminal with natural light, giving the building an enlivened atmosphere not normally associated with bus stations of decades past.

At night, The Rapid Central Bus Terminal’s appearance changes dramatically, with fiber-optic lighting illuminating the fabric membrane canopy in a variety of colors. This glowing effect creates a focal point along the Grand Rapids downtown skyline while providing the facility with added security.

Birdair’s design-build team worked with specialized fasteners to attach the horizontal roofing structure to vertical panes of translucent polycarbonate. This combination of materials reduced the need for supplemental electric lighting and contributed to the terminal’s designation by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building, the first U.S. transportation facility to earn this classification.

In 2004, the station was recognized with an outstanding public transportation system award by the American Public Transportation Association.