by , 04/25/06


Have you ever wondered why all gas stations look exactly the same? Despite the inconvenience of getting in and out of them (especially Arco), the design of gas stations is based on a prototype that hasn’t changed in 60 years. Now finally, inspired by the possibilities of future-forward fuel, architect Alan Eliot Goldberg is trying to change this.

Goldberg has proposed the Advance Refueling Retail Center (ARRC) as a design for a new generation of service stations which will heighten the public’s awareness and acceptance of hydrogen as a clean, safe, renewable energy.

The design of the ARRC aims at changing the layout of the ordinary gas station. Goldberg was a design consultant for Mobil Oil Corporation for roughly 25 years, so the man knows his gas-station design – and he knows what can be done to update it for maximum efficiency. The new radial layout will provide for a more consumer-friendly environment and a more easily accessible dispenser for faster refueling.


This new service station strives to be green, utilizing environmentally sustainable construction, solar power and a completely automated irrigation system for the landscaped area (that takes up more than half of the station creating a mini park setting).

Last month, at the Center for Architecture in New York City, the ARRC/H2 alliance officially launched along with their Information Center which displays a hydrogen car and an exhibit to promote public awareness regarding hydrogen fuels.

If only architecture and the transportation infrastructure got together more often…

+ AARC/H2 Alliance
+ Center for Architecture

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  1. zobeda May 7, 2006 at 4:44 am

    why are we so addicted to the feedlot like layout of current stations, i agree with the gentleman from the phillipines, this will work more smoothly with the way that people intuitively drive. also, the person with the parallel parking comment, please don’t tell me you’ve never had to do this at a traditional station…the ones near my home are always so busy parallel parking is the only way to get in!

  2. Tom May 1, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    I read about the circular design in a trade magazine and would like to clarify some of the issues raised by your correspondents. A leading traffic consultant said it was an “outstanding layout because it controls the automobile from the point of entry to exit.” The single-sided dispenser and one-way system is a decided advantage over current designs, Current layouts provide an equal number of fills on the passenger and driver’s side, whereas 75% of the fills are on the driver’s side. To compensate for this imbalance, customers with fills on the driver’s side often approach a dispenser from the opposite direction which can lead to gridlock! In a full size mock-up drivers had no difficulty parking at a dispenser and a system of red and green signals direct the customer to open dispensers not in use or about to be vacated. Security is maintained by the use of cameras,

  3. Michael April 28, 2006 at 1:25 am

    One thing to keep in mind about hydrogen development – If we wait until its completely clean to produce/transport/and store then we’ll be sitting around for a long time. However, we can start using it now despites its shortcomings, while scientists and engineers can continue to improve its cleanliness. This reduces the number of ‘locations’ that the pollution is coming from.

  4. Lee April 27, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    Shawn, I completely agree with you. No one is going to be picnicing there in the “park” like setting. If anything, gas stations should already be adding trees and vegetation. Now that I’ve had some more time to think about it, why wouldn’t a gas station implement more “advanced design” to offset the environmental damage caused by it and the vehicles that use it. I mean look at green roofs, rain water collection, smaller footprints and other design features to at least make an impact. It says that it has automated irrigation. whoop dee doo, another resource to waste. This is nothing but glorified Kwiki-mart/Sunoco that doesn’t even have real life applications. And at this point hydrogren isn’t even environmentally friendly. It takes way too much energy (read: more pollutants) to create hydrogen. It’s yet another design that has very little real world applications and reminds of something I would have seen at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and, while we’re speaking of it, there was also a monorail there too!

  5. shawn April 27, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    I’m all for landscaping, but I think it’d be more useful to architecture in general if we considered planting and such to be an integral part of design and buildings, rather than passing it all off as park space. Because this proposal isn’t going to be good park space, no matter how well it’s landscaped. The reason for that has something to do with the large number of vehicles that would constantly be moving through it.

    This concept as shown has a few trees and bushes scattered throughout it. That’s nice, and is a good step up from what you normally see today, but it is in no way park like. Plants can serve a building in so many useful ways, but those have to be done purposefully. Trying to pass off a gas station as a park doesn’t fool anyone.

  6. Scott April 27, 2006 at 2:52 am

    In a way I can kinda think of a new type of gas station, even with new non-oil fuel, a step back. What if we had a society where we didn’t need gas stations or personal vehicles? Like monorails and stuff… All public transportation magnetic and electric stuff that runs off the grid or solar. Would not needing to worry about fuel in the first place be even better than jerryrigging a solution? The waste it takes for all that road work and putting salt on the raod in winter wouldn’t have to be done anymore. Animals can safley walk under the rails. Even alternative energy has it’s faults, it costs money and resources to make it, make tools that use it, and transport it. Would it be better if we just didn’t need the energy?

  7. Lee April 26, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    Too utopian. Inefficient. Costly. Seems like something you would find in the Radiant City. Kudos for looking for a better way though.

  8. paul April 26, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    I’m not discouraging the park-like landscaping. You could even use that parking lot material Inhabitat featured a while back that allows grass to grow through to make the whole thing green. I’ll maintain that in practice the circular design has too many problems and among these is wasted space for cars, irrespective of traffic flow, you’re not going to be able to have as many cars parked on a lot like this. You might see a few stations with this configuration but if hydrogen takes off and their is a lot of traffic I doubt you’ll see many of these types of stations. One other thing is that gas pumps cost like $250,000+ and reuse some components for both sides. In this design that is not possible and I’ll bet that hydrogen pumps cost more due to their specialization.

  9. patriotic_aussie April 26, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    I see problems in:
    – pumps on different sides
    – people just fleeing without paying, rather effortlessly
    – semi trailers and LONG VEHICLES???

    Yeah, try getting a limousine into that circular design.

  10. ari April 26, 2006 at 8:16 am

    I think a bigger problem lies in the fact that hydrogen is not actually a particularly clean fuel when you take into account the extreemly large amount of energy needed to produce, store and transport hydrogen. More energy is needed to produce hydrogen than you will get from the hydrogen.

    Tim Flannery speaks very eloquently about it in this article:

  11. Scott April 26, 2006 at 8:12 am

    As long as the pumps aren’t so close that you have to parallel park, I see this being ok. It should also be one way, since flow is the point, and like another person said, have the hose hanging above the car, or have an inside track for the other direction and gas tank side, since most fuel tanks have two hoses anyways. I don’t see it as a waste of space. You can put a few parking spaces in each corner. Gotta have an entrance and exit too. A station with this type of design would probably also have cameras, so the old fashioned visual security doesn’t apply I think. Even gas stations with cameras in my area require prepay anyways.

    The current stystem isn’t really all that broken though. If they wanna make a circle thing, why not go all out and have the whole thing automagically rotate, like the walk things at the airport, or the auto car washes (well they don’t rotate, but you know!). So every pump gets a car, like a ferris wheel, and the person doesn’t have to drive around to find the pump.

  12. Lorenzo II April 26, 2006 at 12:26 am

    I am a civil-geodetic engineer from the Philippines. I am for the circular design because traffic flow is U-shaped. Either you build the pump stations in rectangular blocks or circular, the traffic pattern is still the same. Circular design eases traffic flow.

    Paul, you don’t have to divide the propertly lot into circles, the circular design pertains only to the pump station roadway and building. The excess lot however, was converted into park-like landscape. It’s the fuel company’s way of expression to support /use alternative bio-fuel.

  13. Elizabeth April 25, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    Well, Ro, there is only one solution then: ROBOTS!

  14. Ro April 25, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    Paul, indeed, a circle is (again) an inefficient form to use. The design seems so wrong when you look it more closely.

    Elizabeth, the connection of the pump with the car is done via an interface quite like an airplane (as I recall, so I might be off). You have to lock the pump to your fuel opening. And everything is valve controlled, so no gas/fluid can go back into the pump.

    It would be quite odd to have a environment friendly car, which then could blow up when you try to refuel it…

  15. willow April 25, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Part of the point of his design is that it has park-like landscape. It isn’t ‘wasted’ it’s supposed to be a community park. How effective that will be depends largly on how it’s implemented. It could be really interesting, or simply wasted real estate as you put it.

    Also, don’t most big chain gas stations have cameras at the pumps now anyways? I honestly don’t know the current situation.

  16. Elizabeth April 25, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    While I can’t debate safety issues, It would seem to me that the issue with fuel tanks could be solved by a more user friendly hose (i.e. longer and suspended from above like some current pumps.)

  17. paul April 25, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    Have to agree, also cicular design wastes real estate, since you cannot divde property into circles side-by-side and gas stations are frequently located in highly developed areas.

  18. Ro April 25, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    I have to agree with Alex on this. Although it’s good to rethink the gasstation design it al comes down to efficiency: Getting your car to the gas pump, fill your tank, pay and get out again. Without any hassle.

    From what I see in the image above, it’s even more flawed, because when there’s a free pump with the previous pump and next pump occupied, how do you get your car next to the pump? Try parallel parking when you’re in a hurry.

    The best design in this case is to keep the gas pumps parallel to each other. Just like you see everyday along the highway. The less the obstructions, the better the flow.

    Just my 2 eurocents though

  19. alex April 25, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    This circular design is flawed. Cars have fuel tanks on different sides, thus when cars pull up to this circle, not all cars will be facing the same direction. Furthermore, surveillance would seem to be more difficult since the cars are spread out to, and maybe even beyond our peripheral vision, unlike the traditional stations where everything is happening in front of the store within a rectangular block. Perhaps gas stations have not radically changed for a reason.

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