Speckled with graffiti font, eye-catching visuals, and no shortage of attitude, the PinkLabs pitch begins like this:

“Imagine getting off a MARTA train from work and grabbing your groceries on the spot, or grabbing a snack while waiting for the next train …. imagine visiting a MARTA station for a reason other than to just pass through.”

That logic forms the basis of a Portman Prize-winning concept dreamed up by Georgia Tech School of Architecture graduate students Frank Ajanel and Tae-Hoon Jang, both aspiring designers and architects. The presentation, made before a jury of professionals during a Saturday event at the Hinman Research Building last month, won the students $4,000 and internship opportunities at Portman Architects this summer.

How old MARTA railcars could be refashioned into practical uses, per the graduate-level study. Design concepts by Frank Ajanel and Tae-Hoon Jang

Design concepts by Frank Ajanel and Tae-Hoon Jang

Recipients of the prestigious award were determined after 76 grad students, divided into teams of two, were tasked with investigating metro Atlanta’s most outdated and in-transition infrastructures and devising sophisticated ways in which they could be improved, with an emphasis on economic recovery and social equity. Of the 37 projects, 14 finalists were picked for presentations to jurors. None were scored on practicality or potential costs.      

The PinkLabs model—named for pink growing lights used for fresh foods—would aim to synthesize production, distribution, and retail sales of food by linking it to all modes of transportation infrastructure around Atlanta: EV charging stations, bike paths, and especially MARTA hubs on east and west lines.

PinkLabs would use a variety of modules, shipping containers, and even decommissioned MARTA rail cars for customizable—and in some cases, temporary—vertical-farming solutions at transit hubs, providing a more streamlined food-to-home option for patrons. Locals farms would be looped in to help with agricultural aspects. EV charging hubs, bike rentals, eateries, and even a stage and dance floor could help enliven the commercial scene, per PinkLabs’ vision.

Various PinkLabs modules and urban agriculture beside a MARTA station. Design concepts by Frank Ajanel and Tae-Hoon Jang

Design concepts by Frank Ajanel and Tae-Hoon Jang

The duo’s stylish presentation scored bonus points with jurors that included Ryan Gravel, international architects, an Atlanta city planning leader, and Urbanize ATL.

“Ultimately, PinkLabs aim to revitalize underused infrastructure to act as connectors for neighborhoods with limited access to healthy foods,” reads a summary compiled by Ajanel and Jang.

Find highlights of the winning PinkLabs concept in the above gallery. Head over here for a thorough look at our favorite presentation, MARTA Mountain, which didn’t garner enough votes for a paid, top-three finish but scored kudos among judges.   


Follow us on social media: 

Twitter / Facebook 

• Georgia Tech news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)