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The Railway Station Renaissance Trends

Train stations are uniquely romantic places. Perhaps it’s all those tearful goodbyes and joyous reunions, each one subtly different and personal. But behind these emotional scenes lie staggering feats of design and engineering, which make railway stations among the world’s most intriguing and awe-inspiring buildings

Railway stations are important elements of the urban infrastructure exerting a substantial influence on the image of the city. The paper shows several examples of new railway stations with innovative structures that have a great impact on their urban surrounding. Such modern stations have appeared as a result of the “station renaissance” trend, promoted by the railway companies. The reinvented rail travel conferred upon the railway stations several new physical and meaningful dimensions. New urban spaces shaped by the new stations have the size of large metropolitan “station cities”, with attractive architecture and urban links, connected by high-speed railways.


Built in 2009 to accommodate Belgium’s new high-speed rail network, the current Liège-Guillemins station by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has to be one of the world’s most dramatic-looking railway stations with its vaulted glass and steel canopy that dips and rises over the station’s five platforms.

Stretching more than 145 meters, the canopy creates a station without facades, making it feel open and permeable.

Calatrava is something of a specialist in designing railway stations, having already Zurich-Stadelhofen, Lyon-Saint-Exupéry, Lisbon Oriente. He can do airports, too, and his Sondika Airport airport in Bilbao is one of that city’s many architectural gems.


A metro station beneath a concrete bridge in Amsterdam hardly sounds like the location of one of the world’s bestdesigned railway stations, but Maccreanor Lavington’s stunningly original redesign of Kraaiennest metro station shows that even highly functional design can be beautiful.

Laser-cut stainless steel creates an intricately patterned surface on the walls, allowing natural light to enter during the day; at night, internal lights made the patterned screen walls glow.


Using Zaha Hadid’s trademark organic, futuristic forms, these four stations on the Nordpark Cable Railway are a brave intervention into the Alpine scenery of Innsbruck, Austria.

However, their design is not as incongruous as it may at first seem.

According to Zaha Hadid Architects, an architectural language known as ‘shell and shadow’ was inspired by natural ice formations. ‘Lightweight organic roof structures float on concrete plinths, their soft shapes and contours creating an artificial landscape that describes the movement and circulation within,’ say the architects.


Tianjin West is a key regional transport node, linking high-speed trains between Beijing and Shanghai with local trains, long-distance and city buses as well as the city’s underground railway.

The station also acts as a link between the two halves of Tianjin by bridging the river, the railway tracks and the southbound freeway. A 400m-long x 57m-high barrel-vault roof connects the commercial and business district (CBD) with Tianjin’s old city.

The arched shape of the roof acts like a large-scale city gateway, allowing daylight to flood the space through the diamond-shaped weave of the steel and glass roof structure, ensuring good visibility and sightlines throughout the concourse and on to the 24 platforms arrayed either side.


The brief for King’s Cross was to create an architecturally welcoming space that was also visually and operationally unifying, forming a hub to serve suburban and mainline intercity platforms as well as providing a near seamless interchange for passengers connecting to the Underground – which is where the majority of King’s Cross passengers are headed.

The architectural and engineering solution devised by John McAslan + Partners (JMP) and Arup is an 8,000 sq/m semicircular concourse that aids pedestrian flow between all the connection points, as well as providing a generous space for waiting or arriving passengers, with clear sightlines to passenger information, the trains beyond, plus the usual array of shops, eateries and viewing points provided around the perimeter at ground and mezzanine levels.

The Underground was constructed below the concourse at the same time, and that the scheme could not apply any loads to the adjacent Grade I listed Western Range facade.


One of the coolest and most creative stations, Karim Rashid’s colourful, graphic redesign of the University of Naples Metro station, was inspired by the theme of ‘knowledge in the digital age [and] language in the shrinking global landscape’.

It also represents Naples’ shift from a historic southern- Italian city to a global centre for technology and innovation. “This is the changing Italy and Universita station is a metaphor of this new wired global condition. The concept integrates the station with its surroundings, as well as provides a platform for innovative, cutting-edge design strategy”, described Karim Rashid.


Visible from every approach to the city centre, a massive, fivestorey cruciform construction in steel and glass, Berlin Hauptbahnhof gleams phosphorescent against the night sky. Curved glass tunnels and vertical lines intersect like a glowing rutilated quartz crystal cluster, with tracks extending north, east, south and west.

Processed by: Helicon Filter; SONY DSC

The glass walls render visible – and somehow magical – the movement of each train that bisects its core on the upper levels, before they snake away on a network of raised bridges. When it opened, in 2006, it wasdescribed it as ‘the most beautiful station in the world’.


Part of an ongoing redevelopment of the area of Logroño in Northern Spain, this high-speed train station by Abalos+Sentkiewicz Arquitectos has a faceted aluminium room, which extends over subterranean platforms.

The purpose of the station, and the redevelopment programme at large, is to improve connections between the north and south of the city. With this in mind, the architects were determined that the station itself should not interrupt or impose itself on the urban topography.