Railway Station Design Case Study
Design and the User Experience
The Danish architectural company, KHR Arkitekter A/S has together with Carl Bro Design designed most of the metro stations in collaboration with Giugiaro Design who has designed the metro trains. Some of the main materials used in the construction are steel, glass and granite. The stations’ minimalistic and functionalistic Scandinavian design is timeless and distinct which is shown by the straight lines, the sleek surfaces, and the light gray colours. The elegant Italian design expertise complements the unrivalled Danish expertise in functional design.
The following uncut text is a comprehensive essay detailing the role of users and commitment to inclusive design in the Copenhagen Metro. It can be accessed on the EIDD Design for All Europe website:
“Copenhagen Metro: Design for All – a must that calls for visibility
By Karin BendixenFotos: The Oerestad Development Corporation
User tests form the basis for the development and design of Copenhagen’s new Metro train
Constant attention was focused on the needs of the passengers during the development of Copenhagen’s new Metro train, whose design and development were based on user tests. The point to be emphasized was that people who get around on their own in everyday life should also be able to do so in the underground system: train, platforms and stations.
"If at all possible, disabled people should be able to use the Metro without assistance," says Morten Søndergaard, one of the Project Managers in Oerestadsselskabet (the Oerestad Development Corporation. Ed.), the billion Danish Kroner project which will ensure that Copenhagen’s citizens will be transported quickly and safely through their capital from 2002.
No extra cost...
"No extra cost is involved in thinking – and in "thinking in" – Design for All, as long as it is done from the start. Consequently, foreign suppliers were involved at an early stage, to make sure that technical requirements as well as user demands were integrated into the design work from the start," says Morten Søndergaard. He further describes the close co-operation between designers, technicians, architects and, not least, the users as "an optimum between design and technique".
The foreign suppliers are Italian train manufacturers Ansaldo Trasporti, who manufactured the Copenhagen underground train in close co-operation with the design firm Giugiaro Design, while Denmark’s Carl Bro De-sign laid down the outline framework before the Italian partners went to work.
Prior to putting out the call for tenders for the contract, the Oerestad Development Corporation entered into a dialogue with some of the Danish disabled people’s organizations.
Meanwhile, Carl Bro Design undertook various types of passenger test. Train design is nothing new to Carl Bro Design, as the studio already designed the Danish IC3 train and Copenhagen’s new S-train.
"We wanted to clarify elements such as door widths, size of seats, seat sections, principles of arrangement and the positioning of knobs and handles before the contract was put up for tender," comments Morten Søndergaard.
Passengers with prams, bicycles and luggage, and children, visually impaired persons, wheelchair users, walking-impaired persons and others with impaired hearing all took part in the tests, whose results combined with the technical specifications enabled simple sketches and descriptions of the layout to be drawn up for inclusion in the contract documents.
At a later stage, Giugiaro Design supplied a full-scale model with a view to testing the convenience of get-ting on and off the train, determining patterns of movement and positioning of handles in the train. By that time, it was also possible to test various ideas for solutions, to compare functions and to evaluate the aesthetics, as well as to identify appropriate methods for cleaning and maintaining the rolling stock.”
In addition, the Metro Company compiles user satisfaction surveys every quarter. The goal is to obtain at least 80 percent happy customers and one of the latest satisfaction inspections showed that 98 percent of the users were either “happy” or “very happy” with the Metro. The satisfaction with the Metro is clarified by the increase in number of passengers mounting from 3.3 million passengers in 2002 to 40 million trips in 2007.
The design meets the very important aim of creating safety in the trains and stations and protecting passengers both from accidents and from dangerous people. Whether you use the stairs, the escalators or take the glass elevator down to one of the underground stations, you will have a good overview of the station and the people who are waiting for the train. The surface lighting from prisms above the stations and aluminium covered surfaces, which reflect the natural daylight all the way down to the underground stations, enhance a sense of safety and control. All stations have video surveillance, and most trains have Metro stewards on board. The platform conditions have also been designed for safety. Automatic glass panel doors separate the train and rails from the platform. They create safety for visually impaired passengers and prevent people from falling or jumping down to the rails. The glass panel doors also improve the indoor climate.
The Metro Company is very conscious about environmental issues and the role of the Metro in the quality of life in Copenhagen. Through the web site www.m.dk plus the magazine “Metro News,” they continuously encourage passengers to contribute ideas for improving environmental sustainability. The best ideas enter into the Metro Company’s environmental strategies. The magazine also serves as a forum for comments and questions on any topic from users of the Metro as well s providing information regarding the Metro and events in Copenhagen.
Although most passengers are satisfied with the Metro and the various special features, people do express some dissatisfaction. The waiting time at the intercom system for a steward to reply a passenger request has been a problem to many passengers. The elevators at the stations are often out of use due to vandalism and wear and tear. Some passengers find the seats too small, and some passengers demand more poles to grab onto when standing in the middle of the train. Likewise, when travelling to the Copenhagen Airport, foreign passengers have had trouble getting off at the correct station due to a confusing speaker call. Also, many of the passengers that use the elevators everyday complain that there is only one elevator at each station.
Universal Design Features
- Fully automatic, driverless trains.
- Level free access to the trains (55 mm. gap between the train and the platform).
- Audio information on platforms and in the trains.
- Tactile marking/guide strips on forecourt and stations together with Call Points.
- Visual marking of stairs and platform front edge.
- Wire loops in Call Points.
- Platform doors in underground stations.
- Seating is supplemented with “perching” chairs that do not take up space in the stations.
- Special whisper speakers for blind and visually impaired people to compensate for written boards.
- Passengers are able to buy their Metro ticket by writing a text message
- High contrast detailing in the cars.
- Ample floor space in cars for bikes, strollers and wheelchairs.
Environmentally Sustainable Features
- To save energy the tunnels have been built on slopes which make the trains save energy by accelerating downhill.
- The brake energy from trains braking is converted into electric power that is used by the other trains.
- High level of light. Through top-lighting the stations, daylight is used to create a bright, secure, and comfortable environment. At the same time it reduces the amount of electricity and artificial lighting needed.
- The artificial lightning used comes from low energy lamps.
- Papers that are left in the trains are collected and recycled continuously.
- Weed on the tracks is collected mechanically to avoid pesticides.
- When washing the trains, only environmentally correct cleansing agents are used.
- The water used for washing the trains is reused in order to reduce consumption.
Copenhagan Municipality & Danish State Ministry of Finance
Doing business on this project as Orestad Development Corporation
Project Manager – Design and Construction
COWI Consulting Engineers and Planners AS
DK – 2800 Kongens Lyngby
+45 4597 22 11
Ansaldo Transporti Sistemi Ferroviari
Ørestads Boulevard 101
DK-2300 Copenhagen S
Tel +45 3246 3340
Fax +45 3246 3380
After 100 years of relative neglect, train stations have been revived and reinvented as gleaming modern expressions of speed and sustainability. Veronica Simpson puts on her parka for a bit of station spotting
Stations can really knock you sideways. Sometimes when you least expect it. On a trip last year to witness the regeneration marvels of East Berlin - from a Second World War bunker turned art gallery (Samlung Boros) to the monumental elegance of David Chipperfield's Neues Museum extension - what also blew our minds was the Hauptbahnhof.
The new central station is visible from every approach to the city centre - whether driving in from Berlin Tegel airport, walking along the river north of the central Tiergarten park or visiting the new parliamentary buildings of the Bundestag. A massive, five-storey 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. 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, national train operator Deutsche Bahn's chief executive Hartmut Mehdorm described it as 'the most beautiful station in the world'. He may well be right. But there is plenty of competition now.
A flick through the portfolio of leading global architecture firms reveals that railway hubs of the 21st century are beginning to compete with the iconic airport designs of the 20th. From the sculptural white temples to architecture and engineering at Liege, Lisbon and Lyon by Santiago Calatrava (high priest of contemporary transport design) to Foster + Partner's space-age, mosque-like constructions in the Middle East, the station has re-emerged as the ultimate symbol of speed and sustainability. Around the world, high-speed rail links have become the ultimate civic must-have, in China as in Birmingham; Stockholm is building a new Citybanan subway system; Singapore is doubling its rail network by 2030. Even Dallas now has what seasoned station architect Chris Williamson describes as 'a fantastic train network'. Meanwhile, in the UK, Crossrail is well on the way to crowning more than a decade of rail and station investment as the largest engineering project in Europe.
Global engineering giant Arup has had more than a little to do with these new temples to the train, bringing its structural and sustainability nous to many of the UK's most prestigious recent projects, from Grimshaw's bar-raising Waterloo International extension in the Nineties to John McAslan + Partners' 2012 King's Cross reinvention; it is also masterminding Crossrail's construction.
The Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Designed by Gerkan, Marg and Partners, it handles 1,100 overground and underground trains a day and is Europe's largest station. Its routes extend as far as Novosibirsk in Russia and Astana in Kazakhstan. A subterranean station serves long-distance trains to Hamburg. The new Brandenburg airport express arrives this autumn
Arup director John Turzynski points out that this overhaul in station design is well overdue. A lack of investment over the past 40 years, combined with increasing passenger numbers, had brought us to the point where most of our major termini are - or were - simply 'not fit for purpose', as Turzynski says. 'A lot of them didn't respond to being intermodal exchanges. There is a need to integrate all the different transport modes (bus, bike, train, subway, pedestrian) because ultimately it's about the travelling public and their experience. Given the realisation that it's better (for cities) to put people on trains than in cars, you need to make that experience as good as it can be.
'The journey isn't just the bit on the train. As technology moves on, and we have all got these clever little devices in our pockets and bags so that we can plan our journeys more efficiently, and buy tickets online, when you do get to a station there's a recognition that there needs to be more of an experience, whether you are a tourist or a commuter.'
What has also improved the new station experience, in many cases, is their strategic position at the centre of major regeneration schemes, the ultimate portal into and out of new business, commercial, leisure and residential zones. But this nice piece of joined-up thinking has often happened more by accident than design on the local authority or developer's part, says Mark Middleton, principal at Grimshaw's. 'There aren't any station regeneration projects. It's all about capacity enhancement,' he says.
If they're lucky, the architects will be allowed to masterplan developments so that stations can be deployed as a means to connect communities rather than divide them. If the buildings are impressive, it's thanks to the architect's ingenuity - or that they're attached to a listed Victorian original, which raises the bar for build quality.
There is very rarely any extra funding provided to help turn a pivotal station scheme into an architectural masterpiece - at least not in the UK. Calatrava may find his French or Belgian civic clients more generous in the creation of landmark buildings. Even so, Middleton criticises the lack of connectivity between Calatrava's elegantly undulating, translucent forms and their often grubby industrial surroundings. They are beautiful, I suggest. 'Yes,' he replies, 'as a paperweight.'
But grand civic gestures really do have their place. According to Chris Williamson, of Weston Williamson, the vision for stations around the world is very much dependent on the need for engagement - the need, in other words, to change behaviours either in adopting a new/underutilised form of transport or in putting a place on the map. Weston Williamson is both masterplanning and designing many rail projects around the world, especially in the Middle East and Asia.
In overcrowded cities such as Kuala Lumpur or Delhi, says Williamson, 'the emphasis is very much on getting a working system rather than a highquality design. People will use it come what may - as long as it works.' He contrasts this with the Middle East where, to counteract their dominant and unsustainable car-centric culture, governments 'want to outdo each other with more and more ambitious plans for public transport. They'll spend a lot of money on the design and the look and the feel of them'.
And let's not forget that this civic grandeur is one of the reasons why we love the iconic stations of the past century - from New York's Grand Central Station to the Gare du Nord in Paris - for providing travellers with that spectacular 'moment of arrival'. But Middleton argues that our perception of Victorian-era stations as symbols of municipal pride and civic generosity is bunkum in the first place. Attracting customers for freight transportation was their whole priority, he says. 'Different rail companies competed with each other to try to make something impressive so that people would use their services instead of others.' Which is also why our best-loved big city stations have been surrounded by cumbersome freight depots and warehouses, carving towns and cities in half and turning large areas around stations into no-go zones. 'Stations in the past have done a huge disservice to their towns and cities,' says Middleton. 'That dialogue between the city and station is being renegotiated.'
At Reading, for example, Grimshaw's scheme not only expands train routes into and across this strategic gateway to London with a dynamic new extension, but also provides seamless access either side of the station with the conversion of an old platform access tunnel into a major pedestrian thoroughfare, linking the regeneration zones either side. Likewise, Grimshaw's forthcoming redesign of London Bridge sees a massive concourse cut through the old railway viaduct to link the new and thriving More London area and riverside with Guy's Hospital and Bermondsey's increasingly upmarket backstreets to the south.
But civic and transit dynamics aside, what is wonderful about the best of this new generation of stations is the sense of openness and access they provide, in stark contrast to the glass-roofed, walled fortresses of the Victorian era. John McAslan +Partners' new King's Cross extension is, even by Middleton's admission, a design that does well to 'bust that citadel typology'.
The busiest transport hub in London revealed its £550m makeover just in time for summer 2012 and the Olympic Games. Once the grimmest of all London stations (certainly the grimiest; infamous as a hub for junkies, runaways and prostitutes), when the tarpaulin was whipped away a gleaming white semicircular concourse was revealed roofed in a swooping latticework of white steel ribs and glazing.
King's Cross outer curves embraced the inevitable parade of eateries and shops but somehow retained the feeling of spectacle, with viewing balconies and concourse focused very much on the main event: people catching trains. For lead architect Hiro Aso it was all about managing flows. He says: 'When it comes to architecture the starting point [for stations] has to be the provision for passengers. The core to the brief was making sure that the flow was spot on. Fundamentally it's about ensuring that you have a clear system whereby you can be handling often huge numbers of people through massively constrained spaces to allow them to get from A to B.' Aso worked closely with engineers and flow analysts at Arup, using sophisticated simulation models to predict the different layers of movement through the station and beyond as well as accommodating shoppers, snackers, bystanders, meeters and greeters.
Some (The Observer's Rowan Moore, for example) have asked why, with such iconic Victorian domed train shed roofs either side of it, would McAslan bother adding another dome (even if it's only half a dome). Aso says: 'The volumes are a homage to the spaces which now are [recognised as] the very best of railway structures. Victorians did something very remarkable. We hope we have been as respectful as we can be to that legacy.' For modern station architects, says Middleton: 'The kinship with the Victorians is the ingenuity - solving a problem in a very rational way - and [the use of] architectural repetition: it's the beauty of having one component that is beautifully crafted and repeated.'
The lavish inclusion of daylight is also something contemporary station architects deploy with great ingenuity. In this, they undoubtedly exceed the attempts of the Victorians, whether it's by punching lightwells through the train tracks, as in Grimshaw's London Bridge scheme (see case study), to illuminate the enormous concourse below, or running a diamond-weave steel and glass roof along the main concourse of Tianjin West station to maximise drama and clarity, as GPM Architects - designer of Berlin's Hauptbahnhof - have done in China (see case study).
People really have been put at the heart of the best modern station experiences. Unfortunately that also means retail. Station owners and developers have been quick to exploit the possibilities of flushing out maximum revenues from shops and food outlets to justify their investment. Occasionally, that means turning the station into a giant mall. At St Pancras International, only Eurostar and Eurotunnel customers get the full impact of the clarity and grandeur of William Barlow's original 73m single-span roof. Elsewhere, retail seems to have become the main event. All ground-level paths lead into the excavated Victorian storage undercroft, stuffed with high-end shops. Standing on the threshold of Cath Kidston or LK Bennett, there's no visual connection whatsoever to the trains, the platforms or transport information.
Professor Meinhard von Gerkan, founder and director of GMP Architects, insists there are ways of balancing commercial and civic requirements. With the Berlin project, the practice knew how important commercial revenues were to its clients. But, he says: 'From the beginning we made it part of our design brief to include as much commercial floor space as possible within the station building, without detracting from the building's unique public character by keeping the central hall clear of such functions.
'Looking at the railway station in operation today, we can say that this has more or less been achieved, as Berlin's central railway station is one of the city's largest and most extensive shopping centres; despite of that, the large central hall remains clear of these activities, is bright and light and is fully functional as a transport interchange. The commercial areas have mostly been accommodated in the multistorey, lateral arched tracts, and therefore only have a minimal impact on the overall character of the station.'
As to the future, will these stunning pieces of 21st-century engineering and architecture still be the benchmark in another 100 years, or will the game have changed completely? Arup's John Turzynski says: 'I still think at heart stations are machines for processing people. But there will be continued efforts to make travel as seamless as possible through interchange. We are finding ways of making that more efficient, as our ability to use sophisticated software evolves - whether it's to examine pedestrian movement, lighting, heat, sound, structural analysis - we can model how spaces are used electronically in ways that we couldn't before. We can spend more time verifying what works and what doesn't, then demonstrate that to our clients through virtual environments.'
For Middleton, the station of the future is about communication (for example, he'd like to see stations broadcasting train times and platform numbers as the passenger approaches the building, rather than wait until they're all crowded together on the station concourse) and maximising the ease with which journeys link to each other.
Von Gerkan, however, warns against a future where the 'greater need for even faster mobility, greater safety and an almost explosive and overwhelming display of commerce, will lead to [stations as] urban spaces that are devoid of any articulated form. We should counteract this with all means available and should oppose this supposed trend for "faster, higher, further and even more profit", so that there is at least a modicum of respect for, and recognition of, the most important value: the quality of life in our urban space.'
King's Cross Station
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. Materials are high quality and light-reflecting; the mezzanine balcony is clad in white ceramic mosaic tiling, and the floor of the concourse is light, flamed granite.
The roof is a web of light circular steel tubes splayed out in diagrid form that pays homage to the listed Victorian train sheds at St Pancras and King's Cross while providing a solution to two major structural problems: that the ticket hall for the Underground was being 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.
Deep vertical truss elements erupt from beside Lewis Cubitt's original booking hall, rise up to the semicircular skylight and extend across the 8,000 sq m space to the outer edges, where they land on terra firma in 16 tree-like columns. These columns facilitate a number of exits for passengers, whether connecting to the regeneration zone (and Central Saint Martins), to St Pancras International, to bus and taxi services and to the newly refurbished Great Northern Hotel. The roof is substantially daylit, but at night a sophisticated lighting scheme throws a wash of colour across the white section of the ceiling. Removal of the station's unlovely Seventies' fascia and restoration of the original entrance is yet to come, along with a new public piazza from Stanton Williams.
Client: Network Rail
Architects: John McAslan + Partners
Size: 8,000 sq m
Completion: March 2012
Miami's Metromover light railway network is one of only three downtown 'peoplemover' systems in the whole of the USA. It is also the most successful, shifting around 32,200 passengers per day - for free!
UK architecture practice Weston Williamson recently won global attention - and a MIPIM design award - for its inspired scheme for a new station in the forthcoming Museum Park. Weston Williamson masterplanned the park - featuring Herzog & DeMeuron's Miami Art Museum and a Science Museum (Grimshaw) - and in so doing hopes to shift the existing Metromover Station to a more pivotal location between the two, with improved pedestrian and transport connectivity.
Simple in layout, it offers comfort, clarity and weather protection via a transparent ETFE skin wrapped around a 10m-wide central island platform, with views out over the new Museum Park. At night, the station is lit internally and will change colour as trains arrive and depart. Power for all lighting is provided by solar cells and a wind-powered generator. The project is still awaiting funding, but architect Chris Williamson is hopeful that this pivotal piece of infrastructure for Miami's new civic and cultural hub will get the go ahead soon. 'Miami wants it to look glamorous, to get people to use it,' he says.
One of four projects to receive the MIPIM 2013 judges' special recognition award, the judges declared: 'This piece of Miami infrastructure is a reminder of the sculptural possibilities of transport architecture.'
Client: MiamiDade County
Architect: Weston Williamson
Size: 2,000 sq m
Schedule: Awaiting funding (then a year to complete)
London Bridge is a classic example of the British Rail network's historic tendency towards 'lean to' culture, according to Grimshaw Architects partner Mark Middleton: evolving over decades with platforms and canopies bolted on as and when needed. It is about to undergo a massive rationalisation, at the hands of Grimshaw and structural engineer WSP. Even the station's original, listed section has to go, in the bid to improve routes into, around and beyond, this great chunk of rail infrastructure which has up to now choked off any substantial pedestrian dialogue between Bermondsey and the Thames riverbank.
Retaining the Victorian brick viaduct facades where possible, there will be two main entrances: a largley glazed riverside one on Tooley Street, connecting the station visually and literally with the newly regenerated commercial and leisure hub of More London; and a more traditional Bermondsey-facing one, featuring extensive retail slotted into the existing railway arches. A 70m-wide by 200m-long concourse will be cut out of the existing viaduct to improve flow between the two neighbourhoods.
Retail will be moved entirely down on to this ground level floor, together with ticketing. The upper level, where ticketing, retail and bus connections are now, will be clear for trains and transiting passengers. Rationalisation of space and tracks will allow for two-thirds more passengers to use the station. The ground floor concourse - apparently greater in scale than the pitch at Wembley - will thus provide a seamless transit space for pedestrians, commuters and those connecting with the Underground.
Streamlined metal canopies will replace the current grimy platform coverings, reflecting shimmering rooflines back up to the adjacent Shard. Individually shaped and warped, the canopies also allow both south and north light to penetrate, benefiting the waiting passengers. When finished, in 2018, according to Middleton: 'London Bridge will go from being a third-class citizen to being up there with the best.'
Client: Network Rail
Architect: Grimshaw Architectss
Engineering (structural and M&E): WSP
Landscape Architect: Grimshaw/ HWSP
Size: 5,100 sq m
Tianjin West Station, China
Built by Gerkan, Marg and Partners (GMP), the practice behind Berlin's spectacular Hauptbahnof, Tianjin West Railway Station is all horizontal clarity and connectivity, compared to the five-storey intersectional drama of the Berlin central station.
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.
Photo Credit: Christiangahl
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 southern forecourt forms a large, coherent, open space whose dimensions reflect those of the station. Arched cantilevers above the main entrances on the north and south sides hint at the barrel-vault roof inside, the weave of which is designed to maximise light penetration in the lower part and protect against direct solar radiation across the top.
Founding partner Meinhard von Gerkan comments: 'Our Chinese clients have given the task of building a highquality railway station that reflects the station's history a very high priority, and have therefore allowed us to design this station to give it the clarity, simplicity and high degree of functionality we can see today.'
Client: Tianjin Ministry of Railways
Structural Engineer: Schlaich Bergermann und Partner
Chinese partner practice: TSDI
Gross floor area: 179,000 sq m