The world's 10 best-designed railway stations


Our pick of the best designed train stations from around the world


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.

Here's our pick of the 10 best-designed railway stations, from the bright, open feeling of Santiago Calatrava's Liège-Guillemins in Belgium to the Barneveld Noord, a railway station made of shipping containers by NL Architects

Liège-Guillemins station

Locaton: Belgium

Architect: Santiago Calatrava

Liège-Guillemins_station_Santiago Calatrava

Photo: Luke Hayes

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.

Liège-Guillemins_station_Santiago Calatrava

Photo: Luke Hayes

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.

Liège-Guillemins_station_Santiago Calatrava

Photo: Luke Hayes


Kraaiennest metro station

Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Architect: Maccreanor Lavington

Kraaiennest_metro_station_Maccreanor_Lavington

Photo: Luuk Kramer

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

Kraaiennest_metro_station_Maccreanor_Lavington

Photo: Luuk Kramer

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.

Kraaiennest_metro_station_Maccreanor_Lavington

Photo: Luuk Kramer

The upgraded Kraaiennest station was part of a series of infrastructure improvements in the 1960s neighbourhood of Kraaiennest. Another was Grimshaw's Bijlmer Station (see below) which was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize.


Bijlmer Station

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Architect: Grimshaw

Bijlmer_Station_Bijlmer Station

Photo: Mark Humphreys

Shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2008, Bijlmer Station in Amsterdam is raised above a 70 metre-wide boulevard on a two-storey concrete viaduct, and was designed in collaboration with Dutch practice Arcadis Articon Architecten.

Bijlmer_Station_Bijlmer Station

Photo: Mark Humphreys

Some 60,000 people pass through the station each day and it has eight tracks (two handling 200 km/h high- speed trains). It is also a major interchange for passengers connecting to Metro lines and bus routes.

Bijlmer_Station_Bijlmer Station

Photo: Mark Humphreys

One of the main architectural challenges for the team was to design a station that could be constructed without impinging on the day-to-day operation of the existing facilities

Bijlmer_Station_Bijlmer Station

Photo: Ger Van Der Vlugt

Grimshaw worked with Arcadis Articon Architects on the design of the station on a 70metre-wide diagonal Boulevard, linking east with west. The tracks and platforms are raised on concrete viaducts, with a total length of 325m.


Nordpark Cable Railway

Location: Innsbruck, Austria

Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects

Nordpark_Cable_Railway_Zaha_Hadid_ Architects

Photo: Hélène Binet

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.

Nordpark_Cable_Railway_Zaha_Hadid_ Architects

Photo: Roland Halbe

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.

Nordpark_Cable_Railway_Zaha_Hadid_ Architects

Photo: Roland Halbe


Tianjin West Station

Location: Tianjin, China

Architect: von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects (gmp)

Tianjin_West_Station_on Gerkan, Marg and_Partners_Architects_(gmp)

Photo: Christian Gahl

Built by Gerkan, Marg and Partners (GMP), the practice behind Berlin's spectacular Hauptbahnof (see below ), Tianjin West Railway Station is all horizontal clarity and connectivity, compared to the five-storey intersectional drama of the Berlin's 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.

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.


King's Cross Station

Location: London, UK

Architecture: John McAslan + Partners (JMP)

King's_Cross_Station_John McAslan + Partners (JMP)

Photo: Hufton + Crow

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.

King's_Cross_Station_John McAslan + Partners (JMP)

Photo: Hufton + Crow

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.

King's_Cross_Station_John McAslan + Partners (JMP)

Photo: Hufton + Crow

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.


Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Location: Berlin, Germany

Architect: von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects (gmp)

Berlin_Hauptbahnhof_von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects (gmp)

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'.


Barneveld Noord

Location: Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Architect: NL Architects

Barneveld_Noord_NL_ Architects

Photo: Marcel van der Burg

Made primarily of reclaimed shipping containers, the Noord Railway station by Dutch studio NL Architects, is a bold cross shaped arrangement of back shipping containers which frame a transparent waiting room.

NL Architects

Photo: Marcel van der Burg

Three of the containers form a roof above the glazed waiting room. One has an open bottom, creating a double-height space, while the other two are sealed to provide overhead storage.

Barneveld_Noord_NL_ Architects

Photo: Marcel van der Burg


University of Naples Metro Station

Location: Naples, Italy

Architect: Karim Rashid

University_of_Naples_Metro_Station

Photo: Iwan Baan for M.N. Metropolitana di Napoli S.p.A..

One of the coolest and most creative stations on our list, 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'.

University_of_Naples_Metro_Station_Karim Rashid

Photo: Iwan Baan for M.N. Metropolitana di Napoli S.p.A..

It also represents Naples' shift from a historic southern-Italian city to a global centre for technology and innovation. Says Rashid: '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.'

University_of_Naples_Metro_Station_Karim Rashid

Photo: Iwan Baan for M.N. Metropolitana di Napoli S.p.A..


Logroño high-speed train station

Location: Logroño, Spain

Architecture: Abalos+Sentkiewicz Arquitectos

Logroño_high-speed_train_station

Photo: José Hevia

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.

Logroño_high-speed_train_station

Photo: José Hevia

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.

Logroño_high-speed_train_station

Photo: José Hevia

Much of the station is underground, with natural light coming in through several partially-glazed turrets, which are visible - but not imposingly so - from the surrounding parkland.

Logroño_high-speed_train_station

Photo: José Hevia


 

 






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