Mobility and Infrastructure are perhaps the most influential factors that determine the dynamics of an urban center. While efficient functionality remains the core of their design intent, architects around the world have conceived these projects in an inspiring manner that transcends their values beyond the ordinary.
Here is a list of 15 such projects that compile some of the most unique and compelling projects in transportation architecture:
Designed by Santiago Calatrava, this steel and glass structure forming a canopy to transport hub crafts itself like the mythical bird Phoenix, enlivening the symbolism of emerging from ashes for the poignant past witnessed by the city. Located along the southern edge of ‘Wedge Of Light’, this freestanding structure represents itself as a series of vaulted ribs, oriented craftily to the sun’s direction in a manner that allows for it to shine directly overhead and let light beams pass through its roof opening on 11th September. Its 335 feet long slender skylight has been designed in continuation to this symbolism.
It’s said to follow a design effort that coordinates to pass an array of light into the main hub of transit hall at around the same time that witnessed the collapse of the North Tower of WTC on the day of the attack. This skylight is an operable installation and each year on 9/11 it is opened to allow the sun to fill light inside-emanating hope and vitality. It is an inspiring reference for transportation cum memorial architecture.
2. Lillestrom bicycle hotel, Norway
In an effort towards sustainable development, Norway has been constantly promoting cycling as a chosen mode of transportation. In Lillestrom, voted as Norway’s best cycling city, The Bicycle Hotel is a similar effort in a sink with the sustainable cause. Designed by Various Architects, this glassed boxed structure with a concrete base hosts bicycle storage and connects directly to the main square of the train station.
Its concept of positive give back to the city reflects through the design of its curved, accessible green rooftop covered with green sedum, turning the storage into an active public hotspot. Its translucent facade of U-glass cuts off dependency on artificial lighting systems while creating a fascinating feel for the facade that reflects various hues of sunlight throughout the day.
This glass additionally extends its form in a manner that translates it into a balustrade for the rooftop. Also, the gaps between the U-profile let air vent inside, reducing support of mechanical ventilation systems.
3. Suizhou South Railway Station, China
Built for the High-Speed railway that would connect a vast stretch of important tourism spots in a remarkably reduced time frame, the design for this station was conceived to be something as inspiring and iconic as the project itself. Trying to make this station an element of urban integration and heritage representation, the architects chose to mimic it as a symbolism of Ginkgo landscapes. Hence, an overall conceptualization of the station presents itself in a forest-like space nurturing the feeling of ‘under the ginkgo tree’.
This is consummated through an ensemble of six-column grouping that repeats rhythmically to form a smooth wave. The steel cables of the column have layers of golden ETFE film which reflect the hue through skylights installed above them into the interiors. These also have LEDs installed that during night time give a visual sense of traditional lanterns. Moreover, the good sound absorption property of the material coupled with its constant presence throughout the space allows for a quiet space despite the strength of its daily crowd.
If we want to promote pedestrianization and walkways, then we need to design them excitingly to pique users’ interest and enrich their experience. Giving a physical dimension to that thought, Australia’s Link Walkway is a 110 m long tranquil walkway that connects a famous shopping center with Hotel Chadstone Melbourne. It is modeled from a curved ‘glulam’ timber structure, with semi-translucent, tensile ‘PTFE’ fabric stretched over to ensure its operability in all weather conditions while maintaining the visual links with its surroundings.
The walkway preserves its sense of place through the integration of landscape, seating, travelators with the additional incorporation of public spaces hosting pop-up shops and a restaurant ensuring an interactive arrangement for a user within this space rather than being just used as a mode of linkway. Moreover, its endeavor to sustainability lies in its feature of natural cross-ventilation, minimal artificial illuminance dependency, and native species plantation schemes.
5. Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan
With its inspiring modularity and passive designing scheme, The Queen Alia International Airport is conceived as a highly functional and flexible layout while offering critical economical growth through regional links. The modular design for the airport allows for future expansion at a growth rate of 6% annually conceived for a period of next 25 years, estimated to increase its capacity from 3.5 million passengers to 12 million by 2030.
In response to stark contrasts of Amman’s weather conditions, the design has tried to incorporate a vernacular feature of open-air courtyards for passive cooling coupled with material support of high thermal mass concrete. Its roofing exists as modules that form a tessellated canopy of shallow domes and extend onto column supports to shade the structure.
Glazed windows with horizontal louvers, reflecting pools, date-palm-inspired columns coupled with energy efficiency and dynamism, this airport design has numerous learnings for the architecture community.
6. Riyadh Metro Station, Saudi Arabia
This metro station is an inspiring piece of parametric architecture designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. In her trademark style, the station has been conceived as a sequence of opposing sine waves with lattice-like undulating skin. The studio carried out a detailed study of the paths and spots that were to be connected and carefully mapped out circulation paths for the most optimized movement.
It was based on the maps generated from the study that corresponding three-dimensional lattice configurations were arrived at. This rhythm of curves continues to the interiors as well, conceding a unique and dynamic essence to it. With its network of sky bridges and paths set in quite a voluminous setting, the metro station is yet another exhilarating piece of architecture by the studio.
7. RATP Bus Centre, France
Controlling all bus lines on the east and south routes of Paris, this bus center by ECDM is a captivating design scheme arrived at through innovative material use. The facade commences with a camouflage of high-performance lego-like textured concrete that blends with the deformed asphalt ground, establishing a sense of continuum. The strength and plasticity of the material allow for it to be used in the cantilevers and rooftops.
With the flexibility of rounded-off edges, no visible demarcation or intersections can be spotted by an onlooker, leaving one in a state of illusion and perplexion over the end and beginning of the building. Various cavities have been created at different points in the building, fitted with colored and reflective glasses that spark up the interiors with their vivid hues and add richness and tone to the structure.
What better promotion of global tourism when the air travel hub itself could become a lifestyle destination with opportunities for luxurious recreations! Rising above the challenges of geometrical complexity and constructability, this building is engineered with the world’s largest gridshell enclosing a structure.
Spanning about 200 meters as an almost columnless space, its innovative roof of triangular glass panels seeks sporadic support in the garden only. Its biggest attraction is a 130 ft Rain vortex that cascades down through an ocular opening in the glass dome, leaving any onlooker spellbound.
Operating about 40m high, the Rain Vortex is the tallest indoor waterfall globally. The vision of Moshe Safdie acquired the airport a position amongst the best airports in the world owing to the exceptional travel experience and stunning architecture.
9. Astana Rail Station, Kazakhstan
The Astana Rail station built as part of the Nurly Zhol program was opened in 2017 catering to approximately 35,000 passengers a day. Designed by Tabanlioglu Architects, this new station is 11 times larger than the prevailing one visualized to be a symbolic reflection of modernity and contemporary futuristic growth of the city. The station has a monolithic steel roof formed of three continuous plates running from one end of the station to the opposite as wavy lines with intervals between them.
The station is designed to allow the train to arrive inside the building by building six covered overpasses. The entire complex is connected with six departure -and- receiving tracks. The rail station features energy-saving escalators and lifts. It’s provided with advanced intelligent systems to monitor and control security, passenger traffic, queues, and smart ticketing.
Besides, the complex is equipped with about 70% green technologies like solar batteries and geothermal applications for making the complex sustainable and eco-friendly. This project is a desirable model for any city that heralds a vision for modern design solutions through innovation and technology.
10. Avtovo- St. Petersburg, Russia
Avtovo designed by architect Yevgenii Levinson is a station on the Kirovski-Vyborgskaya Line of the Saint Petersburg Metro, opened as part of the first Leningrad Metro line in 1955. Part of the small class column metro stations, it’s a shallow-level station built using the cut and cover method. Its unique and unusual design arises from its effort of majestic interiors that impart it a feel no less than that of a marble palace.
The station’s ceiling is supported by forty-six grand columns- out of which 30 are faced with white marble, and sixteen are embellished with glass. Its north side is adorned by several decorative ventilation grilles, while at the end of the platform, an intricate mosaic mural marking pays homage to the Leningrad Blockade of WWII. With an added flair of crystal chandeliers, it is amongst the plushest metro stations ever made.
11. West Kowloon Station,Hong Kong
Lying within the heart of Hong Kong, this 22,000 km long high-speed passenger rail network forms the gateway to Mainland China, directly connecting Hong Kong to other major hubs in the country. With a footprint of more than 25 acres and a depth of 30 meters below the ground, this multi-level underground structure equipped with fifteen tracks is the largest and deepest underground facility of its kind.
The complex features a giant curtain wall comprising over 4,000 irregular glass panels to maximize daylight and conserve energy. The station’s visionary interventions introduce a ‘green plaza’ and ‘sky corridor’ of about 3 hectares to the site. Its accessible green rooftop is planted with a line of mature shrubs and trees that create an exciting and engaging public space.
Rising above functionality, its fluidity and dynamism in form coupled with urban contribution repurpose it to an act of extraordinary architecture.
12. Beijing Daxing International Airport, China
Characterized by Freeflow, curvilinear facade, and a strange mystic feeling, this transport hub for Beijing Daxing by Zaha Hadid Architects is a unique blend of futuristic form guided by traditional Chinese Principles. Based on the Chinese practice of interconnected spaces and central assembly, the structure directs all routes and zones of terminals in a guided manner to its grand central courtyard.
Its vaulted roof has about six flowing forms that reach the ground to support the structure while bringing in ample sunlight through its network of skylights. In its intent of growth and expansion, space has been designed with adequate public spaces while beholding immense flexibility for future expansion.
Besides, the airport has a photovoltaic power generation setup, a waste heat recovery-based heating system, and an efficient water management system. With its efficient resource management and bewitching splendor, the Beijing Daxing International Airport is an inspiring infrastructure project every architect should know.
13.Haikou Wenming East Road Tunnel,China
Doing away with light grilles at the tunnel entrance, Penda China chose for Haikou Wenming East Road Tunne a curved shell canopy that seemingly follows a bionic design borrowing its sculptural inspiration from the white shell and creating a contextual response to its location by the sea. It owes its luster to its glazed aluminum-clad surface. This rhythmic visual continues inside the tunnel.
The undulating texture of panels with the stainless steel incorporated granite wall allowing for adequate reflection, maintaining the desired illuminance inside. Continuing the texture, numerous small lights are installed alongside the gaps of panels whose illumination at night transforms the canopy into a stunning piece of an artistic installation.
14. Ivanovo Train Station, Russia
Upon first look at this railway station building, one often perceives it as a cultural center, but in fact, the manner its renovation was conceived outputs it as a cultural heritage as well as a landmark. Subject to a total of three renovation projects, its current form best attributes its interior to a compelling stylistic blend of avant-garde constructivism and Soviet modernism.
The station’s authentic decorative and structural features have been well preserved while retrofitting it with modern technologies. Its ‘Red Hall’ retains some stunning artifacts from the Soviet modernism era. Introducing multifunctionality in its hall to host events like exhibitions, the adequacy of the space has been upgraded from simple transportation infrastructure to a public engagement space marking an important highlight towards meeting the needs of modern infrastructure with a prime focus on conserving and preserving heritage.
15. Peace Bridge, Canada
It is through the creative integration of structure and sculpture that inspiring architecture is born. In an effort at Calgary by Santiago Calatrava, the thought is quite relatable. Present as a red and white tubular structure, the single-span helix extends symmetrically along the line of the footbridge above the Bow River. It incorporates separate paths for easy pedestrians and cyclists to ensure safe and guided movement.
Existing as a crisscrossing of steel, its exterior has been covered with glazed panels throughout its 126 m length to permit its use in all weather conditions while maintaining a visual connection with the picturesque surrounding it is set in. The framework also has an embedded linear lighting installation that illuminates the path at night. This not only eases wayfinding but reflects the hue in water below to generate a landmark presence for the bridge.