Railway station by Santiago Calatrava 17.12.09

116AC20091013D2099 rt 1

image: Thomas Mayer

With biomimicry and incessant repetition of structural elements the Liège-Guillemins TGV station is trademark Santiago Calatrava. A sweeping roof of massive span rakes out over the surroundings, making this a deeply impressive building. It clearly intends to inspire a similar awe in the visitor that the grand train stations did 150 years ago. But where those were gigantic decorated sheds hidden behind structures more palatable to bourgeois taste, this edifice has no facade at all – it's all roof. But this is no simple roof; we've all seen utilitarian structures, and this certainly isn't one. Rather than a design solution, it would be better to think of the building as a ridiculously expensive sculpture of a railway station. With its monumental opulence, uncannily blank detailing, blinding whiteness and dizzying, superfluous repetition of structure, it's a seriously overpowering object.

Liège is on a long list of cities that have pinned their hopes on the magical powers of signature architects. Once the powerhouse of Belgium's steel industry, over the years the city has suffered the familiar European story of post-industrial malaise. Along with Ron Arad's new Médiacité shopping centre a kilometre down the road, which also houses Belgian state television, the Liège-Guillemins TGV station is part of some earnest "iconic regeneration". The recession has cast a gloomy shadow over this concept, and the opening celebrations are not as brassy as they might have been, but with this roof to distract, who cares.

116AC20091013D2099 rt

image: Thomas Mayer

 

 Words

Douglas Murphy

quotes story

Rather than a design solution, it would be better to think of the building as a ridiculously expensive sculpture of a railway station

Leave a comment

Click to show