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Station design: Balancing function with aesthetics

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There is more to good station design than an impressive-looking building. It should also be more than a good place to catch trains – a recent ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) Interchange and Integrated Transport Conference stressed that train companies are committed to improving links with other forms of transport.

Station designers need to plan for crowd pressure, ease of passenger flow and general wear and tear. Access for maintenance and cleaning are crucial for longevity, security and safety and place special demands on material choice and engineered solutions. Good wayfinding is important, as can be read elsewhere in this issue, and provision has to be made for retail outlets, waiting areas, passenger drop-off and ‘kiss and ride’ zones.

Taking all these into consideration in a new station design is complicated enough. When an old, listed building is being remodelled everything also has to fit in with the layout of the existing structure.

Pleasing the crowds

Taking inspiration from how airport terminals have historically been designed, a new railway station needs to consider both passenger experience and flow to ensure long term benefits. The design of the new Crossrail stations, which together will have to handle 200 million passengers each year, is focussed on getting the internal design correct. Aesthetics have to be balanced with the performance qualities of materials to provide a durable finish which will last a lifetime.

Architectural metalwork can balance visual appeal with enhanced performance qualities and provide a highly functional solution. Wall panelling provides a durable way of handling crowd pressure while column casings can also incorporate impact resistance for vehicle movement. Sloping tops with 20 degree angles can be used to help prevent the surface being used for discarded rubbish or left luggage.VIL_2801lowres [online]

Refurbishment Waterloo

Many stations have stood the test of time and any modernisation will need to provide for similar longevity. However, upgrading and adapting the existing building fabric is not without challenges. Working on all three phases of refurbishment at Waterloo Station, SAS International collaborated closely with architects and mechanical and electrical consultants to design, manufacture and install architectural metalwork solutions to a strict timeline.

With 90 million passengers passing through Waterloo station every year, managing passenger flow was a key factor for consideration at the design stage. The programme for completion was extremely challenging and, with limited as-built information, the architects had to investigate the existing fabric, propose a solution and start manufacture – almost simultaneously. All this had to be accomplished with minimal disruption to the working station.

The refurbishment of the peak hour subway, for instance, created a modern, open space designed for increased capacity over the coming decade. This subway, which is accessed from the platforms, was originally designed to alleviate overcrowding at the main underground entrances to Waterloo Station. SAS International’s project management team worked closely with architects bpr on the design, manufacturing and installation of the architectural metalwork for this phase.

The civil engineering involved in opening up the arches was a major challenge. The lower subways are constructed from Victorian brick arches some 3.5 metres thick. Once the new openings were instated, the specially designed cladding had to be installed quickly and easily within tight time and budgetary constraints.

The demountable barrel vaulted ceiling had to incorporate existing services. A bespoke design was required for the existing brick and render arched soffit of the subway which contained congested services suspended beneath. SAS International provided a sub grid, spanning these services, to facilitate the suspension of the new ceiling. Twin vaults were added along the lengths of the subway to create a feature in the otherwise flat plane and to reflect the existing arches. The lighting and ceiling grids had to be co-ordinated with the structure of the lift valley to maximise ceiling heights caused by the low soffit.

Another phase of the redevelopment of Waterloo, a new £25 million balcony with ten retail outlets, opened in 2012. It was designed to reduce congestion on the concourse for 300,000 daily passengers and improve access to and from Waterloo East. It also provides passengers with an extra 20,000 sq. ft. of retail space. SAS International worked closely with BAM Construction designing solutions to encase services for future ease of access.

Versatile metalwork

Using architectural metalwork such as wall panels and column casings can transform both the look and the functionality of station buildings. At Liverpool Central station, light and space are priorities with walls being removed to increase the footprint of the concourse. SAS International powder coated steel cladding is being used with vitreous enamel in passenger areas to provide a robust finish.

Another example is the myriad of metal solutions which were designed, manufactured and installed by SAS International at Snow Hill Station in Birmingham. The building’s interior was fitted out so old meets new, creating a stunning combination of contrasting materials of brick against metalwork. An SAS International System 200 Waveform ceiling system in light blue was installed in the main lobby areas.

VIL_2879lowres [online]Not only did the design have to look good, the peaks and troughs of the ceiling had to be carefully calculated to coordinate with the heavy electrical services in the ceiling void whilst maximising the perceived ceiling height. SAS International produced a 3D model of the area to fully engineer the Waveform panels where they met perimeters and the vertical risers. The ceiling was mechanically secured using hold down brackets while access panels were fitted with safety chains.

Service risers in the lobby areas were constructed of curved, perforated, hook-on metal panels to conceal electrical services running vertically on the walls. They were scalloped where they interfaced with the waveform ceiling.

There are many ways to produce an aesthetic and functional design when undertaking a station refurbishment. Combining new metalwork with the features of the original building can result in visually stunning combinations of materials such as aluminium and brushed stainless steel coupled with original cast-iron columns and wrought iron girders.

Weathering the storm

The demand for innovative and interesting interior / exterior linking space must be balanced with the use of high performance products. It is not just a question of design aesthetics, the durability of the materials and ease of maintenance is essential to ensure the environment remains impeccable.

The open nature of a station concourse makes it subject to external temperature changes, so solutions manufactured from aluminium can provide long term solutions. For example, SAS International’s project management team has just finished installing a bespoke soffit lining at Blackfriars station in London, the first railway station to span the Thames. The potential of damage being caused to fittings from being exposed to the elements was taken into consideration so triangular aluminium panels were chosen, suspended internally and externally from the structural steelwork.

Long-term value

Off-site prefabrication can provide cost and installation efficiencies. It can ensure consistency of build quality, minimise risk and improve on-site safety. Project planning can also be improved by reducing delays caused by other trades coming onto site. Research carried out by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) has found that off-site construction generates up to 80% less waste than site-based building.

Communication is of paramount importance and essential for the success of these large scale projects. A manufacturer which can offer a design service from the outset can help substantially with evolving design plans and onsite challenges. Architects, designers, engineering firms and installers have to work as a team.


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