The “geometrically fluent” Arnhem Central train station opened today after 19 years in development in the Dutch town of Arnhem, located 60 miles southeast of Amsterdam.
About 55,000 passengers are expected to pass through the rail hub on a daily basis, primarily to transfer trains arriving and departing enroute to and from the capital. It’s designed to accommodate rising levels of traffic intersecting here from Germany, France and Belgium, predicted to double by 2020.
There are few things that evoke the romance of travel more than the classic European railroad terminal, but Arnhem officials wanted to replace the old and nostalgic with the new and elastic.
They elected to raze the existing 1950s structure to build what could arguably be described as a destination train station, developed around the non-linear movement of modern travelers in a hurry.
First conceptualized in 1996, the project was awarded to the Amsterdam-based UNStudio architecture firm who at the time was developing a design strategy called “Deep Planning.” It prioritizes “localized sites that link up with global networks” and “scanning a site for its flow structure” to optimize the organic, real world user experience, according to UNStudio founder Ben van Berkel.
The curvilinear structure illustrates the mandate of Empathic Design to embrace the needs of the user first as a starting point in the design process. Except van Berkel envisioned the scalloped walls and windows before the movement came into vogue.
And like the more well-known, Baghdad-born architect Zaha Hadid, who never met a straight line she liked, van Berkel designed a structure that challenged the most ambitious building technology at the time.
In the late 1990s, advances in 3D CAD drafting software provided the ability to create amorphous shapes that commercial engineers didn’t know how to contend with in the physical world.
So it wasn’t until 2006 that London-based Arup Engineering finally began constructing the curvy concrete walls and tangentially-aligned windows, specifically situated to orient passengers with the city of Arnhem outside as they navigate intuitively through the station.
Another design triumph, the twisting structural roof geometry soars unsupported almost 200 feet above the ground floor in the central concourse.
Van Berkel said in a written statement, “We wanted to give a new and vital impetus to station design.”