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Train station design done right – Indesign’s top 5

Can train station design be more than a boring tube to funnel commuters to and from work? These 5 stations show a more beautiful side of urban design.

Train station design, and public transport, in general, is often thought of as a utilitarian thing. It needs to house trains and allow people to wait, board and commute as easily as possible. But sometimes, these signifiers of urban density can escape their humble trappings and serve as statements of design beauty.

It takes a special designer and team to transform a busy commuter hub into something that inspires a sense of awe or beauty. Which is why as our major cities here in Australia continue to grow and expand, we wanted to highlight these five examples of truly inspired train station design.

World Trade Center Transportation Hub, New York

While the station itself has been servicing the citizens of New York since 1909, following 2001’s September 11 attacks, an extensive redesign and reconstruction effort was sorely needed. It took Architect Santiago Calatrava and the construction team over a decade to finally unveil the highly anticipated World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which formally opened in March 2016, and the result is one of the most spectacular examples of modern train station design. The centrepiece of the project is the eye-catching glass and steel structure known as the Oculus – an 800,000-square-foot structure housing the huge hub. While still connecting 11 different subway lines, the PATH train, the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal, pathways to several downtown buildings, and a mall, the building stands as a beautiful monument to the city of New York, and as an example of inspired train station design.


Kanazawa Station, Ishikawa, Japan

The current iteration of the originally built in 1898 Kanazawa station was unveiled in 2005, to surprisingly mixed reactions. With additions of an ultramodern glass-and-steel dome and giant drum-shaped wood gate, the traditional site was certainly seeing new aesthetics. Yet as visitors continued to flock to the site, the beauty of this train station design became apparent.

The new structures rest comfortably alongside the historic town’s other attractions – including traditional Japanese hotspots of a geisha district and former samurai quarters. Externally, the most striking part of Kanazawa Station is the large wooden gate, which people exiting the station are immediately struck by. Considering the permanent tourist collectives nearby taking photos of the inspiring sights, it’s safe to say the initial controversy surrounding the station has more than worn off.


King’s Cross Station, London

An icon of London’s urban design, and an important commuter gateway to the greater area, Kings Cross is a train station design done right. Already a popular sight, and essential for the underground tube driven train lines of London, King Cross station received a new addition in March of 2012. The new semi-circular departures concourse, situated to the west of the station behind the Great Northern Hotel, was designed by John McAslan and built by Vinci.

While not only being striking from the outside, the additions cater for the increased passenger numbers the stations were experiencing and provide greater integration between the intercity, suburban and underground sections of the station. The roof is, in fact, the longest single-span station structure in Europe, and the semi-circular structure is composed of over 2000 triangular roof panels, making the station not only a practical marvel but a beautiful one.


Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, India

When we think of brilliant train station design, it’s easy to only think of the contemporary and modern, but Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus shows that this doesn’t need to be the case. Designed in the High Victorian Gothic style of architecture, the building showcases a fusion of influences from Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and classical Indian architecture.

While distinctly European looking in style, the skyline, turrets, arches, and eccentric ground plan are in fact closer to classical Indian palace architecture than anything else. Externally, the carvings, tiles, ornamental railings and the like, were the result of the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art. The station stands as a stunning example of 19th century train station design that responds to its locale in surprising and remarkable ways.


Hungerburg Station, Innsbruck, Austria

Iconic architect Zaha Hadid first made her indisputable mark on Austria’s Innsbruck region with her Bergisel ski-jump tower in 2002. In 2007, the region lured her back and she returned with a truly awe-inspiring train station design for the Nordpark Cable Railway. The railway itself is a four-station funicular line that transports passengers up the mountain incline for a little over a mile. Each of Hadid’s station designs here are capped with swooping glass forms, recalling the snowy surrounding and ice floats below.

Take a look at our top 10 stadium designs from across the world

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