Dubai Metro Station

Architype Dialogue presents

Simon Summers

What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?

Prior to our appointment on Dubai Metro, Aedas had designed more than 100 rail stations globally. With the experienced gained on these earlier projects in Hong Kong, Singapore, India and the UK we were already very familiar with the design and technical issues associated with passenger rail station typology. The early planning for the Dubai Metro began under the vision and directive of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. This vision required the station architecture to have “an aesthetic, form and external appearance which is unique, innovative, iconic and reflecting Dubai’s identity and character”. Our design response was the uniquely shaped shell roofs you see today, that while modern and iconic also invoke the heritage of pearl diving which is an integral part of Dubai’s history.

The major challenge we faced was a lack of time. From the standing start in September 2005 to the Red Line official opening in September 2009 the Aedas team was under intense pressure to design and fully complete the construction documentation for the 47 metro stations and 2 depots on the longest fully automated Metro system in the world.

Projects of this scale require an international design team and at the peak of production, Aedas had over 75 people working on the architectural design, with contributions from:

• Aedas Hong Kong: Concept Design
• Aedas Dubai: Project & Design Management
• Aedas Singapore: Station Design Team
• Aedas Birmingham: Depot Design team
• Aedas London: Advanced Modelling & Sustainability

Coordinating these international efforts across several time zones to ensure the deliver was on time and orderly required the developments in our use of collaborative working and technology, including the use of an internet based document management systems and see and share type web conferencing.

Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?

Aedas were not originally part of the DURL consortium comprising Mitsubishi-Obayashi–Kajima, YapiMerkezi & Capita Symonds, instead we had teamed up with another joint venture for the bid. It was the strengths of the Aedas tender designs that meant shortly after the project was award to the DURL JV, Aedas were requested by the Dubai Municipality and DURL to be the architect for the stations.

Having impressed with our designs for the Red Line our appointment was subsequently extended to include the 6 underground stations on the Green Line.

We are using the experience and knowledge gained on Dubai Metro and other similar large passenger rail projects to assist and inform our current clients. For example Aedas has been recently appointed to develop the modular stations designs for 5 small and 8 medium suburban commuter heavy rails stations on the Etihad Railway Network Stages
2 and 3.

The Etihad Railway Network is to be built to link the principal centers of population and industry of the UAE. It will run from the Saudi Arabian border at Gwheifat in the west, close to the cities of the Gulf coast, to the Northern Emirates and the east coast ports. There will also be a line running from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain which may be projected into Oman, as well as a branch line to the gas facilities at Shah and Habshan.

Built to international standards, Etihad Rail’s state of the art network will enable the rapid transport of passengers and freight, opening up new trade corridors and journey opportunities. Once complete, it will redefine logistics and transport in the region, providing as a safe, efficient, sustainable network that links all corners of the UAE, and eventually, the UAE to the wider GCC. This extensive investment will support the Government’s continued mission to build a diversified economy and continued economic growth. The experience we gained on Dubai Metro has been invaluable in developing Etihad Rail’s brief for the passenger stations.

How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?

The shell roof is purposefully conceived for good aesthetic and functional reasons, resting lightly on elegant supports internally it provides a very attractive smooth covering to the public areas of the station meanwhile the shell structure is also a highly efficient means of creating one long span large volume space without internal columns or supporting structure. This contrasts with the somewhat industrial appearance of the exposed steel truss solutions commonly used in elevated metro stations. Without the unique skills of our Advanced Modelling team in London, developing the station geometry would not have been possible.
The use of the 3d parametric tools has allowed the station designers to investigate numerous options (e.g. torus, cone, freeform etc) to optimise the station geometry, the set out and cladding panelisation.

After investigating the torus for geometric repetition, it was decided that a conical geometry was more appropriate for the station volume and footprint constraints. The station envelope is therefore developed from the extrusion of an elliptical cone over a curve and cutting the resulting volume at the level of the ground or in the case of the elevated stations, at the raised concourse level. The resulting geometry is thus continuous through the roof and supporting columns to the base making it highly efficient.

To further optimize the envelope, the surface was subdivided into quadrilateral flat panels for cladding purposes. Using quadratic panels has the advantage of being easier to construct with less secondary steel but has the disadvantage of difficulties with the cladding to cladding interface.

In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

Dubai Metro was an inspirational project for Aedas in the use of advanced parametric modeling to both support the designer’s creativity and validate the sustainable options for a particular design. Recognizing the importance of being at the cutting edge, Aedas has since formulated a practice with commitment to R&D and sustainability, with a dedicated team promoting its use. Aedas is also actively recruiting the best talent from universities to support these key areas. As an example, we have utilised the skills of our young enthusiastic and talented architects on the dramatic West Kowloon Terminus Station in Hong Kong. Like for Dubai Metro, our experiences and the valuable lessons learned are being used to inform future projects and assist our clients.

Architype Review thanks Simon Summers for his interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.

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