RandstadRail Station Beatrixlaan

Architype presentsRandstadRail Station Beatrixlaan
Architype Dialogue presents Rein Jansma, Reinald Top, Rob Torsing What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have......
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The commission to design a heightened viaduct and station for a (light)rail network in a dense urban situation can be a tricky one. History has shown that more than one a structure will rise, that is autonomous of character and doesn’t interact well with the surroundings. Commissioners often lose sight of aspects of social durability and safety. When Zwarts & Jansma Architects got the commission to design a viaduct with a new station halfway in the office district in the city of The Hague, the office’s aim was to design a structure that would be well woven in the urban ‘carpet’, as well as a striking urban landmark. The architects had to come up with the right strategy in order to achieve their goals. Innovation isn’t only a matter of using state of the art materials and techniques, it’s also about designing the right process.

RandstadRail is a light urban rail network for the area between The Hague and Rotterdam. The network runs partly over existing tram and railway tracks and will be supplemented with new sections. In the centre of The Hague, in the Beatrixkwartier office district, a link between the tram viaduct at the Ternoot stop and the NS (Dutch Railways) railway embankment close to the Laan van NOI station was needed. To achieve this a viaduct has been built over the entire length of the Beatrixlaan, with a new station halfway.

The architects started their design process by listening carefully to all the stakeholders, like the urban planner and the users of the offices in the Beatrixdistrict. Multidisciplinary workshops generated usable information as input for the design. A principle that turned out very important for all stakeholders was that the new structure wouldn’t compromise the social durability and safety and traffic safety. By choosing a transparent skeleton the street level as well as the surrounding offices would be able to catch the maximum amount of sunlight. Also a compact station was designed. The new Beatrixlaan station has a platform in the middle. The railway tracks split as they reach the platform. The access for this type of platform is compact: people traveling in both directions use the stairway and lift. The spatial form of the station derives from a combination of the alignment and the profile of empty space. This means that the station building provides exactly enough space for the trains to travel around the platform in the ideal curve. In addition, the platform is wide where people stand waiting and thinner at the access stairs.

The space-frame tubular construction of the viaduct follows the curve that urban planner Joan Busquets has set out for the alignments and the roadways on the Beatrixlaan. In order to establish a link with the existing tram viaduct across the urban motorway, the existing Ternoot stop was moved, and a completely new station was designed for the new Ternoot stop. For a length of 400 meters the viaduct is constructed from a skeleton structure of rings of mild-steel strips with a diameter of about 10 meters, interconnected by diagonally set tubes to form an open tube structure. The relatively great structural height of the tube makes it easy to cover the large spans. The construction is supported by V-shaped columns and provides room for two tracks for passing trains.

At the station, the structure comprises concrete railway sleepers, with the platform deck suspended in-between. The trusses that support the roof and the glass windbreaks are also mounted on these railway sleepers. The space-frame tube structure of the viaduct and the station are gracefully interconnected. The canopy is designed to sit asymmetrically over the station as an enclosed section of the structure, also following its spiral form. Trains stop at the front end of the platform, even when they are shorter than the maximum. The greater number of waiting passengers will thus stand waiting diagonally opposite each other on the middle platform. The covered area of the platform is most generous where most passengers are expected to stand waiting.

Zwarts & Jansma Architects designed big spans of 40 and 50 meters, so that relatively few columns at street level were needed. Therefore hardly any visual obstruction takes place at eye level. Because of the stiffness of the structure the V-shaped supporting columns the architects could choose within a range of five rings where to attach the columns to the tube. This strategy, motivated by the technical possibilities, led to a possibility to delay the choice where exactly to attach the columns to the skeleton. Delaying this choice was desirable, as at this time in the design process it wasn’t sure yet where the entrances of the adjacent buildings would be located. In a later part of the project, the columns could be organized in an ideal scheme in order to prevent them to be placed in front of the entrances of the offices.

Advancement was made, not so much by designing the structure as a piece of architecture, but by organizing a smart process so the ‘place of flows’, a building typology with a totally different rhythm as its surrounding, became an integral part of the main structure of the district. Moreover, since the opening of the station in 2006 it has become a well-known landmark in The Hague, commonly called the “Netkous” (fish-net stocking). It’s a striking construction that gives the area a clear identity. By choosing to carry the tubular construction out in white, it was made even more visible.

Randstadrail station Beatrixkwartier has won the Routepluim 2008 (“Route Praise”). According to the jury it is “an un-Dutch design which provides the displaced and bare Beatrixkwartier with the much desired urbanity. The ‘fishnet stocking’ defines the elongate space. This makes it a superb example of how architecture can give meaning to a useless space.”

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