Santiago Calatrava Vails Archltecte-lngenleur S.A. TGV RAILWAY STATION OF LYON-SATOLAS
(Lyon, France) 1989-92
The result of a competition, the TGV railway station for Lyon-Satolas is the most ambitious of Calatrava's projects to date and, in many respects, gives the clearest indication of the direction of his investigations towards a poetics of construction (see also pp. 254-57).
The project consists of the main station building, the platforms and a passageway connecting the station to the nearby airport. Contextual aspects were important in determining the composition. The existing air terminal has been respected and used as a reference object dictating the massing and the orientation of the new buildings. The axis of the station is placed almost as an extension of the diagonal of the air terminal and the complete bilateral symmetry of the new building echoes the airport's symmetrical shape.
Orientation is a key determinant of the design of the building. Space has been sculpted in order to give cues about circulation. Passengers are informed through a clear differentiation of the volumes about where they are and how to find their destination. Venturi would no doubt have dismissed this kind of solution, which bends architectural form in order to fulfil functional requirements, as an architectural 'duck'.
But there is more to Calatrava's spatial-plastic solution than facile functionalism. He has used architecture as a means of making the activity of travelling an exciting and memorable event rather than dreary, utilitarian and drudgery-filled, and has tried to make the collective and ritualistic aspects of using public transport essential ingredients of the building. In order to do this, a symbolic image was needed which would be instantly recognizable by the travellers, fulfil their expectations as they arrived, and offer a memorable impression as they departed. He chose that of speed and flight. The 'symbol' Calatrava tried to evoke was one that 'embodies the idea of flight and passage".
The metaphorical representation of flight in architectural terms can be of two kinds: first, when the geometry of the volumes mimetically 'describes' flying organisms or those parts of the anatomy of such organisms that are used for flight - pinions, wings, feathers - or when it presents abstracted, streamlined figures; and second, when the configuration of the building 'describes', still more abstractly, what we might call aviational actions - taking off, landing, soaring. Coop Himmelblau, for example. would have chosen the second - and carried it out on a small scale (see pp. 220-23). Calatrava, in his choice of 'a broadly spreading roof that unfolds its wings longitudinally over the platforms like a bird taking flight', has clearly opted for the first. There is also an implication of movement in the streamlined curving of the structural members of the roof of the platforms.
In this choice Calatrava appears to have taken a path characteristically different from Foster's at Stansted Airport (pp. 258-59), where the building is a universal volume, its roof spreading calmly like a second vast sky beneath the sky; where the users' sense of direction is strengthened by relating their progress directly to views of the outside; and where the serene architecture expresses the idea of rest - but not without excitement and intrigue - between changing modes of transportation. Calatrava's path seems, instead, to follow the one opened up by Eero Saarinen three decades ago with his design for Dulles Airport for Washington DC. and, in particular, the mimetically simulated eagle of the TWA building in New York.
Calatrava's buildings have certainly benefited from the technological advances and experience that have occurred since Saari-nen's designs were built in the early 1960s. He is, furthermore, more daring and, one might say, more obsessed. This explains no doubt why the specifics of the shapes created in Lyon-Satolas and the individual use of a varied but continuous geometry in its overall configuration are so original.
This is not the first time Calatrava has tried to capture movement in a design. Most of his projects are attempts to do just that. When he is not picturing flight, then he is picturing growth, that slow movement in time which
increases the volume of organic form. He does so through the application of a fractal geometry at all levels of scale.
Of course, buildings do not move. Neither are they shaped by movement. Although Calatra-va's buildings are metaphorical representations of movement, they can also be seen as suggesting the paradox that architecture's striving for permanence in space is always achieved in time and through time. These general reflections become happily appropriate as his specific projects have tended to be related structures meant to serve movement, such as bridges and stations, as is the case with the Lyon-Satolas station.
(Above) View of the model
(Right) The model showing canopy construction
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