The railway station as node and place

Nodes and places

As a geographical entity, a railway station has two basic, though partly contradictory, identities. It is a node: a point of access to trains and, increasingly, to other transportation networks (Figure 2.1). At the same time, it is a place: a specific section of the city with a concentration of infrastructure but also with a diversified collection of buildings and open spaces (Figure 2.2). Both the practice and the theory of railway station redevelopment demonstrate inadequate understanding of the ambivalent nature of the location, as well as of the interactions between its two connotations. As a consequence, its specific opportunities and problems tend to be overlooked. In order to shed light on the unique challenges associated with the redevelopment of stations, we must first design a framework for their conceptualization both as nodes of networks and as places in the city.

Taking a dual node-place perspective, we see that both positive and negative interrelations may exist between the two domains. For instance, on the one hand, a high level of accessibility may provide the critical mass of demand for the development of particular activities. In turn, a high density of activities may induce the necessary support for the development of transportation networks. On the other hand, dense patterns of use can make a location's transport infrastructure difficult to expand and adapt. In the same vein, optimization of a station's accessibility by all modes may negatively affect its liveability, and thus its attractiveness. These complex node-place interactions form the core issues of railway station redevelopment.

Is there a way to interpret the node and place dimensions of a railway station location, and analyse their reciprocal interactions? In this chapter we first define what we mean by node of networks and place in the city. Then we introduce some themes connected with the interaction between the two dimensions. Finally, in order to make the argument more concrete, we identify the specific characteristics of railway stations as compared with those of two other classes of node-place: seaports and airports.

The station as node

Fig. 2.1 The station as node.

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