Designed by AREP and SNCF's Architecture Division, the new multimodal station is located in NortheastParis –in the 19th arrondissement precisely– on RER line E, between Pantin and Magenta stations. It breaks the isolation of this district, which is undergoing extensive overhaul, links the east suburbs of the Paris Metropolitan Region to the city centre, and ensures connections with tramline T3. The station came into service in December 2015, after five years of works, and is expected to handle 85,000 passengers daily by 2023.
The urban setting
Northeast Paris, which forms a 200-hectare zone stretching between Porte de la Chapelle and Porte de la Villette, is fragmented by major transport infrastructure, such as the ring road, the thoroughfares encircling Paris and the rail lines. It was mostly intended to host urban logistics facilities and servant spaces. Since 2005 the whole area has been engaged in an ambitious urban renewal and revitalization programme whose major elements include the tramline T3 (opened in 2013) and the recently completed refurbishment of the Macdonald warehouses.
The station is part of the redevelopment project for Northeast Paris, an area featuring significant social and functional diversity. Eventually, the whole area could see more than 220 development projects as well as 25,000 new jobs and 15,000 new residents. The station forms part of a strategic approach to open up the district by combining transport networks and urban development in an optimal way to promote the emergence of a major hub at the heart of this rapidly developing urban area.
The site chosen for Rosa Parks station is located within the perimeter of the Northeast Paris project, in Porte d'Aubervilliers - Triangle Evangile district, at the junction between the Paris-Est railway line and the Petite Ceinture (or "little belt", an abandoned railway) and about seven metres above the natural level of the surroundings. Located on RER Line E, which links the major transport hubs in the east of the Paris Metropolitan Region to the city centre (Magenta/ Paris-Nord and Paris Saint-Lazare stations), the station itself is a multimodal and transfer hub providing connections to tram (a further tramline is planned) and bus routes. Vélib' docking stations (the Parisian bike sharing scheme) and a Véligo secure cycle shed with room for 64 bikes (the first to open in Paris) were installed to allow for interchange between bike and train travel.
The intermodal hub supports the urban renewal project by improving accessibility from and to the Aubervilliers-Villette area as well as the living environment for local communities through the extensive overhaul of the station’s surroundings and in particular the architectural and landscape integration of the constructions. The passageway between Rue Gaston Tessier and Boulevard Macdonald acts as an urban link, which minimizes the disruption of the urban fabric by rail infrastructure.
Eight-storey office buildings with small retail at their ground-floor were constructed in Rue Gaston Tessier, where once the embankment stood, contributing to the urban ambiance of the street, while on the south, the renovation of Cité Michelet is nearing completion. Inaugurated in 1970, the latter is one of the largest public housing blocks in Paris (4,500 residents) and forms part of the 11 sites covered by the Paris Urban Renewal Project. The new station connects to tramline T3 and the future terminus of Tram’Y line (another name for tramline T8, which links together Paris, Saint-Denis, Epinay-sur-Seine and Villetaneuse), to bus lines and other shared modes of transport, thus increasing the area’s public transport provision and playing a key role in the revamp of the former Macdonald warehouses while linking the east of the Paris Metropolitan Region to the city centre.
Rosa Parks The name of Rosa Parks1 was the result of collective discussion in which local residents were invited to participate via the 2010 public consultation. It is an opportunity to pay tribute to Rosa Parks and to stress the symbolic significance of “transport for everyone” but also to name a major multimodal Parisian facility after a female public figure.
The architectural project
“Smooth passenger flows, openness and light”. By following this underlying theme, our design emphasizes comfort and modernity.
The indoor spaces of the station open up onto the city and this openness constitutes the key element of the project’s integration into its surroundings.
The South forecourt
In the long perspective view of Rue Gaston Tessier, which will be upgraded thanks to the construction of two office buildings, the station announces itself by interrupting the building line: the gap between these two future constructions is transformed into a forecourt. A large overhanging canopy highlights the forecourt and shelters passengers and passers-by from bad weather. Its lightweight metal structure and transparent canopy underline the transition between the transfer area and the street, while its cross-sectional profile establishes visual connections between the street and the platform.
The North forecourt
The North forecourt is lined with trees on its east and west sides while the central section – reserved for pedestrians and soft modes of transport– remains unoccupied to ensure unimpeded views to the entrance of the passageway, which also acts as station entrance.
The station is located beneath the railway tracks and is accessed at street level directly from Rue Gaston Tessier on the south, and on the north by a large urban passageway measuring 40 metres long and 14 metres wide with an average height of 4.70 metres. Connecting the area around the Macdonald warehouses to Rue Gaston Tessier via the tram stations and Boulevard Macdonald, the passageway weaves together parts of the city cut by the railway tracks: open to pedestrians and soft modes of transport alike, it both serves the station and links, during the station opening hours, two parts of the city separated by the tracks. Due to its limited length but considerable width it forms a reassuring space from which outdoor spaces remain visible. Both the station and the passageway are closed at night by lift-up folding gates. On the north side, a glazed awning indicates the entrance to the station via the passageway, which opens up onto the garden of the Macdonald warehouses.
The part of the building housing services has a street façade whose blind section hosts technical facilities and is clad in light-coloured timber louvred board echoing both the decking of the ramps and the underside of the platform shelter. This uncluttered façade is part of the station’s identity. A green roof terrace tops the building and can be seen from Cité Michelet and the platform. On the corner between Rue Gaston Tessier and the forecourt, a top-to-bottom glazed curtain wall forms the façade of the building.
The station is located beneath the railway tracks and is an inhabited infrastructure. In addition to the south forecourt and the urban passageway, it is composed of:
The transfer area (69m x 22m)
Located in the area where passenger flows meet, it runs both beneath the central platform and the railway slab and is composed of two adjoining spaces of the same length: the first one measures 8m high and is situated beneath the central platform while the second one, measuring 6m high, runs beneath the railway slab, which is supported by two rows of circular pillars. It opens up to the south forecourt and provides access to the platform via ample vertical circulations, such as ramps, escalators and lifts. The north forecourt is accessed by the transfer area through an urban passageway located at street level. The transfer area forms the hub, the nexus of the project towards which all flows converge.
The central platform
It is accessed by six different access points dotted over 135 metres to ensure smooth passenger flows. Vertical circulations lead to the access points, which form apertures entirely covered by the continuous platform shelter whose transparent central section allows for natural light to flood into the transfer area through the large floor openings. Both the central section of the platform shelter and the canopy on the south forecourt are made of ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene).
Ambiance and materials
Natural light is one of the strongest themes of our project: the platform shelter features a transparent central section and the large floor openings allow light to flood deep down into the transfer areas beneath the rail tracks.
The interiors spotlight light-coloured precast and bush-hammered concrete walls, metal framed walkways and timber floors, all highlighted by thoughtful lighting.
The building accommodates legible routes while its functional elements display their own vocabulary: metal and glass for ticket check areas, lifts and escalators; metal structures and timber decking for the passageways, intermediate level and platform.
AREP’s architectural concept brings together smooth passenger flow, openness and light to assert the station’s position as a key infrastructure serving mobility at the heart of the city.
The retention pond and the green roof terrace reduce the storm water runoff in case of intense rainfall while a rainwater tank collects and stores water, which can then be used for non-drinking purposes (cleaning, toilet flushing).
The building features efficient thermal insulation and a heat pump system. Moreover, the 630-square metre solar panels fitted on the platform shelter produce about 90% of the energy required to light the platform.
ETFE elements (platform shelter and south canopy) A continuous, 150-metre long shelter runs along the Eole platform and the central floor opening, where vertical circulations arrive from the station concourse. The central section of its roof is made of ETFE.
On the south forecourt, a large ETFE canopy highlights the access and lets natural light flood into the indoor spaces.
ETFE was chosen because of its numerous advantages: -it is more lightweight than glass, which makes it easier to implement on large surfaces -no additional framework is necessary to support the platform shelter: the cross members are cleared of structural elements and spaced 10.50 metres apart, thus allowing views to the sky from the centre of the platform. -it is easy to maintain: any dirt is washed off when it rains as it is a Teflon® derivative
ETFE cushions may be transparent or opalescent, overprinted with silver-coloured graphic patterns featuring three different ink intensities. The ETFE used for the platform shelter is transparent to admit the maximum quantity of natural light, whereas the graphic pattern of the south canopy has a 100% intensity and is punctuated by transparent ring patterns. It acts as a transition area between the shady underground spaces and outdoor natural light.
Autofonçage® of the pedestrian passageway
The pedestrian passageway has the form of a large tube made of light-coloured concrete measuring 40 metres long and 14 metres wide (12.50 metres of usable width). It is prefabricated in a single piece on top of a fixed guide raft lying about 7 metres beneath the level of the tracks, in the cleared footprint of the north forecourt.
Cables are anchored on the front of the fixed guide raft and stressing jacks are attached at the rear of the tube (sliding surface) to rip its 4,160 t. Due to the stressing process of the six 1,000-tonne stressing jacks, the cables are shortened and the tube slides on the bed of bentonite injected between the guide raft and the tube itself.
The cutting heads, sorts of gigantic blades at the front of the tube, penetrate into the embankment while machines inside the tube dig the ground and remove the excavated spoil through the back.
During the excavation, which lasted 120 hours (from 15 to 20 January 2014), temporary bridge decks (i.e. girders carrying rail tracks) were installed prior to the works to avoid service disruptions on the Paris-Est network, operating 1,000 trains daily.
Concrete and steel: staging Brutalism
The transfer area of the station is composed of two bays defined by the undersides of the central platform and the railway bridge. The structures which carry the load of the embankment, platform and railway bridge were constructed from the upper level of the embankment, and include diaphragm walls and tube-like bored piles as pillars of the railway bridge.
We chose that these construction processes remain noticeable in the completed project instead of making them fade away behind the light work.
The metal surface of the railway bridge pillars was wet blast cleaned and then left to oxidize for four months. The pillars were then wire brushed to remove the powdery rust and two coats of clear satin varnish were applied giving them a red-brown patina with textures and shades reminding of leather.
The diaphragm walls were treated in a way to appear raw, rough and slightly textured to catch the light and contrast with the smooth surface of the precast concrete quoins and ceilings.
The other elements of the project fitted quite naturally into the main space area due to their intrinsic functional qualities: metal framed ramps, timber and granite floors, fabric acoustic panels, handrails, signage and lighting fixtures. The masterful finishing touches offset the rawness of textures and forms and this contrast pervades throughout the project.