The train and the city have shared a long relationship as a couple. It is with passionate and tortured episodes, of beautiful encounters and public infidelities, that the union is reinvented as we go along.
In Valencia, the Joaquin Sorolla station keeps the flame alive. The new station deals with the arrival of the high speed rail (HSR) while the underground railway works are finished: the south junction, the access canal, the north station and the passing tunnel. A big investment for hard times.
Before the definitive inauguration, train and city temporarily try living together with other means: dry joint construction, detachable structure, recyclable zinc and polycarbonate sidings.
Useful Building Envelope
The idea is simple: the platform roof extends and rises to protect the concourse. The result is practical: a terminus station with a building up front. The architecture is legible: folded longitudinal strips.
The interior is luminous and well ventilated, lacking the need for air conditioning; the exterior, which lights up at night, neutral.
And two levels: the platform, where travellers and train meet and the concourse, where travellers and the city engage.
The Power of the Module
The structure is like a Meccano, a construction set consisting of repeated pieces and bolts. Modules with a pillar alternate with modules without it, the latter resting on the former ones. A categorical sequence that appears as a solid coffered ceiling. The pillars, square and truncated, are turned in order to align with the diagonals of alternating modules.
The modular conception goes beyond its constructive function to become the most representative image of the station.
It is repetitive and systematic in its constructive essence; it has personality and character in its structural proposal.
Inside and Out
Inside, the different uses are concentrated in volumes: boxes that rest, untouched, on the black carpet over which the station is located. These boxes house the different functions. These are: customer services, offices, railway services and shops, all of which are installed under the protective shelter and organized as described, thus freeing much space in the main concourses.
In the lobby, the roof strips are connected by skylights at different levels, thus granting the clear open interior with natural light and ventilation.
Outside, the city welcomes the station. A new road was opened to the north of the plot, as a prolongation of Roig de Corella Street. This favoured the organization of car parks and taxi ranks at the entrance of the station. San Vicente Street is now a one way road, changed in order to enhance access and orientation. Sharing its alignment, between the street and the platforms, the coach garage and bus station are located. And among all the crossroads, routes and directions, a new pedestrian square has been built, planted with orange-tress.
Reinterpreting a Classic
The solid structure, as a constructive artefact, takes on a transformation or reinterpretation research aspiration of a classical structural type. The load bearing scheme known as “mushroom” or “umbrella” is nothing but a central shaft embedded in a projecting roof, constituting in itself a reference typology in the civil engineer’s catalogue. This solution is associated with the covering of great areas by means of a grid of pillars, in turn an update of the hypostyle room of classical architecture. Amongst its references we find powerful images such as the concrete umbrellas by Felix Candela, with the unforgettable scene of a human load test on one of the prototypes, or the appealing Palazzo del Lavoro by Nervi, in Turin, that solves the transition from the square section to the cylindrical shaft in its radial coffer. Closer to us in time we also have the hypostyle room by Rafael Moneo in Atocha, also a train station, and the very attractive colourful modules of varying heights by Foster & Partners for Repsol’s petrol stations.
In the case of the station in Valencia, the type is altered in two ways. Firstly, in the successive distribution of modules without a pillar among umbrella-like modules, i.e. the removal of half the columns of a classical hypostyle alignment. Secondly, in the construction of a sloping roof that allows for the height transition between platform and concourse, using the same typology guidelines but on an inclined plane.
Hence, the main structure is defined by the repetition of modules over a 14 x 14 m base. Modules with a pillar and modules without it alternate, the latter ones resting on the four vertices of the former ones. Thus, a sequence of supports every 28 m is created. Structurally speaking, the design is very simple. While the pillar-resting-modules bear mainly negative bending stress in their frame, due to their projections, the modules without a pillar suffer positive bending stresses. Both modules present identical configurations with diagonal crosses, these being closed reinforced concrete beams, variable in width and height. On top of them, a grid set of joists supports the roof.
The curved floor plan of the central platform, 400 m long to be able to accommodate double composition trains, is covered by identical trapezoidal modules that describe a horizontal circumference radius.
The umbrella-like module supports are responsible for the vertical loads as well as the horizontal stresses of the building. They have boxed reinforced sections and their shaft widens towards the base. Hence, whilst maintaining the joint geometry at the top, the highest pillars have a larger base.
The bottom view offered by the modules show a very powerful composition, like an expressive and modular coffer, with the aspiration of becoming the representative image of the station.
That is, a typological reinterpretation of the classics, from contemporariness.