birdseye natural station

The natural train station

‘Het natuurlijke station’ is a winning competition entry by Welling Architects for ‘What If Lab: a circular train station’

For ‘What If Lab: a circular train station’, the commissioning parties were looking for innovative ideas, concepts and designs that embrace circularity for Dutch train stations. The organisers explicitly requested the designers to look beyond current regulations and solutions. They were looking for innovative proposals that stimulate experimentation and venture in the future. Based on these ideas, new solutions and techniques can be developed that look beyond current practice.

In the concept of the natural train station, we try to reduce the impact of a train station as much as possible by replacing the conventional station layout by a natural one. A train station is not defined by the physical appearance of it, but rather by the services it provides: It facilitates the getting in and out of the train and the transit to other modalities, as well as it facilitates places for waiting, encounters and consumption. The question we asked ourselves was: can a train station be facilitated in a natural parklike environment?

The goal we set ourselves was to design a landscape park where a train station could be hosted. Natural elements will be put to use to create a pleasant atmosphere while efficiently steering the travellers to the platforms. Only for those interventions where natural elements cannot comply with the strict norms of a train station, artificial interventions are done making use of natural renewable resources or reuse of existing material.

With a natural train station we aim to:

  • Add value; upgrading the quality of our built environment and create multipurpose spaces
  • Enhance the capacity and efficiency of the station; using natural elements to influence the behaviour of the users
  • Refuse, Reduce & Repurpose; Replace conventional station elements for natural interventions, as well as making use of natural renewable resources and repurpose of old materials.
  • Adaptivity; creating a dynamic stations that can adapt over the course of time according to changes in use
    multifunctional station
    plan view - a natural train station

    Several landscape elements are put to use to shape the natural station and guide the traveller to the platforms. These natural element include: morphology, creeks, using gravel for the paths, and various types of vegetation categorised into: tolerant, imperative and guiding vegetation.

    Tolerant vegetation are fields of low robust vegetation types like grasses, flower fields and ruderal vegetation (herbal species). These are resistant to various kinds of recreative uses such as picknicks, sports and play, as well as to traveller flows. This kind of vegetation divides the station into zones and thereby guides the traveller, however it does not force a certain direction. Instead it invites for alternative use.

    Imperative vegetation are zones of mid-high rough vegetation, shrubs. They form a barrier in the landscape and thereby influence the traveller flows.

    Guiding vegetation are route-lined rows of trees that improve orientation and remarkable singular trees that can act as a landmark. Route-lined rows of trees allow for visibility of the upcoming routing already from far away, while at the same time preserving oversight on ground level.
    Noticeable singular trees differ from others due to their remarkable form of colour. They stand out in their environment and therefore can act as a landmark, improving orientation and marking significant places within the natural station.

    Instead of asphalt or the standard cement tiles, gravel will be used for the roads and platforms. Gravel is a sustainable alternative with natural appearance. It has a very low embodied energy, it is water permeable and it has low maintenance and construction cost. Various types and colours of gravel will be used to make a difference in zoning and use within the natural station.

    Diagonality; multiple ways describe the shortest route.

    The diagonality and crossed layout of the pathways ensure that from every arrival point at the station there are multiple equally long ways that lead to the platforms, irrespective at what platform one needs to be or from which side one arrives at the station. From each point in the station, multiple possible roads can be chosen, that are equally long and each end up at a different point of the platform. This ensures that the stream of travellers is spread over the length of the platform, thereby increasing the efficiency of the station; not all passengers will try to enter the train through the same door.

    staircase, tunnel and crib wall

    Flow manipulation by design

    The design of the public space and the station furnishings depict a strong contrast between sharp and rounded corners and edges; sharp corners force the traveller to choose between direction a or b, it splits the space into two diverging directions. Whereas rounded corners allow the space to flow over into a wider area, thereby stimulating the encourage to spread out. Sharp corners are imperative, rounded are soft and motivating. These design aspects are intuitive and aid in influencing traveller flows and behaviour, while at the same time it plays part in defining the station’s identity. 

    Station furnishings

    Not all components in a station can be replaced by 100% natural elements. Due to strict norms and regulations, artificial intervention is inevitable. For these interventions we make use of local renewable resources and reuse of existing materials – according to the principles of circular construction. Sustainable material innovations as developed by Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven have been applied in some of the station furnishings.

    The following stations furnishings have been designed:

    • Retaining wall – a crib wall construction out of old wooded sleepers
    • Pedestrian bridge – ‘de Spoorloper’, a circular bridge out of old train track material
    • Stair – stair treads out of old concrete sleepers
    • Pavilion – a covered waiting area out of local renewable recourses: rammed earth wall with extruded bench with locally sourced wooden seat and laminated reed panels for back support, cross laminated timber trusses out of local sourced wood (zwarte Els) and a green roof.
    • Vegetation island borders as seating elements & informal seating elements out of shell granulate with locally sourced wooded seating area
    • Signage objects out of shell granulate and rammed earth
    Seating objects out of shell granulate
    Signage Object