From city’s station to station city

An integrative spatial approach to the (re)development of station areas

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The spaces of station areas do not fully achieve the liveability level sought out by recent redevelopment projects. Additionally, the role that architecture plays in their spatial definition seems to be constrained, likely because of the projects’ highly complex interdisciplinary planning processes. Thus, the need to improve the spatial performance of contemporary European High Speed Train railway station areas and to understand how architecture can contribute to this goal, became the underlying motives of this research. Grounded in a series of (comparative graphical) analyses on the factors that influence the spatial transformations of case studies at several scales and historic moments, as well as in redesign exercises, the research proposes a set of ‘design recommendations’ meant to improve the performance of station areas. In general, to attain a better performance the (physical and functional) integration of the public spaces of the station and of its surroundings, along with the specific (spatial) characteristics of the city they are located in, are crucial. To operationalize such integration, architecture must go beyond its traditional scope regarding intervention scale and methodology. This requires a structural change to the station area’s design task. The task should be organized around spatial goals commonly subscribed by all stakeholders, and architecture should play a central role in it. By focusing design efforts on the intermediate scale between the building and its urban surroundings, the ‘city’s station’ together with its urban surroundings can become a ‘station city’. This enhances the city’s liveability, instead of draining it out. This knowledge can benefit all the actors of station areas’ complex interdisciplinary projects, architects or not. It can ground a common path to the improvement of the (planning of) European station area’s spaces and consequently, and most importantly, benefit its users.