Master planned by UNStudio, Arnhem Centraal is the result of an ambitious 20-year project to redevelop the wider station area, the largest post-war development in Arnhem. The transfer hub rewrote the rule book on train stations as it is the most complex of its type in Europe. The redevelopment was strongly backed by the Dutch government. The station has become the new ‘front door’ of Arnhem city, embracing the spirit of travel. It has established Arnhem as an important node between Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Ben van Berkel is a renowned multiple award-winning architect and founder of UNStudio. The reputed Studio is a network of specialists in architecture, urban development and infrastructure. It has continually expanded its capabilities through prolonged collaboration with an extended network of international consultants, partners, and advisors across the globe.
UNStudio has drawn on the knowledge found in related fields facilitates the exploration of comprehensive strategies which combine programmatic requirements, construction and movement studies into an integrated design. As a network practice, a highly flexible methodological approach has been developed by the Studio to incorporate parametric designing and collaborations with leading specialists in other disciplines.
The redeveloped Arnhem Centraal houses commercial areas, a conference centre and provides links to the nearby office plaza, city centre, underground parking garage and the Park Sonsbeek. The area around the station with 160,000m2 of offices, shops and a cinema complex has attracted the tourists as well as the locals alike. The 21,750m2 Transfer Terminal features a dramatic twisting structural roof geometry, which enables column-free spans of up to 60m in the transfer hall.
UNStudio has brilliantly blurred the distinctions between the inside and outside of the terminal by continuing the urban landscape into the interior of the transfer hall, where ceilings, walls and floors all seamlessly transition into one another by taking references from the continuous inside/outside surface of a Klein Bottle.
The structure of the roof and twisting column was only made possible by abandoning traditional construction methods and materials – much lighter steel replaced concrete, originally intended for the station, and was constructed using boat-building techniques on a scale never attempted before. It was path-breaking!
It was a collaborative efforts of both the client, ProRail B.V. and Ben van Berkel’s UNStudio to deliver such a complex over a lengthy project time without compromising on the design or the budget. It truly required the courage and determination of both the parties.
The key stakeholders – ProRail, Contractor Combination Ballast Nedam – BAM, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Arnhem City Council’s exceptional collaborations made this project a huge success.
UNStudio commenced master planning in the year 1996. The first design sketch for the Transfer Terminal took nearly four years to complete. Intensive research were carried out to understand the passenger flows and transportation modes. Finally, UNStudio proposed that the new terminal should expand to become a ‘transfer machine’ that incorporates the whole spectrum of public transport, meeting the travel demands of the 21st Century.
Arnhem Central works on international, national and regional levels. Thereby, allowing passengers to move between cities intuitively and with ease. The project is part of a countrywide railway upgrade that will see new stations in Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, Breda and Utrecht.
UNStudio worked with structural engineers Arup. A space without columns was produced to form an architectural expression designed around the ways people will intuitively use the space.
After the completion of the project, Ben van Berkel stated, “Arnhem Central is no longer just a train station. It has become a transfer hub. We wanted to give a new and vital impetus to station design, so rather than merely designing the station around the activities and people flows that already took place there, the expanded architecture of the new Transfer Terminal directs and determines how people use and move around the building.”
Image Courtesy: UNStudio
Photographer(s): Hufton+Crow / Siebe Swart (Aerial shots)