Avenida Berlín and Avenida Recíproca
Santiago Calatrava 1993-1998
The Oriente station by Santiago Calatrava was
commissioned by the city of Lisbon in 1993, after an
invited competition. Its immediate goal was to serve the
great number of visitors expected for the World Expo in 1998.
In the future the station is set to become the main train
terminal of the city, since the main growth of Lisbon is planned towards
that side of the Tagus River. Moreover, the building that used to host the
Portuguese Pavilion (by Alvaro Siza) is expected to house the city
government, which together with other permanent buildings remaining from
the Expo form part of what is nowadays known as Parque das Naçoes, a new city park. All of these initiatives are aimed at contributing
to the creation of a new city center.
station is an inter-modal terminal: Its facilities serve and interconnect
several forms of transport. Passengers can change between metropolitan,
long- and medium-haul regional and international trains. There are
connections into the underground system, national and metropolitan buses
or taxis. There is also an airport link and check-in facilities.
station is made out of three self-contained parts and is divided into two
levels. The raised level holds the platforms for the national train
network; the lower level connects to the underground and emerges at the
surface to serve as an entrance to the Expo grounds and also to connect
with the third element of the project, a major bus terminal for the city.
platforms of the train station are reached through ramps or
cylindrical glass lifts. These platforms serve eight lines of tracks. The
platforms are roofed by a metal structure 25 meters high. This elegant
solution consists of a series of slender pillars that split on the top and
connect with each other to create a continuous folding structure. Consistent with the rest of Calatrava's work the analogies from the
natural world jump into people's minds: The group of pillars resemble palm
trees or lilies, and in a geometric sense it is not far from the also floral fan vaults of the British perpendicular gothic. The structural
elements are painted white and the nerves of these so-called palms spread
out to hold a folding glass roof where geometry and organic shapes find a
synthesis in abstraction. The sky of Lisbon is bright and the heat of the
sun implacable; however the metal and glass palms forms a sort of floating
oasis with a view to the river, where perhaps the only technical failing is its lack of protection from cross winds.
If the raised
level stands like an oasis, the ground level is a cave; a huge manmade
cavern that shelters the movements of the people from one form of
transport to the other. And if
the train platforms lie some where within the vegetal kingdom, the ticket hall below
is more animal. The
concrete arches that define the spatial structure of this space resemble
the rib structure of some extinct creature, yet their proportion and
arc give an impression of stability and lightness.
Transiting through the
space there is almost no awareness of the load of trains that the
columns support. The movement of the columns as they describe their arches
makes an arresting setting together with the hanging bridges, connecting
tunnels, lifts and elevators. The main material is concrete, the bridge
parapets are made of glass, and the pavement is the typical stonework used
in the streets of Lisbon. Metal appears again as the connection to the bus
station and as the colossal cantilevered roof that signals the gate to the
Expo grounds. The span of this roof is simply mind-blowing, even after
experiencing the rest of the structural feats that make up the project.
The Bus station
is rather straightforward in the structural sense, but no
less expressive. Perhaps
the distinction of the project elements through the use of material and
structure gives to the station a strange sense of fragmentation but each
of the pieces is masterfully synthetic in themselves.
does, however, spark a question about the relation between
architecture and society. Although Calatrava's design is aware of Lisbon's
landscape, the station fails to address Lisbon's idiosyncrasy. The station
has been criticized as inefficient, because the ticketing booths exist as scattered elements all over the
place instead organized in a central office. In this respect Calatrava's
vision was perhaps an ideal more fitted to the Swiss context, where the
architect is based.