New U- and S-Bahn Stations Construction Culture Underground

As infrastructural buildings for rail transport – in fact classical construction projects of the late 19th into the early 20th century – U- and S-Bahn stations are enjoying an aesthetical renaissance that began at the start of the third millennium. Their decidedly no-frills, utilitarian charm of earlier times has made way for high design expectations.

City Tunnel Leipzig, Station Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz City Tunnel Leipzig, Station Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz | © Deutsche Bahn AG, Photo: Martin Jehnichen While with the Wehrhahn-Linie a completely new 3.4 km train path is emerging beneath Düsseldorf’s city centre until 2015, Hamburg has completed the extension of the Metro U4 in 2013, which connects the HafenCity district with the downtown area. Berlin is meanwhile planning the connection of the “Kanzler-U-Bahn” U55 with the Linie U5.

Project S-Bahn Mitteldeutschland

But Leipzig is the city that accomplished longest-term (17 years implementation time) and with 960 million Euros in all likelihood most expensive construction project. Here, as part of the project S-Bahn Mitteldeutschland two approximately 1.4 kilometer long tunnels connect the Leipzig Central Train Station with under the Old City and the former Bayerischer Bahnhof with four stations below ground and two above ground since 2013. All told, seven lines link Leipzig’s outskirts with the city centre. The subterranean stations arose from plans by prestigious architectural firms such as HPP Architekten Hentrich-Petschnigg & Partner (Central Train Station); KSW Architekten (Market); Peter Kulka (Bayerischer Bahnhof) and Max Dudler.

In 2013, Dudler’s design for the station “Platz der friedlichen Revolution” (i.e. square of the peaceful revolution) – formerly Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz – was awarded the Architecture Prize of the City of Leipzig. The platform hall, rectangular in cross-section with a central island platform, lies at a depth of 20 metres. The walls and ceiling of the column-free hall are faced with areas of back-lighted building-block elements of glass borne by a lattice of exposed-concrete prefabricated frames. The wall elements of the glass building-block facade are beneath a steel substructure that is deep-anchored in the tunnel wall, the ceiling elements are suspended from the shell construction.
 
  • City Tunnel Leipzig, Station Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz © Deutsche Bahn AG, Photo: Martin Jehnichen
    City Tunnel Leipzig, Station Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz
  • City Tunnel Leipzig, Station Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz © Deutsche Bahn AG, Photo: Martin Jehnichen
    City Tunnel Leipzig, Station Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz
  • City Tunnel Leipzig, Station Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz © Deutsche Bahn AG, Photo: Martin Jehnichen
    City Tunnel Leipzig, Station Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz
  • Stachus underground Munich, design Allmann Wappner Sattler Photo: Brigida Gonzales
    Stachus underground Munich, design Allmann Wappner Sattler
  • Stachus underground Munich, design Allmann Wappner Sattler Photo: Brigida Gonzales
    Stachus underground Munich, design Allmann Wappner Sattler
  • Marienplatz underground Munich, design Allmann Wappner Sattler rendering: ASW office
    Marienplatz underground Munich, design Allmann Wappner Sattler
  • Marienplatz underground Munich, design Allmann Wappner Sattler rendering: ASW office
    Marienplatz underground Munich, design Allmann Wappner Sattler
  • Micha Pawlitzki, publication Unter Grund, Edition Panorama © Micha Pawlitzki & Edition Panorama
    Micha Pawlitzki, publication Unter Grund, Edition Panorama
  • Micha Pawlitzki, publication Unter Grund, Edition Panorama © Micha Pawlitzki & Edition Panorama
    Micha Pawlitzki, publication Unter Grund, Edition Panorama

Determination in design

In spite of its dimensions of 15 metres height, 20 metres width and 140 metres length, the slightly curved space seems uncluttered, bright and clear by means of the repetition of the double quadratic grid - to which the platform furniture also contributes: seating arrangements, timetable posters and ticket automats are worked out of concrete cubes distributed like geometric objects over the length of the platform. As a counterpoint to the industrial-technical look and feel of the walls, the floor of the platform island has been done in a light-coloured, locally-produced seamless terrazzo flooring.

Despite all the praise heaped on the “functional reduction and clarity” of the platform hall, the two above-ground access structures, described by the architect as a deliberately set contrast to the filigree and transparent platform hall, are experiencing unequivocal criticism: on the occasion of the award ceremony, the Leipzig City Forum criticised the lack of attention to the urban development context. But during the competition in 1997 the latter was not even in existence yet.

Face-lifting in the mezzanine

In Munich, which only planned its U-Bahn network during the run-up to the 1972 Olympic Games, the re-designing of the Marienplatz U- and S-Bahn station is encountering unconditional support: the city’s design commission unanimously approved the design by Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten, who had won the 2011 competition for the re-designing of the mezzanine together with lighting designer Ingo Maurer. Ex-mayor Christian Ude praised the fact that the planning satisfied “the high demands of this central location and Munich’s U-Bahn architecture.”

Un-cluttering and creating order

The architects have essentially uncluttered and reduced the complex, at present badly misaligned due to installations from the 1970’s, to easily comprehensible and visually clear spaces. The striking blue tiles as defining element of the staircases are being kept as are the orange train platforms originally designed by Alexander von Branca. The enhanced concept presented in summer 2012 envisions facing the ceiling in the mezzanine’s central area with red ceiling panels and to provide lighting with specially-developed, flush-fitting LED modules. By contrast, the new shopping arcades in the peripheral areas are done in silver-coloured wall facades and a light-coloured ceiling. In this way, the approx. 1,700m² central hall – from its proportions a more compact space – decidedly brighter and more spacious. To gain acceptance for the expressive colour, Ingo Maurer, the architects and the municipal utilities expressly set up a model room at the construction site.
 

 

Title “Unter Grund” Title “Unter Grund” | © Micha Pawlitzki & Edition Panorama The book publication „Unter Grund. U-Bahnstationen in Deutschland“ by photographer Micha Pawlitzki impressively presents the re-designing of the U-Bahn stations in Germany. His award-winning book was issued in 2013 by Edition Panorama, and has over 200 colour photographs with texts by Thilo Hilpert, Stefan Meyer-Miethke and Micha Pawlitzki.