Foster + Partners designs stations for the Haramain High Speed Rail project in Saudi Arabia

Continuing a slew of projects in the Middle East, British architecture firm Foster + Partners has designed stations for the Haramain High Speed Rail (HHR), a major upcoming infrastructure project in Saudi Arabia connecting the cities of Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah and the fast-developing King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). The massive, flexible stations will cover an area more than 30 times the size of London’s Trafalgar Square and will initially accommodate an anticipated 60 million passengers. This is expected to increase to 135 million passengers by 2042.

The modular approach to the stations’ design is complemented by variations in colour, which signify the four cities while remaining emblematic of the HHR system. The terminal stations of Medina and Makkah are characterised by a rich colour palette: Makkah Station references the gold leaf of the decorated Kab’ah and the city’s significance as a holy site, while Madinah Station’s vivid green colour draws inspiration from the Holy Mosque. Jeddah Station features a shade of purple, which has a particular resonance with the city and KAEC’s station is a futuristic blue and silver, representative of its role as a modern new city. Drawing on Islamic architecture, the design concept takes the traditional gateway arch form as the basis for its roof design. The design, common to all stations, features a sequence of 25m-high arches rising from the concourse, complemented by smaller 9m-high arches at platform level. Supported by freestanding structural trees, repeated on a 27m2 grid, the arches connect to form a flexible vaulted roof.

The glazed entrances to the concourse and the platforms are concealed behind a combination of external mashrabiya and the deep overhanging roof canopies. Each station is oriented according to the path of the sun, turning from Madinah Station, which faces east, to north-facing Makkah Station. Their changing position is articulated through openings in the roof, through which light tubes draw daylight down to the concourse level and animate the space. At night, spotlights between the perforations give the impression of stars in a night sky. Spherical chandeliers, suspended between the arches, provide focused lighting, mediating between the scale of the roof and concourse level and accentuating the rhythm of the structure.

The new highly-anticipated campus for Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), expected to be completed in 2019, has also been designed by Foster +Partners. The British firm headed by starchitect Lord Norman Foster, has also set up its Middle East offices in Dubai Design District, which will house DIDI.

Read designMENA’s report on the new iconic headquarters in Riyadh by Foster + Partners for Samba bank

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