Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Great Railway Stations Number 10: Delft

The new railway station in Delft opened on the last day of February 2015 after more than a decade of planning and construction that involved relocating the busy mainline between Rotterdam and Amsterdam from an elevated viaduct to a subterranean track. The new building also houses municipal offices and a new Delft City Hall. At street level it’s a large black and grey box with a gently chamfered roofline that diminishes the visual impact. The glazing features randomly alternating vertical panes of varying widths of high performance glass and moulded glass designed to evoke vintage glazing. Great care has been taken to avoid an oppressive appearance. 

The interior has a cavernous and undulating feel. Under a vaulted ceiling lined with over 4000 baffles each bearing a narrow strip of imagery sliced out of an 1877 vintage map of Delft, a large central space has been carved out to allow banks of escalators and flights of steps that descend to the subterranean train platforms. Overhead light-wells supply dramatic illumination. Disappointingly, like Porta Sousa in Turin and Antwerpen Centraal where mainline trains run below ground in redeveloped stations, the platforms have a utilitarian feel and low light levels. 

The design is the work of the Delft-based Mecanoo practice and replaces a building of 1885 that will be retained and re-used. The aim was to provide a station that offered the arriving traveller a view of Delft inspired by Vermeer’s painting – an enormous panorama of the city is revealed as the traveller turns toward the exit after arriving at ground level. Walls and columns are lined with a mosaic of ceramic fragments in shades of Delft-blue – the standard of finish is immaculate. Cafés and retail units are discreet and built into the fabric of the building – there are no free-standing kiosks or advertising displays. The result is a spacious but not intimidating station concourse that restores a measure of dignity to the travelling public by not exploiting them as a revenue stream ripe for extraction. The scale of this project is formidable and it’s very difficult to conceive of something comparable happening in Britain in a town the size of Woking or Watford. 

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