You know design has made an impact on youth when your 16 year old niece while reading The Straits Times gasps “Wow… these are MRT stations? Oh wow!” Wow indeed, or rather Woha indeed. The award winning local architectural firm responsible for the uplifting church design of St. Mary of the Angels, Wilkie Edge, School of the Arts, Crowne Plaza hotel, at Changi Airport and numerous residential properties has now design-impacted the mass rapid transit stations of Singapore.
I think many commuters will miss their trains… not that they will be complaining.
Bras Basah and Stadium MRT Stations
IF commuters at the soon-to-open Bras Basah and Stadium MRT stations find themselves missing their trains, they could blame architectural firm Woha.
The two MRT stations were designed by the local award-winning firm, more known for designing residential projects.
Their soaring, inventive designs are such that awestruck commuters might find themselves gazing at, or lingering longer in, their stunning surroundings rather than taking notice of train arrivals.
Unlike conventional stations that have a strictly functional design, these two boasts details such as aluminium cladded walls, a reflecting pool, skylights and coloured floor tiles.
No wonder both have won national and international awards for their designs, a first for MRT stations since the train system started running in 1987.
Bras Basah Station, located under Bras Basah Road, was named ‘World Transport Building of the Year’ under the transport category at the World Architecture Festival last year.
Stadium Station, beside the National Stadium, won an award for International Architecture given out by the Australian Institute of Architects in 2008.
The same year, it also won a design award under the industrial, transport and infrastructure projects category, awarded by the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA).
The design of the two stations were the result of a design competition in 2000, organised by the Land Transport Authority and SIA.
Called the Marina Line Architectural International Design Competition, it attracted 63 entries worldwide.
Marina Line was the then-working name for the Circle Line.
“The purpose of the competition was to attract new talent,” says Mr Andrew Mead, LTA’s senior design manager of architecture.
This was the first time that LTA had organised a design competition for its stations.
The contest called for designs for these two stations in particular as “they offered different challenges”, says Mr Mead, who has worked on the Circle Line since 1997.
“Bras Basah Station is at the heart of the civic district and it was a strategically important station,” he says. “Stadium Station had to respond to surge crowds, from the surrounding stadiums.
“It was a coincidence that Woha won for both stations.”
One of Woha’s founding directors, Mr Richard Hassell, says the stations were ‘inspired by European train stations of the 19th century – where train stations were grand, inspiring spaces that gave commuters a really exciting architectural experience as part of their travel or commute’.
You might think a spaceship has landed
But no, it is an MRT station.
Its creator, famous British architect Norman Foster of Foster and Partners, reportedly said that the design was a search for ‘a kind of emblematic form, one that would be economical and do the job; the idea of creating a signal from a distance’.
The station, which opened in 2001, serves the Singapore Expo complex which gets extremely crowded when there are fairs being held.
Its two roof structures are its highlight: A 38m-wide stainless steel disc, which is supported by two pairs of V-shaped columns, covers the ticket hall, and a 130m-long, blade-like form, sheathed in titanium, covers the platforms.
The shapes overlap to create a visual effect.
Titanium was used as it is low-maintenance, and its panels also help keep the platform cool.
This, like the Expo station, is a feat of engineering: It is the first time here that a station has been built on top of an operating line.
Stainless steel columns reach up three floors to the $55-million station’s arched metal roof.
On the second level, floor-to-ceiling glass panels allow panoramic views of a lush space on one side and the Singapore Polytechnic on the other.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
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