The Beating Heart of a Modern City – Berliner Hauptbahnhof

by Simon Hausknecht

In any modern city in the 21st century, the transport network that connects the people and travellers of a city is one of the most important parts of the functioning of the city in day to day life. Specifically, in Berlin, with 3.4 million inhabitants, the transport system is so crucial and so vital for many if not all of the people living here to allow them to get to work each day, to allow them to move around the city with ease and to allow them to socialise, exercise and live as they would like to. Tourism is another major aspect, which is strongly dependent on how efficiently and effectively a city is interconnected through its transport system. With transport being so imperative to the city of Berlin, an even more important focus was needed in the design and construction of one of the biggest and modern central train stations in Europe. Not only is the functionality of a central train station very important but also the architectural design boats the importance and in a sense the ‘power’ of the beating heart that supplies its city with the people moving through. I would like to address two key ideas of how architects have addressed the main concerning points of functionality and design style. The design was by Gerkan, Marg and Partners, an architectural firm from Hamburg who won the design competition for the Hauptbahnhof. The project started its construction in 1995 and was completed in 2005. The river Spree had to be diverted and multiple tunnels, bridges and difficulties overcome. Expansions were made in 2009.

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The Berlin Hauptbahnhof boats 5 impressive levels in its central train station, which is no short of a brilliant functional design. In the station there is the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Regional and long distance trains coming through. This could become a challenge of navigation for people trying to change trains or even just to work their way through. The very tall and open layout of the station however, makes it very easy to see where you need to go. Having many signs posted on the stairs and escalators further helps the direction of crowd flow with ease. The top floor has the north-south S-Bahn and Train lines. With multiple escalators and staircases down from the top floor it ensures smooth traffic flow and prevents any blockages. Moving down onto the 4th floor, the first below the top floor, there are many food shops and touristic stores providing a shopping mall experience. This provides a location for people, local and tourists, to spend their time during waits between trains. As the Hauptbahnhof is quite often the first point of contact that a tourist has with Berlin it is very clever that the designers have included these sorts of stores. There are also multiple lifts to help people who are impaired or require to shift large loads between the floors. There is a ticket store, where you can buy train tickets or simply get help from customer care. The building also included multiple well known food and drink outlets and the Berlin soccer team club store. In total there is about 80 stores meaning you can spend a whole afternoon in the train station alone. The whole layout is very practical and efficient in the way it attracts and diverts its people pouring through its veins.

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The main hangar on top is made completely out of glass and steel frames. This gives it a very modern and futuristic look and not only has a very stylistic image but it also portrays the message that the rebuild of Berlin for the past few years had been attempting to say: we are now open and have nothing to hide. Having the overarching structure made out of glass ensures that there is the maximum amount of light possible coming into the station for not only a practical sense but also to make the feeling of the station itself nicer and brighter. This is envisaged through the east-west build of the glass top. The whole building has a very modern feel. It also has an immensity to it, the largeness and the amount of glass is quite astounding. Inside there are big columns holding the structure up but are not engraved and are without detail. The designers seemed to have implemented more of a modern/futuristic look where there is no money wasted on facades, statues, monuments or decoration alike. More looking for functionality, light and grandness. The high roof and open lay out further develops this futuristic feel while providing good air circulation and open spaces. There is also a photovoltaic system designed into the glass work to generate energy from the sun. It never feels too overly crowded other than when boarding your train. I feel that the Hauptbahnhof is a well-designed piece of clever architecture that unifies the city and promotes the advanced thinking and technologies of Germany.

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