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European Railroad Discussion > Liège (Belgium) Station

Date: 10/22/20 17:18
Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: gbmott

Designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava who also designed the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/22/20 17:20 by gbmott.

Date: 10/22/20 17:45
Re: Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: ironmtn

Thank you, Gordon. Some angles of this station I had not seen before. Particularly in the last image, the architect certainly echoes some stylistic elements of Eero Saarinen's well-known TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Saarinen is also famous for his design of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

I was scheduled to pass through this station last spring enroute to Germany and Poland. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced cancellation of the trip.

Date: 10/22/20 19:36
Re: Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: GPutz

Eero Saarinen also designed the terminal of Washington Dulles, and his father designed Helsinki Central Station.  Gerry

Date: 10/22/20 20:03
Re: Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: gbmott

Here are three more views.  A striking feature is how open this all is -- it is essentially a series of glass canopies with very few actual walls.  I was changing trains and didn't have a whole lot of time to explore in detail but I don't recall seeing actual waiting areas.  I must just have not found them as there must be heated areas in winter.  Whatever though, it is certainly striking and worth stopping off to see.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/25/20 18:41 by gbmott.

Date: 10/23/20 01:03
Re: Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: 86235

It is certainly a quantum leap over it's predecessor, Liege Guillemins was an awful dump.

Date: 10/23/20 07:23
Re: Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: ironmtn

GPutz Wrote:
> Eero Saarinen also designed the terminal of
> Washington Dulles, and his father designed
> Helsinki Central Station.  Gerry

Thank you, Gerry. Absolutely correct. I had forgotten about these two buildings. And there are some of the stylistic elements of the Dulles terminal, notably the tall, overhanging thrust ribs, in the Liege station design. Santiago Calatrava, the architect of the Liege station, likes those as elements in his designs.

The Helsinki station, which has been mentioned here on TO a number of times and is one of the great railway terminals anywhere, is quite different. Eero Saarinen's father, Eliel Saarinen, worked in a very different period, but made notable contributions of his own to advancing modernistic style in a number of his buildings. His use of massive forms, and simplified but strongly stated art deco themes, in their own way advanced design forward into the 20th century. I am a longtime fan and student of both the father's and the son's work. The Helsinki station is one of my favorite buildings, anywhere. I have never visited it in person, but I certainly look forward to doing so someday when we are on the other side of this pandemic.

Finally, thank you, Gordon for the additional images. I simply did not realize how open the new Liege station is. The more I see of it from the various angles you have shown us, the more I like it....a lot. I look forward to getting there.


Date: 10/24/20 19:51
Re: Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: GPutz

I visited Liege only once on 9/16/08 when the station was under construction; but I have travelled through Helsinki (and Dulles) many times, including 6/4/05.  Gerry

Date: 10/25/20 18:03
Re: Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: Steinzeit2

gbmott Wrote:
......... I don't recall
> seeing actual waiting areas.  I must just have
> not found them as them must be headed areas in
> winter.

Nope, the only heated areas where you can wait for a train are in the restaurants.  This station gets a lot of rave reviews from visitors -- people who use it a lot, not so much.   For example, note that the bus and taxi locations are now far removed from the station building proper, and devoid of any shelter, either en route or there, with the exception of one bus shelter.  Hopefully that and a lot of other mistakes will be corrected as the years go by.   And the lack of signage is noticeable -- there don't even seem to be any location / zone signage along the platforms, for example.   Buildings like this aren't really stations, they are civic and personal vanity projects that the users have to live with*.  After Mons is finally finished -- eight years behind schedule, after four contractors, and three to five times over budgets, there won't be any more in Belgium;  an SNCB spokesperson said "It is no longer [ our ] mission to carry out such megalomaniac projects.  From now on, renovations will be based on functional stations, where you can take the train in comfort and change trains easily...."


*Edited to add: "....and pay for."

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/25/20 18:09 by Steinzeit2.

Date: 10/26/20 10:45
Re: Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: ironmtn

Recognition and celebration of artistic architectural value can be, and often enough in history has been, in tension and even conflict with operational and economic efficiency. The Liege station by famed architect Santiago Calatrava is architecturally dramatic and beautiful. And while train operations through it would appear to be smooth and efficient, as in fact they may or may not be, the station also has to be useful and efficient for passengers, on-site merchants, and railway operations staff. From some of the above comments as this thread developed, it appears that practical utility, at least for passengers, is lacking. That's unfortunate.

It's not particularly surprising to me that it was quite costly to design, engineer and build. And that this has affected the Belgian railways' view to be more cost-effective and practical. Looking at Calatrava's various designs over the years, my four initial reactions have typically been been 1) "Wow!", and 2) "There's an awful lot of white there -- how about some color?",  3) "More sculpted thrust ribs. Yes, it's his signature, but does he know how to do anything else?" and 4) "That is gonna be really difficult and expensive to build". And indeed his designs have often proven to be very expensive and demanding to construct. And they have sometimes lacked necessary practical or basic features. For example, an opera house and museum complex in Valencia, Spain cost nearly triple its budget. But when completed the opera house had 150 seats with obstructed views, and the science museum was initially built without fire escapes or elevators for handicapped visitors.

In 2013, the New York Times said of Calatrava's work: "But in numerous interviews, other architects, academics and builders say that Mr. Calatrava is amassing an unusually long list of projects marred by cost overruns, delays and litigation. It is hard to find a Calatrava project that has not been significantly over budget. And complaints abound that he is indifferent to the needs of his clients." Full article (may be behind paywall): https://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/arts/design/santiago-calatrava-collects-critics-as-well-as-fans.html

Architects always walk a tightrope between aesthetic design, engineering practicality, construction and operational costs and client needs, and practical functional use. Great railway stations are not immune from such considerations. I would be surprised if in digging into the archives of acclaimed projects like Pennsylvania Station or Grand Central in New York, Chicago Union Station of St. Louis Union Station, or LAUPT, we would not find memos and letters of concern for such issues between the client, the architects, building engineers, construction forces and railroad operating officials. However those competing factors were successfully met or not in the Liege station are being tested in daily use, and will be judged now and for many years to come. Hopefully, the problems can be rectified in a way that works well for passengers and the railroad, while retaining the integrity of a beautiful design. Whatever the verdict of history ultimately proves to be, I continue to look forward to visiting and using the station some day soon.


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/26/20 10:48 by ironmtn.

Date: 10/26/20 13:25
Re: Liège (Belgium) Station
Author: Lackawanna484

Form follows function?

The NYC PATH station is a disaster. Lovely building with soaring roof lines.

But, slippery when wet, long walks from subway to the Tubes, endless stairs, etc.

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