World-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava unveiled what is described as “one of his most ambitious architectural projects to date,” the Liège-Guillemins TGV Railway Station in Belgium. Designed by Calatrava to meet the demands of high-speed travel, the station is being billed as a catalyst that will bring new life to the industrial city of Liège while positioning it as the epicenter of the North European High-Speed Network
To mark the opening, Calatrava attended a series of inaugural events hosted by SNCB Holding, which is part of the Belgian National Railway Group. Presiding over the celebration were Calatrava, international dignitaries, and members of the Belgian royal family, including Prince Philippe of Belgium.
Calatrava was first commissioned to design the new Liège-Guillemins Station in 1996, after Euro Liège TGV determined that the existing station was unsuitable for the demands of high-speed rail travel. Immediately, the architect was faced with a seemingly impossible task—replacing the existing station without interrupting train service or disturbing the 36,000 people who frequent the facility on a daily basis. Using a technique normally employed in bridge construction, Calatrava was able to meet this challenge while preserving the integrity of his design, publicists for the designer said.
Envisioning a building that would reflect the new station’s significance as a high-speed, inter-urban link through Europe’s cities, Calatrava’s design exposes the working platforms and the dynamism of the moving ensemble of passengers and trains. The result is a modern station whose high-speed network provides shorter travel times to Aachen, Cologne, and Brussels, as well as to Frankfurt, Paris, London, and southern Europe. The station’s high-speed trains shorten the times of travel distances considerably, provide a scenic alternative for leisure travelers, and enhance the efficiency of business travelers worldwide, railway officials say.
“It was my goal to create a 21st century transportation facility that would not only unite Liège with the rest of Europe, but would also serve as a symbol of the city’s renewal,” Calatrava said. “The project, as a whole, creates a new gateway into Liège and re-establishes a relationship with the city.”
The architect imagined a building without facades, with a soaring roof that would offer protection from Belgium’s natural elements, including the region’s rainy winters. The effect is a flowing structure that illustrates Calatrava’s reoccurring theme of movement. “The vaulted shape of the roof was a natural development of this vision, while the soft, undulating curve was selected to mimic the graceful rise and fall of the Cointe Hills in the background,” the architect said.
The Liège-GuilleminsTGV Railway Station is the first part of a planned architectural vision for a corporate center in Belgium.