by Ayesha AdonaisSep 29, 2023
The project designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates was an international competition entry for a new international train station for the Italian town of Susa. The project had to cater to these predominant requirements; an interchange between the new high-speed railway which would run below and the old railway line which would run above, and a new bus station.
With a project area of approximately 96,000 sqm, the client’s brief requested the six competing design firms to propose an international train station, bus station and its intermodal pole, as well as a park to create open spaces around the station. Additionally, the brief requested other ancillary functions to the program such as restaurants, shops and cultural activities and also, very importantly, to produce a vision that would in turn benefit the Susa valley.
While the valley is a naturally beautiful location with mountains on all sides, the architects discovered that it was already heavily infrastructur-ised. They explain, “The big challenge of this project was to avoid the impact of another big infrastructure in the valley and keep it naturally content. The initial idea was to design an element that could somehow reduce the impact of the new high-speed railway line and create a place that connects and gives back to the community.”
The station was envisioned such that it acts like an extension of its picturesque context. “The building slowly appears and rises from the ground with an exterior spiralled promenade that provides all-round vistas of the valley. A panoramic balcony extends out, where locals, tourists and transit travellers can equally enjoy the landscape. Our aim is to avoid the new station becoming a stranger within the valley,” said the lead architects. With the design giving equal importance to where it belongs, it intends the station to truly become one with the serene alpine environment. While the design principles have not changed from the beginning of the project, the design itself has evolved through various phases.
Multiple access paths have been considered while designing the site layout – the old train route, new high speed train line, bus route, cycling paths, pedestrian walkways and car entry and exit points. This has been intricately designed keeping in mind ease and comfort to arrive and depart while also making it comfortable for passengers in transit.
The lowermost level of the complex includes functions such as parking and the bus station. The ground level has been designed as the lobby or the main entrances for the two train stations, along with a few small shops. The upper most levels include a restaurant, gallery and cafés opening up to panoramic vistas on all sides. The upper level also houses a multipurpose room which can be used for multifarious configurations.
The overall structure has been carefully elevated by checking views from various heights to ensure uninterrupted vistas. Keeping this in mind, neighbouring views have also been considered and respected for the site to relate effortlessly with nature. The cycle route is connected to the public park in a way that the entire setting blends in with the adjacent scenic landscape.
Taking cues from the rich heritage of the valley and roof structures seen in the nearby town of Losa, the shingles used in the old churches, cathedrals and homes of the area have been inspirational. However, the idea has been adapted in a contemporary style by using aluminium cladding, which also functions as photovoltaic plates to generate thermal as well as solar power. This opaque façade appears like snake-skin formed in aluminium, while the remaining walls are fabricated in glass.
The structure of the roof is meticulously formed as if delicately folded by a Japanese origami artist, parts of it opening to allow ventilation. The nips and tucks here recall the faceted geometries of the surrounding mountains as paying respect to their natural beauty, while also integrating contemporary design.
The architects mentioned, “ We would consider the attention to the context, green spaces and the exterior spiralled promenade that achieves all-around vista of the valley with a panoramic balcony, as some of the most significant features of the project.”
Official name of the project: Susa International Train Station and Intermodal Pole
Location: Susa, Tourin, Italy
Name of the architectural firm: Kengo Kuma and Associates
Design team: Kengo Kuma, Javier Villar Ruiz (Partner in charge), Nicola Maniero, Matthieu Wotling, Shunta Ishida
Project area: 96'000 sqm
Building area: New railway line station: 2725 sqm
Old railway line station: 970 sqm
Other services: 5330 sqm
Parking: 12240 sqm
Cost: 32,460,761 Euros
Competition: September 2012
Design development completed on: January 2013
Status of the project: On hold for Political and technical reasons. The tunnel connecting Lyon with Tourin is not finished yet and Italian government has doubts about the real need of the new highspeed railway.
Significant collaborators / consultants: AIA Ingénierie, Lucigny Talhouët et associés, J&A