Rethinking our Approach to Station Design

We should no longer think of transit stations as places where travellers arrive or depart. Instead, we need to think of them as destinations in themselves. Diane Legge Kemp, our total mobility expert, discusses why we need to re-think our approach to station design.

Train Station in a large City

"Often I see the exact same railway station placed at every stop. Stations where it appears no consideration has been given to the bigger picture."

Anyone who knows me knows I am a self-confessed ‘rail nerd’. I travel by train whenever I can and wherever I am in the world and with this, I have seen the best, worst, and perhaps even mediocre approaches to station design.

Often I see the exact same railway station placed at every stop. Stations where it appears no consideration has been given to the ‘bigger picture’ and the varying socio-economic conditions at each stop – I like to call these ‘cookie-cutter’ designs. These are the kind of designs that adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; where there’s practicality in the way they are made, through the regurgitation of ‘tried and true’ design and construction methods but this is where the practicality ends. For all too often these designs fall flat when it comes to their relevance and connection to the communities in which they’ve been plonked.

Mind you, on the other end of the spectrum there’s what I like to call ‘swiss watch’ designs. They can be captivatingly beautiful odes to architecture and perhaps even award-winning, yet similar to cookie-cutter designs they can fall flat if they do not connect to the people. Sometimes the complaints might be that they’re visually sterile and impractical.

Where is station design working well?

Malaysia’s new high speed rail system has adopted an ‘early bird’ approach and have allowed for ample time to be taken in its design. This has ensured any decisions made have been sensible, creative, and quite simply put - are driven by aspirations of greatness.

Malaysia's high speed rail is an example of where early planning is working well.

How did they do this?

By adopting an earlier version of Arcadis’ MODex, Malaysia were able to assess the value of investing in infrastructure, considering potential demographically-targeted developments around the new high speed rail stations. These targeted developments are expected to lead to community investment, permanent job creation, an uplift in property values and an impact on the local, regional, and ultimately national economy.

Why is early adoption important?

Thoughtful station design starts during the early stages of station planning – before land acquisition, prior to station locations, and ultimately before a project has been given the green light for construction. It’s about ensuring stations are relevant to their communities and integrate with the wider mobility-network. Simply put, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach - instead, thoughtful design takes time. But trust me, it is worth it. For when we get it right we create access to prosperity; communities thrive, its people feel connected, and we see cohesion between good design and seamless functionality.

Diane Legge Kemp

Vice President, CallisonRTKL +852 9450 9103 Ask me a question
Share on Wechat
"Scan QR Code" on WeChat and click ··· to share.