previous stateSolingen is one of the last four German cities that still have an active trolley-bus network. This ecologically sound system of urban transport satisfies the demand for mobility within a city that is notable for its large area and low density. The central node of the network is located in the Graf Wilhem Platz, in the heart of the old city, while its main artery is a great avenue running at a tangent to the square and across the city to connect it with the eastern outskirts. A little more than three hundred metres to the south-east, where the avenue intersects with the railway lines, is the city’s most central railway station, which is known as Mitte.
This crossing of ways means that the station can function as an efficient hub for the railway network and the four trolley-bus lines. Hence the station is used on a daily basis by a large number of commuters. The intersection occurs at two levels in such a way that the railway lines are at the lower level. The upper route is achieved by means of two bridges that converge over Werwolf Avenue, forming a triangular-shaped hole over the railway lines.
aim of the interventionIn recent years, a number of structural measures have been taken in Solingen with a view to transforming the public transport system and, in particular, expanding and optimising it. Notable among the steps taken so far are the construction of the new central railway station, the Solingen Hauptbahnhof, and the Grünewald station, which connects the city centre with the outlying suburbs. The renovation of the Mitte station comes within the framework of this initiative with the twofold aim of improving the connection between its two levels and giving it an emblematic relevance that would make of it a reference of orientation within the city’s urban fabric.
descriptionA road running parallel to the railway line has been opened up at the upper level, transversally connecting the two bridges and creating a traffic roundabout at the site of the triangular hole that once separated them. This empty space has been covered with a slab that has made it traversable at street level while also constituting a waiting area for trolleybus users. The slab opens into a nucleus of lifts and stairs that go down to the railway station platforms and some other holes have been made in it in order to establish a visual relationship with the lower level. Since the surface area of the rotunda is greater than that of the slab that covers the railway lines, there are two areas that are in direct contact with the ground, which has made it possible to plant trees, around which a number of benches have been placed to make the waiting time more agreeable for commuters.
A new roof has been constructed in order to cover the rotunda and protect it from the rain. The plan of the roof reproduces the triangular perimeter of the station and the three vertices are rounded off in keeping with the turning radius of the traffic moving around it. Next to the vertices there are three large holes that shed direct light on the trees and into the double spaces that go through to the railway station platforms. Its perimeter is edged by a parapet of some three metres high. This gives it an appearance of weight and solidity that contrasts with the lightness of the structure of the metal pillars that hold it up. Perforated sheeting has been used as the decorative finish for both the parapet and the inferior face of the roof, thus conferring a certain degree of transparency in both cases, and an appearance that varies according to the position from which it is viewed and the different intensities and angles of sunlight. Above the false-ceiling sheeting is an equipment room for the lighting devices, electric cables and the drainage system of the roof.
assessmentIt is evident that the new ceiling of the Mitte station represents an improvement in the conditions for users waiting for public transport. However, besides providing a functional response to the problem of shelter, the construction of the roof represents other benefits on the urban scale. Before the intervention, the meeting of ways that gave sense and origin to the station was very discernible from the air or on the map but the absence of buildings aligned with the roads that met at this point restricted the site to a bidimensional appearance that meant that it was barely perceptible from the point of view of the pedestrian.
The new porch constructs the intersection, giving it volume and propagating its relevance on the vertical plane. On the urban scale, this has transformed it into a landmark of reference that orients people and gives sense to the site. The quest for a vertical plane is met with the height of the parapet, which is more representative than functional in bestowing on the roof a highly perceptible and eloquent rim. This is also manifested in the big openings in both porch and lower slab, which generate vertical patios through which sunlight passes, establishing visual relationships between the different levels.
David Bravo Bordas, architect.