Urban Transformation around European High- Speed Rail Stations: Cultural Attractions
In my last blog post about the effects of High Speed Rail (HSR) stations on cities in Europe, I discussed the architecture of several notable HSR station buildings that have attracted a great deal of attention in and of themselves. However, a memorable building alone isn’t sufficient to generate the so-called HSR Effect, which can attract economic growth, tourism, and investment in complimentary local transportation infrastructure such as light rail to cities. For instance, the HSR station at the airport in Lyons, France, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is a beautiful building, with an innovative curved black ‘wing’ rising from the terminal.
However, the station has not yet resulted in much development in the area. European cities certainly aren’t relying on “star-chitecture” alone to generate urban development around HSR stations. Soon after the gorgeous HSR station opened in Liège, Belgium in 2009, the city also completed the nearby Mediacite commercial center. What had been a decrepit industrial area is now a 160,000 square meter business and leisure center, complete with retail outlets, restaurants, office space, and a host of other luxury amenities. These two projects have transformed the Longdoz district of Liège, which is now expected to draw up to 7 million customers and visitors a year.
New HSR stations have also been instrumental in the selection of sites for other important new cultural attractions, such as museums. These cases may reveal a new dynamic for urban transformation, as the HSR Effect becomes intertwined with the Guggenheim Effect to attract tourism and prestige to formerly run-down industrial cities. This year, the Pompidou Center Art Museum opened a new museum in the town of Metz in eastern France. Accessible by an 80-minute TGV ride to central Paris, the Metz Pompidou, designed by architects Shigeru Ban, Jean de Gastines and Philip Gumuchdjian, has generated a big buzz in the architecture world, largely because of its complex, freeform, tent-like roof.
Ban has said that they designed the building to be inviting and open to the outside world, and conceived of the vast entryway to be "like a train station.” Similarly, The Louvre will open a new satellite museum in 2012 in the town of Lens, France, which also has a HSR station connecting visitors to Paris in just over an hour.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.