Paris-based architecture and engineering practice Marc Mimram has been appointed to design Montpellier's new TGV station, which will be located on the new high-speed line between Nîmes and Montpellier, potentially serving 3.5 million passengers a year by 2030.
Marc Mimram's design responds to the station's Mediterranean context, playing with light and shade to make travellers aware of the changing climate and seasons. A delicate, pleated roof, articulated in five 8m wide domes, protects travellers whilst allowing light to permeate and create intricate patterns of dappled shade across the concourse.
The innovative structure is formed of numerous triangular shells cast in ultra-high performance, fibre-reinforced concrete (UHPC). The slabs are assembled to form a striking structure that spans right across the station and is supported by UHPC structural beams and elegant steel columns. The use of fibre-reinforced concrete allows the panels to have glass embedded directly into the concrete during casting, which results in delicate forms that are strong whilst being only 5-6cm thick.
"We are delighted to be asked to design a station in such a beautiful location. We want to create a garden station, a station of the senses that delights travellers and allows them to engage with the beauty of their surroundings. Our design addresses the emotions of meeting, waiting and departing and creates a bright and airy space that, even in the short time a person might spend in the station, will engage them with the nature of Montpellier," said Marc Mimram, Founding Director of the eponymous firm and one of the judges at this year's WAN Urban Design Award.
The 3,500 sq m station is designed as a bridge over the new railway line. All public space will be located on the first floor and passengers will only go to the lower level to board or alight the train. A new tramline from the town centre will also arrive at first floor level, in front of the station entrance, and travellers will be sheltered by a canopy cantilevered from the roof structure.
The station - located in the Odysséum district of Montpellier between the city centre and the airport - is due for completion by the end of 2017. It will connect with the existing Perpignan to Barcelona line to reduce journey times between Paris and the Catalonian capital. Enabling works are due to begin in January 2015.
The €142.7 million project will be delivered through a public-private partnership. Réseau Ferré de France (RFF), the French equivalent of National Rail, has appointed developer Icade to head a team including lead architect and engineers Marc Mimram, local architect Emmanuel Nebout and contractor EGIS.
The contract between RFF and Icade sets out a partnership for a 15 year period, which means the team will not only be responsible for the initial design and construction phase but also for continued maintenance, operation and future expansion plans.