The architect–engineer is topping a Liège train station with yet another astonishing roof
Another of Santiago Calatrava’s spectacular curvilinear fusions of architecture and structural engineering is taking shape in the Belgian city of Liège, in the form of a monumental steel vault that loops 200 m up and over a station serving TGV trains, and extends another 145 m over the platforms at one end.
Being more a work of engineering than architecture, the process of construction is as awe-inspiring as the finished product. Since the station dramatically expands and upgrades a branch station, the 10,000-tonne steel structure had to be put in place without disrupting train services. This was achieved by assembling all 39 arched frames off site and then sliding them into place five at a time.
This construction method, which is most commonly used in building bridges, was used by Calatrava in 2004 for the roofs of the stadium and velodrome for the Athens Olympic sports complex.
Construction began in August 2004, and the structure of the vault was completed this summer. Construction of the canopy, trackwork, other infrastructure work and the glazing is now continuing until completion late next year.
As the station is embedded within the existing city, Calatrava has conceived it as part of the urban fabric. With no flank walls other than projecting canopies, it is quite transparent when viewed from either side and this encourages city and station to interpenetrate. More than that, Calatrava regards the glazed roof vault as the main facade, as it can be viewed from the hill on one side. On the other side, a vast and airy pedestrian plaza will connect the station to a new approach boulevard. It will be, says Calatrava “a breath of fresh air in this very dense urban area”.