Page D1.3. 08 November 2006                     
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    Berlin Central Station

    continued

    Below-Grade Challenges

    Set slightly apart from the main building is the exhaust tower, made from steel-framed panels and glass blocks that glow gently at night. Underground, the construction of the north-west train line, parking garage, and subway station proved to be another construction challenge. With parliamentary buildings and the river Spree close by, extreme caution was needed when excavating.

    Nine huge pits were excavated and the soil removed in an eco-friendly fashion, by barge. Divers then constructed diaphragm walls and lay a concrete base slab in the groundwater pits before they were drained, and construction could begin.

    Germany's reputation for being a global leader in eco-conservation is in evidence in the Hauptbahnhof. On the south side of the great hall 18,000 square feet (1,700 square meters) of glass panes have been integrated with 78,000 transparent high-performance solar cells — each a different size, like the panes themselves. The cells are expected to produce 190 kilowatts each, satisfying about 2 percent of the station's yearly power requirement.

    The building cost came in at over US$800 million, though some reports say the area's regeneration pushed the figure as high as $13 billion. But with a purported 300,000 travelers per day changing between long-distance, suburban, and subway lines, the project has been a major success, and one the city takes pride in.

    The Hauptbahnhof's bid to become a significant retail hub has been perhaps less spectacular. Though travelers may appreciate the mall, Berliners complain it's too far from other shopping centers. Still, they can hardly call it inaccessible.

    But the station holds a larger significance. German journalist Linda Behringer reported on the building's inauguration in May 2006: "You could see lights driving down the east-west train track that leads through the Hauptbahnhof, attached to two trains. It was meant as a symbol of the reunification of Germany, a symbol of overcoming the separation of East and West.

    "The two trains drove towards each other and joined in the middle," Behringer continues, "and at that point there were laser-lights flashing up into the air, combined with fireworks of every imaginable color. I thought at that moment that the reunification of Germany was a gift to the German people. And the Hauptbahnhof stands witness for this."

    Jo Baker is a freelance design and travel writer based between Hong Kong and San Francisco. Publications she writes for include Time, The South China Morning Post, and Hinge Magazine.

     

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    ArchWeek Image

    Berlin Hauptbahnhof designed by von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp).
    Photo: Marcus Bredt

    ArchWeek Image

    Plaza outside the train station.
    Photo: Marcus Bredt

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    Site plan.
    Image: gmp

    ArchWeek Image

    Below-grade train level (-2) floor plan.
    Image: gmp

    ArchWeek Image

    Below-grade train level (-1) floor plan.
    Image: gmp

    ArchWeek Image

    Ground-level floor plan.
    Image: gmp

    ArchWeek Image

    Fifth-level floor plan.
    Image: gmp

    ArchWeek Image

    Fume exhaust tower.
    Photo: Jo Baker

    ArchWeek Image

    Office block.
    Photo: Jo Baker

    ArchWeek Image

    Glazing detail.
    Photo: Marcus Bredt

     

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