Not trains tonight, but a Metro station in Paris, and one that marvelously connects neighbourhoods, not only via the subway but by an expressive bridge that both crosses and provides access to the Saint-Denis canal. Oh, and it’s by my darlings, BIG Architects…
There’s a rather straightforwardness to the basic idea. You’ve got a subway and you want to bring light down to the platform so you extrude up a large glass-topped atrium. Now, like a giant paperclip, wrap a path around that atrium to touch both the distant and nearby shores. And just like that, you’ve got a sensual form that invites and provides an easy and fun path to the station and to the water’s edges. The bridge is meant to be more than just easy conveyance – following the city’s long history of bridges as social spaces, the bridge is extra wide and incorporates seating into its sculptural structure.
From there, the bridge spirals downward to create the sunlit atrium, with a cascade of escalators taking travelers down towards the Metro tracks.
There’s a certain simplicity of idea happening here that I like. It’s very straightforward, a form derived directly from circulation and the ideas of connecting the adjacent boroughs. That same straightforwardness is nonetheless delivered in a very playful and expressive manner, one that enhances the public space around the canal and very much the Metro station below. Even if you don’t stop here, riding the Metro into the station will be an experience as you emerge from the tunnel into the luminous hall. It’s not just infrastructure that has been reduced to its most brutal form; it’s infrastructure that honours the public space we all inhabit. It takes a need and fulfills it in splendid ways.