Images courtesy of Snøhetta
Saudi Arabia's Riyadh is swelling in both population and capital, creating a new impetus for a metro system to solve its transit woes. Several starchitects have already been enlisted in the project, including Zaha Hadid, and more proposals are trickling out of the Saudi Kingdom. Snohetta has already shown itself capable of managing large-scale and symbolic commissions with its Oslo Opera House and September 11th Memorial Museum, so it makes sense that the Norwegian firm would design the station at the heart of this new metro system, the Downtown Station.
The Snohetta design aims to create an oasis at the center of a large public plaza. A large canopy would shade the public space as well as admit light to the underground station. Downward ramps allow for a gentle entry to the system. Palm trees will be aligned with an adjacent mosque, and thus Mecca, while limestone will extend to the site's edges, signaling the openness and availability of the space to the public. Irrigation channels will both keep the trees alive, as well as provide some evaporative cooling to the space, making it a true urban oasis.
The architects write: “Our proposal for the Downtown Metro provides not only a beacon for a new urban awareness in the city but also a public space, an arena for all the citizens of Riyadh, a citizen space promoting public ownership and a new era of Social Sustainability and civic urban pride.”