Q+A: Are train stations of the 21st century ‘high tech’?

Oct 11 • Q+A, Transportation • 2584 Views • 2 Comments on Q+A: Are train stations of the 21st century ‘high tech’?



Two individuals, from slightly different professional backgrounds, and from different parts of Canada, give answers to our question of the week. 


Tarek El-Khatib is a senior partner at Zeidler Partnership Architects and a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). He directs complex design programs for healthcare, academic institutions, performing arts centres and transportation facilities such as the new glass roof over part of the train shed at Toronto’s Union Station:


Train stations developed at the same time as train travel spread across the globe to transform the movement of goods and people, allowing major development inland from seaside ports. The stations very quickly developed from 1830 on as state-of the art “cathedrals” of iron, steel and glass to house the trains and the frantic activity to load and unload both people and goods. Although the street faces of the stations continued to use the materials and styles of the past—usually stone in neo-classical or Beaux Arts garb—the sheds to receive the trains themselves were consistently “high tech” from the beginning and new stations today are still on the leading edge of using steel and glass in long-span structures.



Owen Rose is an architect and principal of Rose Architecture in Montréal. He’s an urban ecological architect and engaged citizen working to consolidate nature and the built environment into a humanised living experience. He’s also the president of the Montréal Urban Ecology Centre:


Like any previous century, the 21st century will be too vast to be able to give it’s architecture any one label.  As in all building types, there are a variety of approaches, schools of thought and contexts.  In recent years many large-scale public projects have been preoccupied by issues such as sustainable development, neighbourhood insertion, social acceptability and economic constraints.  Even within the arena of ‘ecological’ architecture, there are loosely defined groupings such as low tech, minimalism, granola, high tech, humanist, social democratic and others.  There were periods in the history of architecture where design hearkened back to the good old (bad) days by referencing Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, etc. architecture as symbolic of an idealised world or craftsmanship.  As technologies and construction practices changed, so did the possibilities of building designs and their expressions.  Today train stations can reflect many varied influences and, as with the past, their design often represents our societal preoccupations at the moment of their construction.



So what do you think?

If older train stations could be described as ‘neoclassical’, are those of the 21st century ‘high tech’?


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