foster+partner has completed four stations that form part of a 450-kilometer-long (280-mile) rail link that connects the major saudi arabian cities of makkah, madinah, jeddah, and king abdullah economic city. the stations that comprise the haramain high-speed railway are inspired by the ancient architectural traditions of the region and provide a shaded retreat from the sun while creating a new infrastructural spine for the country.
all images © nigel young / foster + partners
foster + partners built the stations using a modular approach, with consistent design elements throughout the four stations. the steel columns and arches form freestanding structural trees that are repeated on a square grid and connect to form a flexible vaulted roof — a gesture that references the colonnades found in much of the region’s traditional architecture. the vaults in each station are of a different color, responding to the identity of the different cities.
‘we have designed all four stations, resulting in a consistent approach and intuitive wayfinding strategy throughout the network,’ explains angus campbell, senior partner, foster + partners. ‘the stations are based on a common 27-meter-square module containing the roof, concourse and platform, which is flexible enough to be reconfigured for both through- and terminus stations, while also making it possible to extend the stations in response to changing passenger requirements.’
as the stations must serve up to 20,000 passengers per hour, the arrangement of spaces follows the direction of travel and helps passengers navigate the stations intuitively. the vaulted roof and walls contain small openings that draw beams of daylight down to the concourse level, carefully controlling the intense glare from the sun and creating a calm, atmospheric and well-lit environment. meanwhile, spherical chandeliers, suspended between the arches, mediate between the scale of the roof and the concourse level.
as the design and construction of the stations was carried out independently from the civil works and track installation, the stations were designed, and workflows planned, to allow civil works to continue in parallel. in addition to operational and structural flexibility, the stations also offer seamless connections to other intracity transport networks, particularly with the jeddah metro — also designed by foster + partners — as well as the developments surrounding the stations.
the stations have also been designed to accommodate growing passenger demand, from an initially anticipated 60 million to 135 million passengers per year. with trains running at a maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour (186mph) it will take 2 hours and 20 minutes to travel between makkah and madinah. operations will begin with 35 trains that can carry up to 417 passengers each.
name: haramain high-speed railway
architect: foster + partners
location: makkah, madinah, jeddah, and king abdullah economic city, saudi arabia