This fall, Rotterdam's new Centraal Station is open for business again, nearly 10 years after the project got underway. Thanks to its massive solar roof and its super-compact layout, it's one of the more efficient train stations in Europe — a building designed for the next century of transit.
The building was designed by a coalition of four firms — Benthem Crouwel Architects, Meyer & Van Schooten Architects and West 8 — back in 2004. It's been a massive undertaking, as far as construction is concerned: The old 1957 station was demolished in 2007, and a temporary station was built to allow trains to continue running uninterrupted through the site. Residents nearby have even complained that the scale of the work has caused major damage to their homes — in particular, to some historic 19th-century townhouses.
As far as train stations go, the old building wasn't all that old — it only opened in 1957 — but Rotterdam was one of the fastest growing cities in Europe during the second half of the 20th century and, today, it acts as a central hub for the rest of the Netherlands (and Europe).
Inside the new building, four individual train lines run on more than a dozen platforms, shuttling 110,000 commuters a day through the city (though that number is expected to double by 2025).
On the architectural side of things, the building clocks in at a modest 140,000 square feet. The roof is the real highlight here: 750 feet long, made of glass panels, and topped off with 130,000 individual photovoltaic cells. It's one of the largest architectural solar arrays on the continent. Below it, inside the cave-like commercial space, there's room for 5,200 bikes — roughly seven times the amount of parking spaces in the building.
Centraal Station is actually just the latest building in a huge, 20-year-old government effort to expand the country's railway infrastructure. At least five other major train stations across Holland have been rebuilt since the 1990s, too, all designed to prepare Dutch cities for the future of high-speed train systems.
In a way, since it's meant to last for centuries, the new building gives us a glimpse as how the Netherlands — arguably the most infrastructure-savvy country on Earth — sees the future of public transit. Let's just hope they won't be too waterlogged to see it come to pass. [DesignBoom]