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cityscape

Public Works: Greening the Subway in Saudi Arabia

The designers of a planned subway station for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia want to bring some green to the desert.

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

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Image courtesy Snohetta.

The decision to construct an extensive subway system must have been a relief to many in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a city of five million people where the testosterone-fuelled traffic (women are not legally permitted to drive) resembles a NASCAR race. It’s ill-suited to cyclists, pedestrians, or efficient surface transit.

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Image courtesy Snohetta.

Norwegian firm Snohetta was recently selected as the designer for the downtown Qasr Al Hokm station, which will be one of the main hubs of the new system. In a nod to the city’s desert climate—hot, arid, and slightly more hospitable than the surface of the moon—the design takes its cue from a traditional oasis.

The above-ground portion of the station resembles a stainless steel bowl, which provides shade while allowing light into the interior through a circular opening. Two main entrances are connected by palm trees and irrigation channels, oriented in the direction of the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

Below, the main concourse includes shops and seating areas around a central garden, along with escalators to the lower platforms. This area is lit not just by natural light from above but by interior and exterior reflection off the surface of the bowl.

The project is expected to be completed by 2016.

Whether Toronto will build more subways (that is, after the Spadina-line extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre is finished) is uncertain. If we do, we won’t have Saudi petro-cash to pour into them. Still, a little bit of green might be worth considering.

Hat tip to Inhabitat.

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