INTRO: This month Alsop Architects is due to present its master plan for the redevelopment of a 20ha site around Rotterdam Centraal station. Incorporating the city’s gateway to the European high speed network, a major transport interchange has been designed to extend its presence into the urban fabric

The arrival of the HSL-Zuid high speed line is likely to have a dramatic impact on Rotterdam and the travel habits of those presently using Centraal station. On the domestic level, the city will be only 28min from Amsterdam and 20min from Schiphol Airport, and Rotterdam - Paris journey times are expected to fall to under 3h. Designs for the new rail station and the associated facilities for metro, tram and Randstad Rail are based on forecasts that Rotterdam Centraal will eventually handle some 80million passengers a year.

The new station is expected to be open by 2006 under Phase 1 of the redevelopment programme which has a 10 to 15-year timescale and is valued at £900m. Alsop Architects has produced the master plan for a public-private partnership comprising the City of Rotterdam, Netherlands Railways, Rodamco Nederland and ING Vastgoed. As well as the transport interchange, the 20ha site will include 200000m2 of new office space, 100000m2 of housing and 100000m2 for retail and entertainment use (RG 5.00 p288).

Once the master plan is approved, Will Alsop, Chairman of Alsop Architects, hopes that detailed design can begin by September. Under this timescale, tenders for construction work would be called within 18 months. Given the difficulty of phasing such a scheme around operational railways, he thinks ’you have to bite the bullet and build it in one chunk’ .

The city meets the station

Arriving under a new glass trainshed, rail passengers would descend to a concourse running north-south under the tracks, wider and higher than the existing foot tunnel. At its southern end, the lower concourse would lead into the redeveloped Stationsplein, where the existing square occupied by trams, buses and taxis will become a pedestrian area. Taxis and private cars making for the station would use Nieuwe Delftsestraat, an east-west road elevated above the concourse. The RET metro platforms under Stationsplein are to be exposed so that ’you get the sense that they belong to the same mobility hub’, according to Alsop. These platforms would also be used by Randstad Rail services to Den Haag (MR 99 p55).

Above Stationsplein, the master plan includes ’a destination related to culture’, namely a new city museum. The redevelopment programme stands to create ’the Manhattan of Rotterdam’ around the station, expected to attract such major companies as ING, Shell and Unilever, and this cultural presence should bring ’animation’ to the area outside business hours.

More activity is likely to be generated by the retail, catering and other facilities planned for the new station. In addition to meeting rooms under the overall roof, the master plan includes shops and bars on the station’s upper concourse. This will be 530m in length, running through the trainshed and above the metro at Stationsplein to reach street level at Kruisplein. Alsop says that this balcony above the tracks will serve to ’extend the presence of the station to the centre of town as far as possible’, being 40m across at its widest point before tapering down to 7m as it reaches Kruisplein at the southern end.

Passing below the new city museum, the upper concourse will be on a ’cultural axis’ running southwards through Kruisplein towards the River Maas past museums and theatres.

Alsop contrasts the new Rotterdam Centraal with other transport interchanges that have been designed ’for people to leave as soon as possible’. The architects hope that by adding a new venue to city life in Rotterdam, the project will act as a powerful catalyst for further regeneration in neighbouring areas and throughout the city.

CAPTION: Trains will be dwarfed by the imposing scale of developments being considered for Rotterdam Centraal. Metro services will run below the city museum to be built over Stationsplein