Foster + Partners has completed stations in Saudi Arabian cities Mecca, Medina, Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City, connected by the 280-mile Haramain high-speed rail line. The stations, “conceived as gateways to each city”, are designed to offer a unified appearance to between 60 million and 135 million passengers anticipated to use the high-speed line each year. They are all covered by flexible vaulted roofs supported by grids of steel columns – described by the practice as structural trees. Structural trees support the roof at Medina station. The modular system meant that each station could be designed to fit its site, and that in the future the grid can be extended to increase capacity.
The buildings are designed to be shaded areas that can provide a respite from the country’s heat. Small openings within the building’s roof and its walls allow controlled amounts of light into the stations. All the stations have been designed so that they maintain low ambient temperatures without the need for using mechanical cooling. Holes in the roof and walls at Medina station control the amount of sunlight entering the building. Between the station’s vaults, which are a different colour in each of the cities, large circular chandeliers provide light and are intended to “accentuate the rhythm of the structure”. The Haramain high-speed rail line links the Muslim holy cities of Medina and Mecca, via the coastal cities of Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City.