Monthly Archives: May 2014

The great French train fiasco: new trains too big for old stations

The French government is red-faced and furious as news emerges that 2,000 new trains purchased by French national train operator, SNCF, at a cost of €15 billion are too large to enter 1,300 regional stations. As the UK’s Independent newspaper puts it, “The country that brought the TGV high-speed train to Europe has accidentally created another first – the TFT, or the Too Fat Train.”

It appears the problem has arisen because national rail operator, RFF, provided SNCF with measurements taken from platforms built less than 30 years ago, overlooking the fact that many of rural France’s platforms were built over 50 years ago when trains were smaller.

According to a report in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, SNCF has however admitted that it failed to verify the measurements itself before ordering the new stock from train engineering companies, Alstom and Bombardier.

To rectify the situation, the 1,300 stations in question will now be modified to fit the new rolling stock. These adaptations will cost RFF in the region of €50 million to complete, representing about 1 per cent of its annual budget for modernisation and repairs.

According to the BBC New Europe website, French Transport Minister, Frederic Cuvillier blamed an “absurd rail system” for the problems. “When you separate the rail operator from the train company, this is what happens.”

Interestingly, the Independent draws attention to the fact that “a draft law is due to come before the French parliament next month to merge, or re-merge, the two state-owned bodies from next year. Both SNCF and RFF support the plan.”

Written By admin 
May 22, 2014 14:34 pm

Bangkok’s skyride and skypark


Jon Sealey, Design Director of Marques and Jordy has submitted proposals to transform Bangkok’s skytrain system.

He proposes an elevated bicycle lane coined as “the skyride” which cantilevers from the existing train line structure. “The idea of the skyride is to reduce the congestion on the roads and encourage people to commute to work by cycling.” Explains architect Jon Sealey.


The sky ride offers a 55km of unparalleled cycle root through the heart of Bangkok and the suburbs East to the airport. Commuting times to the commercial centre would be reduced by as much 1.5 hours. “Bangkok is incredibly congested and the sky ride offers a way to reduce traffic and get people cycling.”

The proposal also offers an elevated park and a lowline park. The skypark landscape will be designed to reflect the identity of each local community it passes through and features local artworks and much needed public park space through the city. Jon explains “Bangkok is suffocated by concrete high rises. Development over the last 30 years has seen a massive decline in green space in the city. The skypark will provide the people of Bangkok with new accessible areas to enjoy running, walking and viewing the city from an elevated platform.”


The lowline will be a vibrant area for street vendors, markets and green space. Large sphere tent structures will have a variety of uses from housing emergency care units to structures to grow crops for the local communities.​


Written By admin 
May 16, 2014 11:32 am
Posted In Uncategorized

Work commences on bridge for Qatar’s newest planned city

Artist Impression 1 (© Lusail Real Estate Development Company)

After last year’s commission of the Lusail Pedestrian Bridges in Qatar, Octatube is now taking their part of the project into the installation phase. The design has been drawn by San Diego-based Safdie Rabines Architects.

Since 2006 the Lusail Real Estate Development Company has started to develop a 38 sq km site 15 km north of Doha. This new project is one of the largest commercial projects in the Gulf States.

The theme of Lusail, Qatar’s future city, has everything to do with water. The concept for the two pedestrian bridges is that of a necklace being draped along the ring of the island marina. After the realisation of a mock-up the first embedded elements are now on site.

Building Site (© Octatube)

The two cable-stayed bridges are brought to life with structural glass floors, aluminium louvre canopies, glass kiosk canopies and glass balustrades. Including the ramps, both bridges are approximately 200m long and span 90m from one quay to the other. Each bridge is fully illuminated, stimulating leisure activities during cooler evening temperatures.

Artist Impression 2 (© Lusail Real Estate Development Company)

The main structure of the bridges with the pylons, cables and concrete decks is built by FCC Construccion. Because of the marine environment, all structural elements are executed in duplex stainless steel. Octatube’s scope holds more than 200 tons of this high grade steel. It is used for the production of cantilevering glass floor structures, canopy structures, baluster posts and a number of other elements.

The project features 2,000 sq m of laminated glass, divided into walkable areas, overhead glazing and the guardrails. The glass throughout the project has bespoke fritting patterns and all along the guardrails both the glass and the walkways will be illuminated by integrated LED lighting.

Artist Impression 3 (© Lusail Real Estate Development Company)


Written By admin 
May 15, 2014 12:15 pm
Posted In Bridges

Balance of Power: The case for renewable energy for Europe

Reinier de Graaf, director of AMO, Research and Design, OMA

“Ukraine’s delay in paying for Russian gas has created a critical situation. In the event of further violation of the conditions of payment, Gazprom will be compelled to partially or completely cease gas deliveries. Undoubtedly, this is an extreme measure. We fully realize that this increases the risk of siphoning off natural gas passing through Ukraine’s territory and heading to European consumers.”

Vladimir Putin in a letter to 18 EU countries, April 10th, 2014

Europe Renewable Energy Blur_Roamdap 2050_Copyright OMA

Five years ago, on the heels of the “failure” of COP15 in Copenhagen, our office participated in a project called Roadmap 2050*, which proposed the wholesale transformation of Europe’s energy infrastructure – away from fossil fuels, towards renewable energy sources – with the aim of cutting Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in 2050. The idea was simple: the integration of national energy grids into a Europe-wide supergrid would permit the sharing and exchange of different forms of renewable energy between nations. In terms of Europe’s energy supply, this would be nothing short of a revolution. Rather than each nation having to pursue a full mix of energy sources within its own territory, EU nations could be free to engage in extreme a degree of specialization, whereby each EU member state could focus on the type of (renewable) energy best suited to its specific geography and climate, and still be insulated from the supply fluctuations of renewable energy.

Although little more than a footnote at the time, there was another aspect to the project, which, given the current political climate, is perhaps more interesting at the moment: Europe could become self-sufficient in its energy supply. Tied to this is an interesting political trade off: independence from external energy providers in exchange for increased energy interdependence between EU member states. Strangely enough, the byproduct of this essentially technical exercise turned out to be a more compelling case for European integration than any which had ever been made in the political arena. For a while it looked as though European integration, 60 years after the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community, could once again become an industrial project, this time with the building of an integrated energy infrastructure at its center: the transformation of national power sectors into a single integrated mutually reinforcing system of energy provision, turning Europe’s diversity into the ultimate strategic advantage.

Eneropa_Roamdap 2050_Copyright OMA

Much has happened since. A near nuclear disaster has taken place in Fukushima. Germany (largely as a result of Japan’s misfortune) has embarked on an ‘Energiewende’. For a while the Arab Spring seemed to offer the prospect of North Africa becoming the great democratic reservoir that would provide Europe with politically correct (read: solar) energy. But if one calmly takes stock of Europe’s progress, both in terms of the share of renewables in Europe’s energy provision, and the formulation of a truly integrated European energy policy, there is still much left to be desired.

In view of the recent events in Ukraine and the overt threats of Russia to use its gas supplies as a means to impose its will, not only on Ukraine but potentially on Europe (and particularly Eastern Europe), the prospect of a self-sufficient, ‘energy independent’ Europe acquires an acute appeal. Not even in the coldest days of the cold war did the USSR leverage its gas deliveries to gain the upper hand in the battle for global dominance. The ideological balance of power was guaranteed by the accompanying balance of military force. In the world of globalization however, with economic entanglement among otherwise sovereign states, energy has the capability to replace military force as the prime strategic weapon in wielding geopolitical influence, giving its possessors ‘first strike capability’, with minimal consequences in return.

MetroMap_Roamdap 2050_Copyright OMA

At the time of its launch in 2010, Roadmap 2050 was primarily driven by technological and environmental parameters; today, it is first and foremost the political aspect that grants the project a renewed momentum. Roadmap 2050 could provide Europe the necessary energy security, so it can remain firm about its democratic principles. Energy is primarily exchanged between European states that have committed to the same values and the dependence on outsiders is drastically reduced. The beauty of the idea lies in that within the proposed system no single European state can ever claim a monopoly on energy provision. Energy is exchanged for energy; todays suppliers are tomorrow’s recipients.

Dependencies shift, simply on the basis of seasonal or meteorological conditions. The very strength of the project resides in the fact that it ultimately does not assume energy is ever un-political and the profound knowledge that a Europe that relies on energy provided by those who do not share its principles may ultimately well be a Europe unable to afford those principles.

Sun Wind Map_Roamdap 2050_Copyright OMA

*Roadmap 2050 a practical guide to a prosperous, low carbon Europe. The mission of Roadmap 2050 project is to provide a practical, independent and objective analysis how to achieve a low-carbon economy in Europe, in line with the energy security, environmental and economic goals of the European Union. The Roadmap 2050 project is an initiative of the European Climate Foundation (ECF) developed by a consortium of experts funded by the ECF: McKinsey & Company; KEMA; The Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College London; Oxford Economics, E3G; The Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands; The Regulatory Assistance Project and The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).

Reinier de Graaf directs the work of AMO, the research and design studio established as a counterpart to the architectural practice of OMA. He has been responsible for AMO’s increasing involvement in sustainability and energy planning, which has included Zeekracht: a strategic Masterplan for the North Sea, the publication in 2010 of “Roadmap 2050: A Practical Guide to a Prosperous, Low-Carbon Europe” with the European Climate Foundation, and “The Energy Report,” a global plan for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, made with the WWF.

Written By admin 
May 12, 2014 09:18 am

Aesthetic Overhead Line Structures – Finalists Announced

The successful finalists in the international design competition for new, aesthetically pleasing designs for the gantry and cantilever structures on the UK rail network have now been selected.

The competition launched by the rail industry’s FutureRailway, in conjunction with HS2 Ltd and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in December 2013 concluded with two intense days of judging this week.

An event was held last night (7th May) in the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum and the finalists announced as:

Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering, Denmark for their HST design (image below)

Bystrup Architecture, Design & Engineering_Finalist

COBE, Denmark for their Tomahawk design (image below)


Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald for the Integrated OLS design (image below)

Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald_Finalist


IDOM UK Alan Baxter & Associates and SEMI were also selected as Highly Commended


David Clarke, Director of FutureRailway commented:  “It has been a fascinating and enjoyable process and it was very clear to the panel that every shortlisted team had put a huge amount of hard work and dedication into their designs.  We have selected three worthy finalists and I look forward to seeing each design developed further during the coming months.”

Mark Howard, HS2 Ltd Head of Power and Traction said: “I am very impressed by the high standard of the designs in this competition.  All those shortlisted have really understood the technical practicalities whilst coming up with eye-catching structures.  HS2 will be innovative and reflect the very best in 21st century design.  I look forward to developing these ideas further and perhaps one day seeing them alongside the UK’s much needed high speed rail network.”

The exhibition of the ten shortlisted designs in the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum features scale models of each design and will end on 12 May.  It has already generated a great deal of interest amongst the general public with over 600 comments received on the different design approaches.

The finalists will now use the development funding to undertake detailed technical development of their design and consider the route to market.

Summary of the shortlisted designs:

The High Speed T – ‘HST’, Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering

The High Speed T Mast reduces the overhead rail line to two elements; a triangular cable network carrying the power, and the aesthetic T-shaped mast which supports twin systems serving adjacent tracks.

High speed twin rail lines require less land with a single line of T masts between tracks, than with traditional masts either side. There are therefore no masts forming an obtrusive barrier between the track edge and its surroundings.

Tomahawk – a design family, COBE

Tomahawk is a family of overhead line structures that minimizes the visual impact of the entire line. This is achieved by reducing the overall height, reducing the number of structural elements and by using contemporary materials and manufacturing techniques.

By Keeping It Simple and Straightforward (KISS), the end product is buildable and well suited for its purpose. The simple design will also work visually when repeated hundreds of times throughout the landscape.

Integrated OLS, Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald

The form of these masts is simple – slender and tapering, the design reduces the visual impact in the landscape.  The Integrated OLS scheme simplifies the components of the power line support equipment, replacing insulating pots with built-in insulating properties through the use of a densified laminated wood.

The full shortlist in alphabetical order are:

  • Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering, Denmark (with two designs shortlisted)
  • COBE, Denmark
  • Grimshaw
  • Gorton, Paul, Scheuvens + ARUP
  • IDOM UK Ltd with Alan Baxter & Associates and SEMI
  • Lariko/Urbanski
  • Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald
  • PWA
  • Ramboll UK


The National Railway Museum, York is open seven days a week from 10am – 6pm.  Admission is free.  For further details please visit

Hamad International Airport opens, Doha, Qatar

Hamad image

The HOK-designed Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar has started welcoming passengers from ten selected airlines yesterday (30 April 2014). All other airlines will continue to fly to and from the existing Doha International Airport until 27 May 2014, when Hamad International Airport will become fully operational.

In 2004, architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects and interior designers at global design studio HOK were brought in to devise a 600,000 sq m transport hub to replace the outdated Doha International Airport which was struggling to meet the demands of increased passenger numbers.

The new facility will be capable of handling 28 million passengers per annum when fully operational and virtually doubles the size of Doha International Airport. The hub includes two of the longest runways in the world, a 2,100 sq m public mosque, 28,000 sq m retail gallery, two 100-key hotels, a health spa, a 3,431-car parking garage, and numerous support and administration facilities.

Situated near the waterfront of the Arabian Gulf, Hamad International Airport with its sleek Passenger Terminal Complex will be the first impression many new visitors will get on their entry to Qatar.

HOK concludes: “[Our] design of the main passenger terminal emphasises Qatari hospitality and its Gulf-side location. The terminal gives visitors a spectacular and lasting impression of the country while providing them with a five-star travel experience.”

Siân Disson

Hamad Maps

Hitachi to Deliver the World’s Fastest Ultra-High-Speed Elevator in Guangzhou, China

Hitachi Ltd and Hitachi Elevator (China) Co Ltd have recently announced that they are to deliver the world’s fastest ultra-high-speed elevator, travelling at speeds of up to 1,200 m/min (72 km/h).

The revolutionary new design will be installed at the Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre in Guangzhou, China, whisking passengers from first to 95th floor in approximately 43 seconds along a 440-metre shaft. Without their ears popping.

According to Hitachi’s press release, the elevator “will feature technologies that support safe and comfortable elevator operation, in addition to the drive and control technologies needed to attain the world’s fastest speed. Through these technologies, Hitachi will ensure that the elevator will provide passengers with a comfortable ride even when operated at high speeds”.

A BBC News article quotes Hitachi as saying that the lift design would prevent ear blockages by artificially altering air pressure in the car. Guiding rollers that adapt to warping caused by wind pressure would mean the ride remained smooth, and brakes able to resist extreme heat would activate in the “unlikely” event of a malfunction.

Hitachi says it has developed a permanent magnet synchronous motor that achieves both a thin profile and the high output needed to attain a speed of 1,200 m/min. It also claims to have “successfully developed a compact traction machine by lightening the load on the traction machine through reducing the weight of the system by reducing the main rope diameter while increasing the rope’s strength”.

Hitachi is to install a total of 95 elevators at Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre in time for the 530-metre skyscraper’s official opening in 2016. These will include two of the world’s fastest elevators as described above, and 28 double-decker elevators.

According to BBC News the current holder of the ‘fastest lift in the world’ record is the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan. Its lift sends passengers from fifth to 89th floor in 37 seconds, a speed of 1,010 m/min.

Gail Taylor

Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre in Guangzhou


Written By admin 
May 01, 2014 09:26 am