sofia metro station
alonso + sosa
competition - unbuilt
Closing your eyes and finding yourself instantly transported to your destination is the dream of any traveller since time immemorial.
Today, the closest experience to this dream is travelling with the subway: moving below ground, across space and obscurity, yet efficiently, quickly and safely.
Spatial continuity between the inside and the outside, the unhampered entry of natural light and air are key to re-creating this experience. Delivering on these requirements is always complex. Doing so under the significant pressure of the earth above is certainly one of architecture's most fascinating challenges. Buried construction always comes with substantial downward forces, demands the intelligent management of scarce light sources and requires unique solutions to deliver uninterrupted spaces. From this emerges the challenge and interest of this project.
Spatial continuity is achieved through double-height spaces that visually link the levels of the station and street. From the mezzanine, one can see what is taking place below with a single glance. Whether a train is approaching; the number of people waiting on the platform… And in return, passengers getting off the trains will feel the outside light and see the sky above, finding it easy to find their way.
The airiness of the proposed space cannot be achieved without an adequate structural solution. A muscular structure is needed to counter the huge pressure of the earth and the city above without making use of intermediate columns. But the little height available requires designing a very special structure: a system of inclined bars cuts across the light from the upper level, while the mezzanine is supported by other bars inclined in the opposite direction. Both sets of bars interlace to form a structural lattice fitted with metallic plates.
Between each arc, the station opens up to the blues skies of Sofia. Natural light is a scarce and valuable resource down below. The skylights illuminate the shops on the mezzanine and bring strong columns of light down to the station level. The insides of the skylights are coated with iridescent paint that enhance the entry of warm, amber-coloured light.
The shape of the station is defined by the structural lattice. It performs three distinctive functions: support for the two slabs, enclosure for the intervention and skylight. This way, the project is simplified becoming easier for the user to comprehend. And this, in turn, creates the conditions to relax the commuter. For eyes to close and instant travel to begin.
The dynamism of movement (a concept directly linked to transport) gives shape to the new public space at street level. The gardens and pavements are shaped by the interconnection of various lines. Pedestrian paths, bicycle lines, strolling paths, the benches available to rest, the shadowy mass of the trees… are all organized in interwoven, continuous lines. But these dynamic lines don't stop at street level. They come down the subway's stairs, cross the mezzanine and fall down the platform, highlighted by the lines of artificial light that accompanies them.
The entry of the subway is the external expression of all that is happening inside. A light, glass and metal pliage, shaped as a dynamic M, does not pretend to be an object over the pavement nor a sculpture, only a reminder of what is taking place down below. The tilted, folded canopy accompanies the traveller from its flight outside into the station inside. It functions as a shelter from the snow, rain and sun, but above all, its represents the metropolitan dynamism associated with Sofia's subway.