The Gautrain : Fast becoming a Joburg Reality

The long (and anxiously awaited) Gautrain is beginning to emerge from underground and taking shape around our city in the form of Station Architecture and Civils Works. This media report and set of pictures from the Gautrain Project is a preview of what we can expect to take functional shape in the coming months.


Gautrain System Identity

The Gautrain system consists of 13 detailed design packages, relating to different packages of work, and covering all the construction disciplines. Gautrain Architects JV (GAJV) has been appointed as master architect of the Gautrain system. The architectural service undertaken by the master architect is the generation of generic line-wide concepts and details, to ensure that the designs within each of the individual detailed design packages are co-ordinated and meet the aesthetic requirements of the Gautrain System Identity (GSI). The GSI comprises guidelines, generic drawings and specifications to ensure uniformity and coherence throughout the system so that it is recognised in terms of its brand architecture. This includes signage, entrance structures, finishes and other key design elements. Each Gautrain station will have its own local identity but conform to the overall system identity.

Station Components

Gautrain stations are constructed in three typologies: underground, at-grade and elevated. Tom Steer of GAJV says "The ticket offices, station control rooms and payment stations are standard components but each station has its own brief and accommodation schedule. These standard spaces are arranged safely and in accordance with the track alignment at each station".

A station layout has a lot to do with how commuters are fed onto the platforms; moving over or under the tracks. So, while Midrand and Marlboro are very similar in terms of requirements, and are both at-grade, they have different typologies. Commuters at Midrand will circulate beneath the tracks and, at Marlboro, they will move over the top.

The Gautrain stations typically consist of a park-and-ride facility taking up a significant amount of space; a feeder bus rank; a kiss-and-ride facility (drop-off); a short-term facility (luggage unloading, among others); concourse paid and unpaid areas; transfer links that lead to the platforms; and the platforms themselves. Bicycles are accommodated with lockable bicycle ranks and paths in and out of the stations.

System Design Concept

As a three-dimensional expression, the station buildings are required to project the Gautrain brand. The designs, therefore, consist of recognisable elements that create a"system identity" while a set of micro and macro regional influences can be introduced to achieve local interest.

The architectural concept submitted was to liken the Gautrain, linking the fragmented community in Gauteng, to a typical African rural community. The architects noted the paths that link between rural communities, and the activities along these paths. Nodes, normally generated around trees for shade and protection, usually acacia trees, form places where communities gather. These places are not part of existing communities but spaces where bartering and socialising take place. The idea was to compare the stations to nodes along a path that will connect the municipalities of Gauteng together.

The trees symbolise protection and an anchor for community. Structurally, this is expressed as two functional elements critical to all three station types, providing a unifying imagery:

· "tree" structures representing the acacia tree trunk and branches (columns) and
· "wave" structures representing the umbrella canopy of the acacia (entrance canopies).

Materials have been chosen to celebrate the wealth of natural materials available in South Africa through colour and texture in visible but inaccessible areas, and to provide a maintenance-friendly, durable, neutral backdrop so that signage is clearly legible.


Sandton Station

Read more about Sandton Station
Sandton Station is the northernmost of the three underground stations. The station lies in the southern part of the Gautrain system in the Johannesburg municipal area and is the first underground station encountered by passengers travelling south from Pretoria and the first underground station encountered by passengers travelling westwards from the OR Tambo International Airport. The principle parts of the station lie beneath Rivonia Road between Fifth Street and West Street in Sandton.

The station will accommodate the north/south train services between Park and Pretoria by the provision of two platforms. A further single platform will be provided as Sandton Station forms the terminus of the east/west express train service to O.R. Tambo International Airport.

The station will be formed by the construction of two rectangular shafts, one at each end of the station which will be linked by a cavern between the two shafts at low level. At low level in the bottom of the two shafts, a cavern will be constructed to link the two shafts, it will accommodate two platforms on two different levels, the south/north platform on the upper level and the east/west platform for the airport service on the lower level. In addition, a third platform will be accommodated in a separate smaller cavern linked to the larger cavern and shafts by a number of adits to accommodate the north/south platform.

Materials have been selected from the designated palette and are consistent with the Master Architect Architectural Guidelines. Emphasis on clear, simple use of materials and avoidance of overstatement in design has been made with transparency of above ground elements as a component of legibility. The stations provide a comfortable and controlled environment. Natural lighting has been introduced via the transparency of the entrances to enhance the internal spaces and to aid orientation within the structure.

The station's entrance has been designed to be warm and welcoming, bright and colourful. Materials utilised differ from those selected for the station interiors as greater areas of glass and steelwork have been required with overhanging roof canopies to provide weather protection. Overall, in aesthetic appearance, the station's entrances are more lightweight in comparison with the station interior finishes which, owing to functional requirements described above and the need to cover large areas of civil and structural elements such as slabs, structural retaining walls and roofs, are more solid and robust in appearance although details have been configured to avoid a monotonous appearance and to project an image of modernity.

Marlboro Station

Read more about Malboro Station
Marlboro is an at-grade station placed on the edge of Alexandra, Linbro and Frankenwold near the N3 and is poised to become a hub feeding into the Sandton & Joburg CBD. The station consists of four semi-open platforms combining the north/south and east/west commuter routes. In addition, the station will have park and ride, bus, drop-off and short term facilities.

Marlboro station features many of the striking elements from the GSI. Large white steel trees, cool green glass and durable terrazzo and porcelain finishes. The large wave-form umbrella roof "floats" over the concourse supported by the trees. From the concourse, the angular transfer link bisects the smooth tubular form of the platform canopies. The many steel trees emulate an acacia forest providing shade and a place of rest. The finishes carry a subtle musical influence, with finish elements creating a beat pattern in the path of travel. The station is energy efficient with naturally ventilated public spaces.

Rhodesfield Station

Read more about Rhodesfield Station
Rhodesfield is an elevated station located in the Kempton Park hub. Rhodesfield will be linked with the new PRASA metro station adjacent, providing north/south nodal links to Pretoria and Johannesburg CBD as well as providing a quick link into the Sandton CBD.

Architecturally, the station design is a development of a strong functional programme based on tight track constraints, giving rise to a unique geometry. The platforms are offset from the site and bridge over Anson St and the PRASA tracks. Parts of the station will be up to 16m in the air! Like Marlboro, the treatment of the station architecture follows the GSI closely with the characteristic white structural trees and green glass.

Like its counterpart in Marlboro, the station is naturally ventilated. The bright colours and patterns of manufacturing and industry are reflected subtly in the finishes treatment to respect Kempton Park's strong industrial heritage. A commuter plaza and pedestrian bridge links the two stations.

OR Tambo International Airport Station

Read more about OR Tambo Station
This premium service links Sandton CBD with the airport and is reflected in the architecture of the station. This expression is directly related to the new central terminal building (CTB). Finishes between the buildings are carried through into the concourse of the station, with the station having its own feature ceiling that uses a stratosphere sunset as a design cue developed in an ultramodern way. This journey is carried into the enclosed elevated platform area via a transparent glass link. Views out of the station are preserved at all times, giving a panorama view of the OR Tambo plaza precinct.


Collective Knowledge for Gautrain

Institutional Knowledge for Gautrain

AA Network Information on Gautrain