Sustainable design Transport Travel

Aidia Studio designs thermodynamic, low-footprint train station in Mexico inspired by pre-Hispanic Mayan architecture

July 21, 2021

Aidia Studio has been enlisted to design the Tulum train station that sits in the beach resort of Tulum, in the Mexican Caribbean, along the Riviera Maya. The primary goal in the design process is to push the sustainability agenda to the foreground and to find in that optimised performance a narrative that would speak about the qualities of pre-Hispanic Mayan architecture through the use of light, shadows, patterns, materials and vegetation.

One of the key elements was to minimise the footprint of the station, so after exploring different spatial configurations, an eye-shaped footprint, widest at the centre, where the main functions converge, seemed the most efficient use of space. This was enhanced by stacking the public programme of the station above the platforms deriving in a more compact scheme, connected across levels with vertical circulation and featuring a grand hall flooded with light and natural ventilation. 

Another key priority during the design process was the user experience, ease of mobility, orientation and the presence of natural light. The linear configuration of the station and the symmetry naturally help, this was assisted by the roof geometry which intuitively navigates users towards the centre of the station.

In laying out the commercial component, Aidia Studio aimed to design spaces that constantly celebrate the experience of rail transportation. This was achieved by framing views of inbound and outbound trains, and by laying out these retail spaces on a direct visual connection with the platforms.

The climate in the Yucatan peninsula is tropical with rain and high humidity in the summer. To deal with this extreme weather, the design team envisaged a large open lattice roof, glazed in strategic locations, enabling public semi-open spaces that function without mechanical ventilation. The sunlight piercing through the roof, projects complex geometric patterns on the walls and floors of the station, a play of lights and shadows travelling throughout the space and evoking different sensations on the users. 

The openings on the gridshell respond to the radiation exposure throughout the day, smaller openings on the zenith reduce heat gains at the hottest hours and larger openings on the sides let air and light in when the temperature descends. This passive strategy negotiates the amount of radiation exposure and the amount of natural light let into the station.

The aerodynamic geometry of the roof promotes the suctioning of the ocean breeze and funnels it through the station. This is key to create a comfortable atmosphere for users without the need for mechanical ventilation. 

The roof structure is a steel gridshell cladded with Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete (GRC) panels on the top and laminated wood panels below. The resulting motives on both outer and inner sides are reminiscent of Mayan traditional geometrical patterns. 

Throughout the design process, the practice aimed to infuse the station with some of the best-known features of Mayan Architecture; symmetry, monumentality, geometrical alignment, and the use of limestone are all constant themes in Mayan architecture. Aidia Studio has attempted to honour this heritage by rescuing that same spatial quality, albeit reinterpreting it in a contemporary way.

Project details:

Project Name: Tulum Train Station

Architects: AIDIA STUDIO

Lead Architects: Rolando Rodriguez-Leal & Natalia Wrzask

Project Team: Mariano González Silva, Emilio Vásquez Hoppenstedt, Rodrigo Wulf Sánchez

Structural Engineering: Project & Calc 

Client: FONATUR Tren Maya

Area: 14,400m2

Construction: January 2022 – June 2023

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