A tree provides an anchor in which an African community attaches itself. It provides shade for get-togethers and opportunity for trade or a place to catch a break from the sun. After a lot of research and planning it was decided to design the Gautrain system and position the station buildings to represent the humble African Acacia tree.
With a passion for architecture and design, Tobie Lochner, who has a BSc Honours degree in Construction Management, had the chance to partake in the creation of the Gautrain. “One of the high points of my job is to recognise the positive impact of a building design that allows interaction between people and the structure”.
The roof design of the station buildings characterises the umbrella canopies of the Acacia tree. The stations express the various meeting places along the Gautrain route. Each station is themed according to its direct environment. Passengers can identify with the symbolic meaning of the stations and experience a sense of enrichment, similarity and respect for the Gautrain system.
Tobie explains the background to the designing of the themes of the ten stations along the Gautrain route. It portrays the diverse South African resources, technology, economy and culture:
Park Station: Mining
You will find the station under the ground of the existing Johannesburg Park Station precinct, north from the Johannesburg central business district. This station serves as the southern starting point of the Gautrain. The Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, is a source of large scale gold and diamond trade. Gautrain Park Station is decorated with gold tiles and finishes include the tunnels representing mine railway systems.
Rosebank Station: Retail
Be sure to look out for the entrance to the station, situated underground, as you walk along Oxford Street. Rosebank is well-known for its multinational shopping and entertainment environment. Gautrain Rosebank station is decorated with a bright collection of tiles in many colours.
Sandton Station: Commerce
The station is situated underground on the corner of Rivonia Drive and West Street. It is architecturally designed to represent two mining shafts and a cave along the platform leading into the tunnel. This is the station where man meets machine. Lights express the blue skies and golden African sunsets. The Gautrain Sandton Station will serve as point of exchange for passengers to select a train to- and from the northern route, eastern route and OR Tambo International Airport.
Marlboro Station: Music, Art and Culture
The station is positioned above ground next to the N3 highway and Marlboro Drive. The nearby Alexandra Township represents the diversity in African art and culture. Famous jazz musician and apartheid ambassador Hugh Masekela lived there with his former wife, the singer Miriam Makeba. The Alexandra Urban Renewal Project and Frankenwald Estate project is just some evidence on how South Africa is developing as a country and together as a nation.
Rhodesfield Station: Industry
The station is situated above ground close to the R21 highway in the south of Kempton Park. The city is the international industrial and agricultural gateway to Africa. Rhodesfield is in a transformation phase of commercial spatial development since the construction of Gautrain.
OR Tambo International Airport Station: Tribute to the Nation
The station is located at the airport terminal complex. The Gautrain OR Tambo International Airport Station serves as one of the three corner posts of the entire rail network. Changes in the light colour schemes express the diversity of the African nation and the architectural design conveys floating clouds from the view inside an airplane.
Midrand Station: Gateway to Gauteng
The station is positioned above ground next to the Old Pretoria Main Road. Midrand is also named Halfway House which is suitable in explaining its position half way between Johannesburg and Pretoria. This is the meeting place of the Pan African Government and Gateway to Gauteng. The Gautrain Midrand Station is decorated with tiles in the colours of the South African Flag and is strategically arranged to form the shape of the African continent.
Centurion Station: Sports
The station is positioned above ground on the east of Centurion Lake close to Super Sport Park, an internationally renowned cricket stadium. The tiles in the Gautrain Centurion Station is strategically placed and decorated to represent the markings on different sporting fields (soccer, rugby and cricket). The tiles outside the station building are laid in the form of athletic tracks.
Pretoria Station: Rail History
The station is next to the existing Pretoria Station building, railway lines, platforms and the historic Herbert Baker Station. Three Transnet houses along the existing route have remained untouched and the original locomotive washing shed has been recovered for use in the system. The Gautrain Pretoria Station pays tribute to South African rail history and commemorative brass plaques are placed among the tiles throughout the entire building. Tiles inside the station have also been strategically designed and arranged to represent rail lines.
Hatfield Station: Academic
The station is easily accessible from the N1 and N4 highways, situated within the Hatfield business node. A range of academic institutions are available along the Hatfield route. The Gautrain Hatfield Station is decorated with tiles that have been designed to represent graduation caps. It is the northern Gautrain station and corner post at the end of the route.
The viaducts and other structure support across all elevated stations have an arched design and graceful curve as the mid-spans are shallower than the segments resting on the piers. The crescent shape and flat base is similar to the design of the Asante stools, which is said to seat its owner’s soul. The Gautrain brings change, breaches frontiers, links communities and is firmly seated and supported by significant concrete pillars.
Tobie compares the complete Gautrain system to an African woven basket: “beautiful and a true piece of art with a functional quality within its community”. The exterior detail of the pre-cast parapet and benches, as well as other civil structures, represent the tightly woven design of the baskets which is not only an expression of being African, but also an evolution in the design of noise barriers.
“Students should focus on Mathematics and Science if they consider a career within a building environment” Tobie says with great enthusiasm towards the project; “The Gautrain creates a sense of place within each station and complete system environment. Every passenger can identify with the unique themes across the network and be a part of the South African nation and its significant design”.