The Dubai Metro signals a coming of age for the metropolis and its stations reflect this aspiration, says SHALAKA PARADKAR
This September, Dubai’s urbanscape will undergo a dramatic transformation when the emirate’s ambitious metro scheme takes off. The impact of this new mass transit system on a city that previously only had buses and taxis for public transport, should be diverse. From easing traffic congestion and reducing the emirate’s carbon footprint to improving the quality of life of its citizens, the Dubai Metro will, in essence, change the way people live their daily lives.
The Dubai Metro, which will be fully integrated within the transport network operated by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), is being constructed is being constructed by over 10,000 workers under the supervision of more than 500 engineers, architects and interior designers. Upon its completion, it will be the world’s longest fully automated metro system and a first for the Middle East. It is a massive project commissioned after Dubai identified the need for a metro system to relieve growing traffic congestion and improve access to various urban development projects.
The $4.2 billion project will serve the city’s rapidly growing population, expected to reach 3 million residents by 2017 and 15 million tourists by 2010. The metro seeks to alleviate automobile traffic congestion and introduce an element of sustainable transport in a region moving towards environmental responsibility. The Red and Green Lines – which constitute phases 1 and 2 of the design – are scheduled to open in September and March 2010 respectively; the Purple and Blue Lines are under development. The entire system is expected to be completed by 2012.
Construction is nearing completion for the initial portion of the Dubai Metro. Global architectural practice Aedas designed the system’s 47 stations, two depots, and operational control centres.
The Aedas designs respond to the RTA’s desire for unique, innovative, and iconic stations. The shell form of each station enclosure is evocative of Dubai’s tradition of pearl diving, a practice which historically brought prosperity to the region.
The metro is a modern-day treasure, infusing prosperity into the cultural and economic life of the city with an efficient transportation system. The geometry is based on the
extrusion of an elliptical cone over a curve, effectively creating a unique long-span steel structure without internal columns or supports. The exterior shell is clad in aluminium panels coated with custom-coloured PVDF, a specialty coating.
In total, there are three above ground station designs: Type 1 ground level stations, Type 2 elevated stations, and Type 3 ground level stations with 3 tracks. While the Type 3 stations are wider with asymmetrical structure, all above ground stations retain a similar aesthetic. There are various designs for the ten underground stations, with the largest being Union Square and Burjuman which provide interchange between the Red & Green Lines.
Aedas Hong Kong, which served as lead architect, set up the project team in Aedas Singapore to design all stations and ancillary structures; Aedas Birmingham designed the two depots and Aedas London provided the services of their Advanced Modelling Group. Aedas Dubai provided design management, coordination, and client liaison.
The interior design themes of Dubai Metro stations, developed by KCA International in collaboration with Aedas, reflect the four elements of nature i.e. water, air, fire and earth, while the heritage design of Al Ras and Al Ghubaiba Stations (in the Red Line) speaks of the history and civilisation of the UAE.
The core concept of the heritage-inspired design is based on architectural elements used in regional buildings such as wind towers (Barjeel), oriel (mashrabia), alleyways (sukaik), and internal arches.
These stations with their unique designs look like a natural extension of the heritage icons in the vicinity such as the antique shops, Heritage Village, and both the antique and existing towers. There will be 12 earth-themed stations, 13 water-themed stations, 11 air-themed stations and 11 fire-themed stations.
LINE AND LENGTH
Running from Rashidiya to Jebel Ali Port, the Red Line is 47 km long, has 4.7 km of underground tunnels and comprises 29 stations (24 elevated, 4 underground, and 1 at ground level) and 2 depots for maintenance. The 22-km-long Green Line travels from Jadaf to Al Qusais, the latter also serving as a depot location. The Green Line will have 12 elevated stations and 6 underground stations with 7.9 km of underground tunnels.
Two interchange stations – Union Square and BurJuman – will link the Red and Green Lines. Outside the central business districts of Deira and Bur Dubai, trains on both lines will run on elevated viaducts composed of precast concrete segments 10 metres wide and 4 metres long that were manufactured in Jebel Ali.
Key metro stations are equipped with taxi stations and park-and-ride facilities. Fully automated, air-conditioned, and driverless, the trains are designed specifically for the region. The stations also offer retail outlets and kiosks, such as coffee shops, boutiques, places to eat and tourist information.
Aedas developed a 'Barrier Free Access System' to make the Dubai Metro accessible to all regardless of physical impairment and convenient for parents with young children, the elderly and passengers with heavy luggage. The team did consult people with special needs through the Ministry of Culture. A presentation was delivered which featured the facilities designed for which they received an overwhelming response. Post their positive feedback and approvals from relevant authorities, the facilities have now been integrated into the design.
Wheelchair Access: From the drop-off point near the station entrance, the wheelchair-bound can take a lift to concourse level. There, they can access the ticket vending machine (TVM) or ticket counter to buy a ticket and then move towards the wide fare gate (AFC). They are now in the concourse paid area where they can move to another lift to platform level and into the train. In the train, provision for wheelchair space is provided near the entrance, which is also equipped with handrails.
For the visually impaired: The international standard of contrasting tactile guidance path (TGP) has been provided to guide the visually impaired. The TGP is laid from the drop-off point near the station entrance that leads the person to a lift at station entrance to access concourse level. At concourse level, the TGP will lead them directly to AFC or customer service counter. The TGP will then lead them towards the lift to platform level, where they can wait to board the train. Destination names will be announced in English and Arabic for their convenience.
For the hearing impaired: Provision for simple and clear signage for direction and information are on display either via static or LCD or LED screen throughout the stations and inside the train.
• The interiors of the trains are based on the themes of water and air. The exterior is blue and silver with pixelation while the interiors have an aqua blue theme.
• The trains will have five cars that can accommodate 643 passengers. The train is assembled with one Gold Class and one women-and-children only cabin located at the front, followed by four Silver Classes.
• The Gold Class cars have a luxurious interior with full leather, wider seats and a panoramic view through the front window of the train. With just 18 seats, this cabin is finished in blue/aqua tones and has an exclusive lighting design.
• The women and children car features a distinctive ‘pixel’ pattern echoing the design of the exterior of the car and utilises a fresh turquoise colour palette that runs through the floor, wall and ceiling of the car.
• Comprising four cabins, the Silver cabin is the largest compartment on the trains and the interior has been finished in a combination of blues and greens, again echoing the ‘pixel’ pattern. Seating is arranged in a variety of ways giving passengers the choice between admiring panoramic views from the windows or discussions with friends.
• In all cabins, there are reserved spaces for wheelchair users and priority seating for travellers who are elderly, injured, have special needs or are pregnant. Clear visual display and audio announcements serve different categories of people especially those with special needs. Clear signage will show the route map of the metro and a variety of safety devices, including CCTVs, are installed in all cars.