FOCUS: How Riyadh Metro uses design to attract citizens
The planning and design for the Riyadh Metro have been carefully coordinated in effort to ensure that Riyadh will use and take ownership of the infrastructure upon its completion, according to a senior Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) director.
The implementation of the project has taken into account everything from the look and feel of the stations and trains to the landscaping of approaches to the metro, with the aim of encouraging Saudi citizens to take to the streets.
The design of the trains themselves, despite them being supplied by three separate consortiums, will be unified according to a specific brief, explains Khalid Alhazani, director of architectural project programme and public affairs at ADA.
He notes: “We went through a series of stages with our three manufacturers to coordinate and unify the design. The train colours on the interior and exterior are coordinated with our lines in order to have a wayfinding advantage, so people inside the trains know which lines they are using.”
Like the metro in Dubai, passengers will be divided into three separate classes, as Alhazani notes: “Each train will feature three classes: first, family and single class, separated by glass partitions.”
As for the design, he continues: “The interior and exterior design of all the units has been developed to incorporate aesthetic elements that will resonate with the people of Riyadh, including a traditional triangle pattern used in older houses and handrails shaped like a palm tree branching outwards.”
“Elements of traditional local architecture were implemented in the design: One of these elements is the triangle pattern which you can see on the chairs, which is taken from the mud houses of Riyadh.
“Another symbol of Saudi Arabia is the palm tree and you can see the resemblance between the palm tree and the vertical handrails inside the trains.”
And for the ease access to and from the metro, Alhazani confidently asserts that Riyadh’s residents and visitors will no longer need a car. The walkways the environs of the metro will be lined with trees and street furniture, and for those that do need to drive 25 free car parking facilities will be available.
The stations are deliberate shock and awe. Alhazani continues: “We have 85 stations, and some are what we can call iconic. ADA wanted to have the best architecture firms from around the world to work on the project, such as Zaha Hadid, the well-known UK firm, which designed the KAFD station.
ADA has also guilefully directed its attention towards Saudi schools, where it has encourages children to take part in competitions to design artwork for the metro system. A selection of winning artwork and designs will be displayed in the stations and coax the children and their parents to visit.
In terms of comfort, the trains have also been designed with the region’s climate in mind, with a more powerful air conditioning system capable of delivering sufficient cooling in the extreme heat.
Their battery capacity is higher than a standard product, and even if the high voltage is cut altogether in case of emergency, the air conditioning can run in a limited code at a medium voltage for hours.
While the trains will be operated on a driverless system, they will initially be staffed by operators as a further measure to help reassure the public, for many of whom the experience will be very new.
As for the engineering, the cars are aluminium to reduce the operational rate and prevent rusting in the humid weather and upon exposure to the high levels of salts that naturally occur in desert sand.
The carriage window glass is also thermally and optically shielded, while the bogies, traction drive, brakes and doors have been fitted with special elements in order to prevent the ingress of sand.
As part of the project, Saudi graduates are also being trained in the full range of administrative and technical skills that will be required to operate and maintain the metro system, and foreseeably to plan and manage other major projects in the future.
The six lines of the Riyadh Metro are being built at a cost of $23bn as part of the King Abdulaziz Project for Riyadh Public Transport, which also includes with a 24-line bus network, to meet the demands of the city’s population as it rises from 6 million to over 8 million residents by 2030.
Alhazan adds: “The people have no experience of public transport, so this challenged us to plan everything in detail. We had to have the first class to encourage some people to use the train, for example, but in future we believe everyone will have to use it, because of the traffic.”