When's the last time you were in a major city's public transit center? Odds are you didn't depart feeling weightless and more in tune with nature. If the churning crowds and dismal interior didn't leave you gasping for air, it's likely that the smell of trash and vehicle emissions did. That's not the feeling designer Santiago Calatrava wanted people to take home after passing through the Portugese “Oriente Station” in the city of Lisbon, so he created a beautiful daylit building topped with a leaf-like canopy that looks lighter than air.
Construction of the station began in 1993, and it was completed in time for the 1998 World Expo. Although it’s primarily a train station, the facility was built to provide a place of central convergence for underground rail, taxis, airport travelers and various above-ground trains as well.
Unlike some other major transit stations, Oriente features several design elements that keep travelers from becoming claustrophobic. The most notable is the beautiful and massive metal skeleton that covers eight elevated tracks and their corresponding platforms. The structure seems to emulate the veiny underside of a tree leaf, with beams shooting off in all directions. The structure is covered only with glass, so daylight can illuminate the station during the day, and interior lights provide an ethereal glow at night.
The bus station, metro station, parking lot and commercial shops are efficiently located below the tracks. According to Calatrava, the station, which helps link to previously unconnected neighborhoods has been a catalyst for community regeneration in the area.