Utrecht is currently undergoing a large-scale reorganization of the district around its railway station. This will atone for a grave urban-planning sin committed during the post-war era: at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, the area was covered with a building complex that comprised the station itself, the Hoog Catherijne shopping centre - Europe’s biggest at the time - a concert hall and a congress centre. This conglomerate of buildings is now being sectioned into smaller units while car traffic is pushed back in favour of cyclists and pedestrians.
Based on designs by Benthem Crouwel, a new, multimodal railway-station building for trains, trams and buses has been erected, while Hoog Catherijne has been opened up to its surrounding streets. The station promenade planned by Ector Hoogstad runs between the two structures; it unites a bicycle thoroughfare, a bike parkade and the station square to the east. On the ground floor, the public bicycle path leads lengthways through the building. Users reach the parking spots on the lower and upper decks via ramps that branch off to the sides. A bike repair shop and rental outlet complete the range of services. What’s more, every level has a floor manager who keeps things in order and removes any bikes that have been left longer than two weeks, which is against the rules.
A web-like steel roof featuring 49 integrated cushions of ETFE foil covers the station square as an immense link between the bicycle garage and the outer world. It rests on seven round supports measuring as much as 37 m in height; their upper sections consists of steel, while the underground portions are made of exposed concrete. Three of these supports, which broaden downwards, similar to mushroom stalks, from 1.2 to 6 metres in diameter, stand freely in the middle of the parkade like huge, puzzling sculptures. Their purpose is revealed only on the path leading up to the square.