Main entrance to Oriente Station, Lisbon at dusk. Photo: Quintin Lake

Detail of the roof at Oriente Station. Photo: Quintin Lake

Glass and steel roof above the rail platform at Oriente Station, Lisbon. Photo: Quintin Lake

Looking up at the roof of Oriente Station. Photo: Quintin Lake

This was the first Calatrava building I’d seen in the flesh and it’s a hugely exciting building to experience and to photograph. The exuberant organically inspired forms of Calatrava were a favourite for me when I was an architecture student. The huge cantilevered canopy at the pedestrian entrance and the steel ‘trees’ covering the train platforms are particularly joyful. However, not so sweet and what I’ve chosen not to show in these photos is the very poor cosmetic condition of much of the building, peeling pain, rust, cracked glass and thick layers of grime on white panted steel. The internal exposed concrete structure has also been comprehensively Jackson Pollocked with pigeon droppings. Although only skin deep these are the first qualities which most visitors would probably notice which is a shame for such exciting architecture. The question as to wether these issues should be considered design flaws for a public building or simply stinginess on the part of maintenance schedule is probably not simple to answer. Certainly based on my observation the same issues plague most painted steel hi-tech architecture after a decade or so of use from the Pompidou to Grimshaw’s Waterloo Station.

Oriente Station (Gare do Oriente) is one of the main transport hubs in Lisbon, Portugal. It was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava it was finished in 1998 for the Expo ’98 world’s fair in Parque das Nações, where it is located. It encompasses a Lisbon Metro station, a high-speed, commuter and regional train hub, a local, national and international bus station, a shopping centre and a police office. Oriente Station is one of the world’s largest stations, with 75 million passengers per year which makes it as busy as Grand Central Terminal in New York.

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