In autumn 2020, the Magistrale for Europe was the subject of the collective exhibition “urbainable – stadthaltig. Positions on the European City for the 21st Century” at the Akademie der Künste Berlin. Below you can get an impression of the guest contribution “Unter den Schienen der Strand” (“Under the Rails of the Strand”) designed by the architecture firm Auer Weber. You can get a comprehensive overview on the contribution’s own website https://unterdenschienenderstrand.de/.
Under the rails, the beach!
“Sous les pavés, la plage – Under the pavement is the beach!” – that’s how the Paris students proclaimed it in 1968. With this, they not only alluded to the fact that the sandy subsoil of the city became visible when the paving stones were ripped out as projectiles; they also demanded to radically question the usual things and ways of seeing with utopian intent, and unquestionably contributed to changing society. But what, one might ask today, is actually under the beach? At first glance, this question seems absurd, as does the outdated student slogan. Both, however, refer to a general human experience: being and appearance fall apart, phenomena have a deep dimension that is not recognisable at first glance and that sometimes needs to be worked out and discovered. You have to look “behind the façade” and search “beneath the surface” to find “what holds the world together at its core”.
Railway stations are no exception: seemingly determined only by functional and economic considerations, they only reveal their true greatness below the surface – both in terms of dimensions and in their significance for the good life of people. This also applies to Munich’s new main railway station, as a building and in its role as part of an urban and trans-European network. Thousands of people rush through the building every day, many hundreds work in it. Many inner-city connections cross here above and below ground, but also several European main lines. The Paris – Budapest axis, for example, connects 5 countries and 35 million people on a 1500km route. Sober numbers that conceal images and stories from our individual and a common cultural memory: a cultural depth dimension that is worth discovering. Is there also a beach under the rails?
The builder of the Munich railway station is Deutsche Bahn. But isn’t it also society that is building here? Not because German Railways is owned by the federal government, but because station buildings are much greater in their significance than the sum of their functional aspects. Is this perhaps what was forgotten in Stuttgart? But if railway stations are not only built for a transport company, but for society, don’t the client and architect also have a responsibility towards it? Is it only about getting 20,000 or 30,000 bodies per hour from A to B in the dry and as quickly as possible, or is it about more? Possibly even much more? What can a railway station contribute to a good life today? Doesn’t a station also have to enable travel experiences with poetic moments, encounters, conversations and aesthetic experiences? And even if it does, is that enough? Shouldn’t it also be about formulating a built idea about the future of society? In the 19th century, the age of the great railway stations that developed a utopian visionary power as cathedrals of transport, that was the case. But today? Sometimes it seems as if architecture has not yet lost the power to care for the individual, but it has lost the power to formulate social visions. But isn’t it precisely these aspects – concern for the individual and for society – that matter in architecture?
The beach is also under the rails. Martin Düchs