Weston Williamson, GHD Woodhead to design Perth airport link rail stations

Two architecture practices – UK-based transport specialists Weston Williamson and Partners in partnership with local architects GHD Woodhead – will design three stations for a new rail line linking central Perth with its airport.

The project follows the announcement that Weston Williamson will design stations for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, in collaboration with Hassell.

The three stations comprising the Airport-Forrestfield link, to be named Airport Central, Belmont and Forrestfield, are all planned for contextually different sites. While the designs for the three stations share certain common threads – a high level of transparency and the use of commissioned artworks, for example – each will be tailored to the specific circumstances of its location.

The line’s terminus at Forrestfield station, for instance, is being designed with the future growth of the surrounding area in mind.

The distinctive roof of Forrestfield Station is intended to reference the site’s natural surrounds.

The distinctive roof of Forrestfield Station is intended to reference the site’s natural surrounds.

Image: Weston Williamson and Partners / GHD Woodhead

Gennaro Di Dato, principal at Weston Williamson and Partners and design director of the project, said that when the station will be a catalyst for future development.

“The station will be the first in the area, and then there will be a mixed-use masterplan that fills in the area later on, perhaps in 10 to 15 years.”

“That’s pretty much the model used in Europe in the last century – build the infrastructure first, then develop a masterplan, and people and business [will] come and you create a community.”

Di Dato said that the station design has been heavily influenced by the nearby landscape.

“The site is quite beautiful – it’s very close to the Darling Scarp [mountain range] and the landscape is predominant there.”

The station’s distinctive roof is intended to reference the site’s natural surrounds. “The shape of the roof is faceted and trying to mimic, almost, the geological fragmentation of the Darling Scarp.”

Airport Central by Weston Williamson and Partners in collaboration with GHD Woodhead.

Airport Central by Weston Williamson and Partners in collaboration with GHD Woodhead.

Image: Weston Williamson and Partners / GHD Woodhead

The Airport Central site, conversely, is locked in on all sides by existing airport infrastructure.

“We wanted to create something that is iconic,” said Di Dato. “It’s the first station of its kind in Perth and we also wanted to have something resembling the idea of travel and the aerodynamic shape of the aircraft and the airport.”

The design references travel in a number of ways. A sculpture hanging from the roof of the ground-level atrium will resemble a flock of birds, while a mural at concourse level “resembles the journey of [Indigenous] people.”

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The three-level station, which would gulp in natural light via glazed walls on three sides of the triple height forecourt, descends 25 metres to platform level.

“Using slots into the concrete slabs on the concourse level, we were trying to get all the natural light all the way down to the platform level,” said Di Dato.

“You come off a long journey, twenty hours plus, off an airplane. We wanted to create a sense of calm and warmth, in a way.”

Looking toward Airport Central's entry level from the concourse.

Looking toward Airport Central’s entry level from the concourse.

Image: Weston Williamson and Partners / GHD Woodhead

The station at Belmont will slot into a masterplan that will see the area become more dense.

“The idea is to intensify around the station at a medium to high density. We’re talking about some buildings [that can] reach ten-storey heights,” said Di Dato, describing the design as “quite subtle. It doesn’t have the sort of presence Airport or Forrestfield [will] have. It’s trying to blend into the masterplan’s vision for the future.”

One challenge the architects were tasked with tackling was the planned bus interchange directly in front of the station.

“One of the main concerns for Belmont station from the Perth Transport Authority’s point of view was that they didn’t want to encourage people to cross the bus lanes.”

The architects propose a series of raised garden beds, about one metre high, into which benches and seats are embedded, as a useful deterrent rather than a fence.

Di Dato said that Belmont station in particular has been designed on the basis of intensive community feedback. “People in Belmont are quite vocal about what they want.”

Belmont Station by Weston Williamson and Partners in collaboration with GHD Woodhead.

Belmont Station by Weston Williamson and Partners in collaboration with GHD Woodhead.

Image: Weston Williamson and Partners / GHD Woodhead

“If they build it the way we’ve designed it, it will address the integration with the masterplan and what the people want,” he said.

Weston Williamson and Partners specializes in transportation projects and has been particularly involved in the development of London’s rail system. Most recently this has included designs for four stations on London’s new, currently under-construction underground Crossrail railway. The firm was also involved in designing several stations for an extension to London’s Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

GHD Woodhead has worked on a number of transport projects previously, including the masterplanning of Perth Station as part of the New Metrorail project.

The Salini Impregilo – NRW Joint Venture consortium won the contract to deliver the Forrestfield-Airport Link in 2016. The line is expected to open in 2020.

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