You don’t have to be big to be clever. Liechenstein might be a microstate just 62 square miles in area, but it has a very attractive central bus station which would shame numerous similar facilities in many countries far larger. Regular reader Stephen Hosking and his friend Stuart Brooks came across this gem on an impromptu foray into Liechtenstein.
Situated at the heart of Liechenstein’s bus network, which is operated for the principality of Liechenstein by Swiss bus operator PostAuto under the LIEMobil brand, Schaan bus station is both neat and a clever piece of transport architecture. It is to be found immediately outside Liechenstein’s main railway station Schaan-Vaduz (what did you expect? This is mainland Europe, after all). It opened on 20 November 2010, after a somewhat drawn-out and disruptive construction phase; a planned new sewer system was just one of the issues that delayed construction as the bus station’s design was adapted to take account.
In plan, Schaan bus station is a rounded triangle, serving two bus stops on each side. The large triangular roof provides shelter for the bus stops around the edge, but in its centre sports a huge cut-out. As such, the roof acts as a giant picture frame for views of the nearby mountains, which are always going to be more impressive than anything you could ever design. Nature isn’t always so picturesque though – the 2,240 tonne roof was designed to be safe in the event of an earthquake, a risk factor I had never previously considered in that part of the world.
Six slender concrete columns support the roof, one at each corner and one along each side of the triangle. At each corner of the bus station is a circular building with coloured glass walls. The orange building contains a waiting, the green one contains a travel centre and toilets, and the yellow one a staircase. The staircase leads down to an underground car park directly below the bus station, which has space for 149 vehicles. The car park is illuminated with coloured circular light fittings, referencing the details of the bus station above.
Architect Jon Ritter of Ritter Schumacher likens the bus station to an iceberg, with its bulk out of sight below the surface. But it is the design choices on the surface that are particularly clever. The rounded corners of the bus station elements are deliberate, intended to smooth the flow of passengers around the bus station. The floor of the bus station is blue, made from a granular rubber material. Ritter intended this to balance the grey of the roof, and to contrast with the hard urban materials surrounding the bus station. White lines laid on top of it mark out the main pedestrian desire lines around the bus station; these guide the sticks of visually-impaired passengers. Although I’ve frequently seen this done at transport facilities in mainland Europe, I’ve never seen it done in the UK. I wonder why? The seats are also notable, illuminated from within and glowing brighter whenever a bus approaches.
“Engineering becomes art and architecture,” says Ritter Schumacher of the new bus station. “Art not in the sense of an applied art-on-construction project, but as an integral part of the design.”
The new bus station was intended to act as the focal point for a wider remodelling of Schaan city centre. It’s certainly a successful landmark, and has been accompanied by redevelopment in the surrounding area. Along with traffic management measures and other public realm improvements, the centre of Schaan has now become more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists too.
How to find Schaan bus station
Bibliography and Further Reading
Project page for Schaan Bus Station at Ritter Schumacher’s website, here
Principality of Liechenstein Building Authority briefing on the new bus station, here
LIEmobil newsletter, with details of the opening of the new bus station, here