Excerpt:‘Caracas Underground’ is an architecture thesis based on transit oriented development by César Barbarán from ‘Arquitectura y Artes Plásticas – USB’, Universidad Simón Bolívar, that seeks to enhance the city’s spaces in relation to the Caracas Metro System through the architecture of the stations. The proposal offers fluidity of circulation, natural light and ventilation, and wide open spaces, guaranteeing user comfort in the most popular mode of transportation in Caracas. It also focuses on an aspect of urban relations that makes it possible to build programmatic multifunctionality in the stations for the entire city.
Introduction: The subway is the most widely used form of public transportation in modern cities due to its ability to transport many people across long distances in a short amount of time. This calls for the metro’s public spaces to have a nodal exchange character, where many pedestrian flows are at the metropolitan level and then have an impact locally through their recreational areas.
The goal of this architecture thesis is to enhance the city’s spaces in relation to the Caracas Metro System through the architecture of the stations, which offers fluidity of circulation, natural light, natural ventilation, and wide open spaces, guaranteeing user comfort in the most popular mode of transportation in Caracas. It is also focused on an area of urban relations that enables the establishment of programmatic multifunctionality in the stations for the city as a whole.
The prospect led to the conception of the thesis project, which explores various facets of urban life. The development of metro stations that are accessible to the city in this way produces a variety of multipurpose and dynamic plans that supplement the urban relationship with the Caracas Metro’s underground environment through the addition of cultural, commercial, residential, road, and academic elements.
The east-west axis of Caracas city contains the largest concentration of urban areas. The chosen sector for intervention is approximately 4.8 km, which consists of existing and proposed stations at the Caracas metro system. The research project takes place in several areas of Caracas, with a particular emphasis on the metro station as a hub for social, academic, cultural, and economic exchange.
The current user experience in Caracas is not particularly pleasant due to the lengthy and tiresome processes of quick circulation and prolonged waiting, all of which are immersed in deteriorated, enclosed, gloomy, and quite poorly ventilated facilities that typically induce discomfort for the user. Six metro stations—Bellas Artes, Ciudad Universitaria, Las Mercedes, Chacaito, Miranda, and Waraira Repano—are involved in the process of achieving this. Each one responds differently and is distinguished by unique urban features that enhance local activities.
The design is based on contextual analysis of the areas, with an in-depth understanding of the inhabitants’ behaviours, affluence, accessibility, population density, and economy. In the case of the Chacaito Station, the metro station serves as an underground urban connector, connecting various areas of the Brion Square and creating a pleasant and comprehensive experience in the underground spaces. Two volumes are proposed at its ends, which would drastically change the city of Caracas.
1- Bellas Artes Station: This station is well known for its close proximity to numerous cultural institutions and museums. It is located underneath a major street in the heart of Caracas, close to the Torres de Parque Central and other large office buildings. Therefore, the study explores the integration of this plaza with an underground green park, producing several level variations and connecting to the Anauco River, creating a water plaza in front of the metro station.
2- Ciudad Universitaria Station: It is well-known for being close to Universidad Central de Venezuela, one of Venezuela’s most significant universities. It’s a huge complex with colleges, stadiums, parks, and corridors. The metro station is located at the main entrance of the university, near Paseo los Ilustres, an important boulevard of Caracas.
Because of the university, the majority of its surroundings are institutional. By opening up the metro platform’s ceiling to the sky and adding a spiral staircase, the research project proposes a way to improve the university’s entrance. The public academic building on the other side is open to anyone who wants to attend classes.
3- Las Mercedes Station: This station is located on the main avenue of Las Mercedes, a part of Caracas that is quickly developing. There are numerous office buildings being constructed in the context, and most of them are over 30 metres tall. Currently, the metro station is in the tendering stage. The project proposes an office tower above the metro station and provides a rental scheme over the train platform. This offers the chance to develop plazas underneath the structure that connects to the metro station, resulting in an airy, well-ventilated waiting area for the train.
4- Miranda Station: Miranda Station is situated between two of Caracas’ major roads and in front of Parque del Este, one of the city’s most significant parks. Although primarily residential areas surround it, the park is the main attraction. The station is already constructed, but there is a connection for the fifth metro line.
The intervention includes a pedestrian connection from the station to the park and proposes a new cultural centre that resolves the connection via the avenue, keeping in mind that there must be a corridor that connects the old metro station to the new project. This is accomplished by opening the roof, giving metro riders an entirely new spatial experience.
5- Warairarepano Station: One of the system’s future initiatives, this station is situated at the intersection of two highways and the area is primarily residential due to the suburbs. The objective is to link three separate systems, such as the Metro’s Line 5, the Cabletren cable car, and the Metro Guarenas Guatire. The research project proposes a brand-new residential complex that connects the environment to the transit network. This entails public transport, bus stops and a new cableway connecting the nearby suburbs, resulting in new community squares and expansive metro areas.
6- Chacaito Station: This architectural thesis has covered Chacaito Station in greater detail. This station is well-known for being under Plaza Brion, an important civic square in the city, and is situated in the geographic middle of Caracas. Its surroundings include a high business zone, some residential areas, and a number of office towers that are currently under construction. The intervention at Chacaito station is divided into three parts: (i) The Gallery, (ii) The Library and (iii) The Tower.
The Gallery: The gallery spaces are mostly lit by wide patios with light and plants, which cool the typically warm atmosphere of the underground structure. However, spaces adjacent to these can be proposed to work for exhibitions and presentations in the underground system, such as works of art, theatre, a concert in the metro, artistic performances, etc. The Plaza Brion and the ceiling of the underground areas will serve as urban furniture and to provide essential natural light.
The Library: An inclined space that serves for public presentations in a shaded plaza, where performances can be held, connects the subway to the ground. The building has flexible usage and the inclined space functions as a wide and adaptable space, including reading rooms, study areas, permanent collections, and exhibition areas.
The building’s other section functions as a library and houses all the data on the nation’s transit systems, including details on the first trams, railways, projects that the metro proposed, and various works of literature that support metro culture. Micro-perforated metal sheets are proposed for the building’s east and west facades in order to limit the sun’s constant exposure during the day and afternoon. For the remaining users, a terrace with a few tables and chairs is created between the glass façade and the parasols.
The Tower: The tower’s initial floors are available for office rental, providing a guaranteed source of income that will enable and promote the expansion of the Metro system. These areas run from the 8th floor of the tower to the 16th floor, serving a typology of open-plan workplaces. The remaining floors are proposed for use by the presidency, vice presidency, board of directors, internal audit, and some management of the support sector where the administrative tasks of the metro can be done effectively.
Conclusion: The project looks at the potential of each metro station based on their location and suggests a unique program along with relevant spatial strategies. The project’s final outcome is a collection of interventions that boost pedestrian activity in Caracas, with a particular emphasis on the potential of metro stations to provide transit oriented development and how they may contribute to the growth and improvement of the city.
[This Academic Project has been published with text submitted by the student]
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