Shahira Hammad

Credit this architect for building a transportation hub that looks like it'd eat you alive.

You have to love Shahira Hammad for envisioning a train station where your principal concern wouldn't be getting there on time, but whether you could find your way out at all.

Hammad's proposal to revamp Vienna's staid Westbahnhof station draws heavily from natural processes like growth and entanglement: It looks like an immense rootball sprouted dozens of legs and started mating with a building. The structure is supported by thick, brown tendrils akin to mature poison-ivy vines. Peeking through these is an internal system of webs and membranes that appear to have been inspired by the thatched roofs of a shantytown, dimpled pig tripe and spindly rib cages.

The twisted exoskeleton penetrates the station's interior, too. Commuters would purchase tickets and scoot up escalators amid a dense thicket of earthy stalks and long, pokey things, for lack of a better phrase, in a unique configuration that I could easily see ensnaring a careless passerby. If ever a building could live by digesting the occasional inhabitant, Venus Flytrap-style, this would be it.

Hammad created these insane renderings for her thesis project at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. She wanted to recreate nature's "spontaneous order," a term that describes the way biological entities organize themselves out of apparent chaos. So while this rail station looks like someone dripped candle wax all over it, there is a method to the madness.

Much like natural systems like root bridges and mussel colonies, Hammad writes that this "is not disorder in the common sense, although it could have this appearance":

It is, evidently, a reaction against excessive rationalism and rationalizations. Yes, it is excessive, but essentially it tries nothing else but to bring the complexities present in Nature into the urban fabric....

All in all this is an architectural meditation on Time as well, since the structures I envisioned do reflect metamorphosis, the passage of Time, change, ephemerality and even decay… themes, again, neglected by conventional architectures.

While there's virtually no chance in hell that this station will get built, much like that office tower based on an insect nest, it's a beautiful mess to behold. Long live visionary architecture!

All photos courtesy of Shahira Hammad.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  2. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  3. A line of stores in Westport, Connecticut
    Equity

    Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing

    In southwest Connecticut, the gap between rich and poor is wider than anywhere else in the country. Invisible walls created by local zoning boards and the state government block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

  4. photo: a high-speed train in Switzerland
    Transportation

    The Case for Portland-to-Vancouver High-Speed Rail

    At the Cascadia Rail Summit outside Seattle, a fledgling scheme to bring high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver found an enthusiastic reception.

  5. A syringe sits on top of a car. Houses are behind it.
    Life

    The Changing Geography of the Opioid Crisis

    A new study shows that the country faces different opioid challenges in urban and rural areas.

×