Shell & Shadow by Zaha Hadid Architects, a project for Nordpark Railway Stations in Innsbuck, Austria, is a unique architectural statement which is inspired, in its fluidity, by natural ice formations. The roof structures are lightweight and organic in its form, as they float on concrete plinths forming a soft artificial landscape that aims to describe the movement and circulation within. The brief required the design of four stations leading to Innsbruck’s chain of mountains and the team thoughtfully studied natural phenomena as glacial moraines and ice movements in order to develop a language fluid enough, like a frozen stream.
As each station in the chain has its unique context, topography and altitude, it was necessary to adapt to these specific site conditions, while still maintaining a unifying overall architectural language. High degree of flexibility was required in order to adjust the shell structures to the variable parameters of each station.
The concept of lightness and large cantilevers with small touch-down areas become the trademark of the station chain, together with double-curvature glass. CNC milling and thermoforming, new used techniques, provided great precision in translation from the computer generated design into the actual structure.
The manufacturing technologies used for this project were developed for car industry and are here used to create the streamlined aesthetics for each station; therefore the results very much resemble of streamlined industrial design pieces, from yachts and car bodies to airplane wings. It can be understood as Innsbruck’s commitment to pursue the highest standards of architecture while pushing the boundaries of design and construction.