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TGV/RER Station roof, Charles de Gaulle Airport
Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle 2, Roissy-en-France, France
associated engineer
Peter Rice
date  1988 - 1995
era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  AA999999
The train tunnels of the TGV/RER station run under Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle's Terminal 2, perpendicular to the road network and the southern runway. Engineered by Peter Rice and RFR, the station’s glass and steel roof appears to float over the railway cutting and platforms. It's a good example of structural articulation — a technique that Rice used elsewhere with great success.
The TGV/RER railway station has lines for both TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, or high speed train) and RER (Réseau Express Régional, or regional express network) trains and is located between the second and third hubs of Terminal 2. The trains run in concrete tunnels below the runway and local roads, into a railway cutting at the station. RFR was appointed to design a glazed roof and side walls to enclose the platforms.
RFR was founded in Paris in 1982 as a partnership between Peter Rice (1935-92) and architects Martin Francis and Ian Ritchie, though he remained a director of Ove Arup & Partners in London. By the late 1980s, Rice had gained a reputation in France for distinctive glass and steel structures. For the station roof, RFR was consulting engineer and also managed the project, but took on more of an architectural role too, collaborating closely with the client's and train company's architects — Paul Andreu for Aéroports de Paris, and Jean-Marie Duthilleul for SNCF.
The architectural concept is based on two ideas — that the contrast of moving from a dark tunnel into a light airy space should be emphasised, and that the roof should reference the mechanics of flight, providing a sense of place. To achieve the first idea, the station is primarily clad in glass, 28,000 sq m of it. And the myriad of steel members are all painted white.
To achieve the second idea, the huge roof is supported independently of the surrounding cutting and appears to float above the station. Non-loadbearing glass walls infill the area between ground and the roof. The idea of structural articulation greatly interested Rice and is used as an organising principle for the station's design. Among the other techniques employed is the reduction in size of the steel members the higher they are from the ground.
The station is as long as the longest TGV — 500m. Its sloping roof consists of a series of giant transverse lattice beams with curved double bottom chords, similar in appearance to bow strings but not radially strung — the team dubbed these 'croissants' because of their characteristic profile. Their top chords are supported by a series of groups of splayed hollow steel columns that fan out from giant cast steel connectors, like the fingers on a hand, each column supporting a different beam. The column groups are set in two longitudinal rows, roughly dividing the station into thirds, with column heads meeting the beams in their mid sections — consequently the ends of the beams act as tied-down cantilevers.
The use of cast steel, which is relatively unusual for buildings, is another element characteristic of Rice's approach. The connectors are at floor level on the station concourse and mounted on rectilinear pre-stressed concrete columns at platform level, placing the relatively 'friendly' cast work close to the users of the building.
Above the 'croissant' beams, longitudinal steel truss 'rafters' support a two-way grid of steel framing for translucent glazed panels. The glasswork appears to float above the steel skeleton. Steel plates and a silicon gasket extrusion mesh have been used to fix the panels to their grid. The glass is fritted (patterned), which softens the natural daylight. At night the fritting diffuses the reflected artificial lighting from the station below, giving the roof a luminous quality.
The walls of the station are composed of sections almost 100m long of transparent glass panels, maximising the view of the airport. The walls are supported independent of the roof by a series of vertical steel cantilevered columns, up to 17m high and set 4.75m apart. The separation of walls and roof is emphasised by the different set-outs for the two types of columns.
The vertical columns are braced against torsion by pre-stressed cables that run close to the toughened glass walls. Steel rods extend from the columns to support groups of panes using spreaders.
The total cost was 120 million French francs (about £15m). In 1991, the glazing alone had cost 3,300 French francs per sq m (about £330). The project was completed in 1995, three years after the untimely death of its engineer, Peter Rice.
Architect: Paul Andreu (for Aéroports de Paris), Jean-Marie Duthilleul (for SNCF)
Building control engineer: CEP Ventas
Contractor and steelwork construction: Watson Steel Ltd
Steelwork construction: Helmut Fischer GmbH
Steelwork construction: The Angle Ring Company Ltd
Research: ECPK
"Structural Glass" by Hugh Dutton and Peter Rice
2nd edition, Taylor & Francis, September 1995
"The Engineer's Contribution to Contemporary Architecture: Peter Rice” by André Brown, Thomas Telford, 2001
reference sources   AEI

TGV/RER Station roof, Charles de Gaulle Airport