Lyon-Satolas Airport Railway Station Lyon Satolas (now Saint Exupéry) Airport Lyon France

Lyon-Satolas Airport Railway Station
Lyon Satolas (now Saint Exupéry) Airport 

Santiago Calatrava 1989-1994
Calatrava's expressive railway station hall is built astride an existing TGV (high-speed train) track adjacent to Lyon airport. It provides a TGV station for the airport, but also a connection point for both TGV and airplanes into the regional road and rail system.

The building's most striking profile, based on two converging steel arches 120 meters long and 40 meters high. The building is most obviously expressive of a bird, symbolizing flight with even more dynamism than Saarinen's TWA terminal in New York, the two main arches coming together at the bird's beak. Calatrava insists this was not its origin: "I never thought of a bird, but more of the research that I am sometimes pretentious enough to call sculpture" - which is inspired more by the shape of the human eye.

Arriving from the airport, one enters the hall from a connecting pier, arriving at the 'back of the bird', at an elevated level. Escalators lead down into the main concourse, from which wings spread out on either side above the railway tracks, with further escalators down to the platforms.

The expressiveness of Calatrava's structure continues inside the building as much as outside. Two concrete 'tongues' are cantilevered like the prows of ships over the main concourse. 

The disappointment is that the energy of the building is not matched by its role as a transport hub. Catering for only a handful of TGV trains per day, the cavernous concourses spend most of their time looking successfully prestigious but also rather empty and unexploited. The 'tongues', for example, would be wondeful café spaces, but remain empty decks. 

Simon Glynn 2004
Additional photography Sam Glynn 2004

How to visit
Lyon Satolas Aiport (now Saint Exupéry) is Lyon's main airport, about 15km east of the city.
By car, follow the A43 motorway southeast from Lyon, and take the spur A432 motorway north into the airport. The closest parking for the TGV station is car park P6.

By train, the station is served directly by TGV from Paris and other cities, and by local trains. The train line it sits on, however, runs past Lyon and not into it; getting to the airport from the city center by public transport is best done by bus.

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