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As part of the preparations for the Regional Garden Show 2014, many urban and green areas in Schwäbisch Gmünd were restructured, linked and upgraded. The pedestrian undercrossing at the Gmünd station was reconstructed and extended within the scope of these plans, creating an attractive and lively link between the areas to the south and the north of the train tracks. The walls of the tunnel were designed using the weather and wear resistant HI-MACS® material.
The reconstruction of the undercrossing was decided in a tender advertised by the town authorities. The town authorities invited local designers and architects - including four student teams from the Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd - mentored by Klaus Marek of "preiswerk marek architekten" architecture firm - to submit their ideas. The Swiss architects provided their support in the winning student project and assume responsibility for implementation planning.
The green belt
The new undercrossing connects the old southern and the new northern part of the town of Schwäbisch Gmünd and the newly created green areas.
The walls of the tunnel are covered with white HI-MACS® curved panels, while indirect lighting guides visitors coming to the town. They flow from the main hallway to the access passages to platforms. The staircases are harmonically integrated in the design and accompany pedestrians to their destination with changing light displays. These displays are controlled via dynamic effect lighting. The lighting concept refers to the topics at the Regional Garden Show. In the summer, the lights mirror fresh leave movement with sun rays shining through, while red and brown shades of autumn colours appear between the leave movement during the autumn and winter seasons. At night, the tunnel glimmers in nightly blue.
The architect, Klaus Marek, was looking for a material which would allow him to implement the three-dimensional shapes of the student design. The structure needed to be simple and strong, as large numbers of visitors are expected to attend the show. At the same time, the aim was to prevent damage by vandalism in future. With the support of 5D Engineering from Dresden, who is responsible for the statics and engineering drawing, he opted for the solid surface material HI-MACS®. The HI-MACS® Solid Surface seemed to be the perfect solution: Its non-porous smooth finish consists of 67% natural stone powder, 30% high-quality acrylic and 3% natural pigments. This composition makes it resistant to vandalism. The acrylic stone can be thermoformed. This property allowed Marek to implement the organically-uniform shapes of the panels with a high level of surface aesthetics. "The only way to implement the design was by using a solid surface material. At the same time, the properties of the material comply with all rail-specific requirements in regard to wall coverings in pedestrian undercrossings: It is thermoformable, completely homogeneous and has a smooth finish, it is weather and impact resistant, easy to clean and can be solidly and invisibly attached to the wall."
The 2.5 m long HI-MACS® panels are mounted on an agraffe using a stainless steel undercut anchor, hinged reversibly into an aluminium façade substructure. Open horizontal and vertical joints compensate temperature-related length changes and ensure the necessary level of wall ventilation. The plane aluminium plate substructure covers the concrete wall, while acting as a reflector for the effect lighting at the same time. The cavity behind the curved panel is used for mounting the lights.
"There is no other material which offers this creative freedom in combination with a high level of functionality in terms of durability and resistance to environmental impacts" says Marek about HI-MACS®.