Project Profile: Tshwane Rapid Transit Stations

Each of the individual Tshwane BRT stations is unique but clearly recognisable as a Tshwane BRT station marker. The TRT lines are intended to make public transport easy, regenerate certain urban areas and bring people back into the city. One of the other main driving factors in the design of these stations was to make it user friendly and accessible to all, with a specific emphasis on the usability for those with disabilities.

Steel played a major part to fulfil the client’s vision to create a public space in which its users still feel connected to their surroundings. This is not an underground tube station but a covered communal space, filled with light and natural ventilation. The station functions as a transparent, temporary meeting place that link the history of the city to the present.

Elements of the station such as handrails, security screens, signage, enclosing walls and platforms are designed with the potential to become artworks at stations in locations identified as having either historical, tourist or commercial value.

The vertical element (Totem) positioned at all station entrances is another defining feature of this project and acts as a branding element, signature of the TRT system, location device and another way to bring art to the public.

Retro Tram Stations 

The retro tram station was designed to be a representation of the character and history of the Tshwane environment. In addition it draws inspiration from the historical public transport systems of Pretoria e.g. the historic trams in Church Square.  Formalised public transport in Pretoria began in 1896 with horse-drawn trams. These were replaced by electric trams in 1910. Trams were replaced by buses in 1935. The new station was inspired by the historic trams but also reminiscent of other modes of public transport such as trains and busses.

The station is essentially a single space covered by a curved roof and enclosed by a transparent glass wall system. It is designed to allow the passengers to have an uninterrupted clean view of the ‘outside’.

The station finishes are selected from a palette of locally sourced, hardwearing, durable, natural and low maintenance materials including face brick, concrete, stainless or galvanized steel, energy efficient glass and powder coated or natural anodised aluminium. These materials and their colours are chosen to suite the historical context, urban environment or the natural colour pallet of the variety of station locations along the routes.

Steel is integral in the design of the retro tram station. The entire structural skeleton of the station is steel. It is chosen for its durability, lightweight construction,
speed of construction as well as the form it can produce in reference to the historic electric trams

Galvanized steel is used as the roof sheeting; the ceiling is aluminium and the ticketing kiosk and disabled WC are made wholly from stainless steel. Steel is also used in rudimentary but essential public objects such as benches, handrails and waste bins.

For the structural frame, tubular steel columns are used with the radius bent to the outside to resemble the historical tram design.  Columns are spaced 4 metres apart. The curved beam profile linking the two column tops complete the portal frame.  Horizontal channels run the full length of the station, either side of each column line, forming the skeleton for an element referred to as the ‘weatherband’. The latter element serves as a flashed horizontal interface between the area below (wider) and above (narrower) to ensure weatherproofing of the station.

The roof is characterised by long over-hanging purlins at the gable ends, and a substantial galvanized U-shaped gutter running the full length of the station at eaves level. Downpipes are included within the steel columns to hide stormwater discharge from the roof.

Memory Box Stations

The Memory Box station types were specifically chosen to be in sensitive historical locations where they are required to be ‘non buildings’ that blend into their sensitive historical contexts.

The Memory Box station differs from the Retro Tram stations in that they are lower in scale so as to be less intrusive in their surrounding context. Consisting primarily of glass panels running all the way up to the roof line, the intention is for the stations to reflect their surroundings while the apparent simple yet multi-layered facades consist of randomly staggered glass and steel elements which blend into the constant movement and activity of the inner city’s traffic and pedestrians.

Some stations consist of two modules connected by a link. Where space allowed, these links were designed as open spaces with trees and benches. The inclusion of trees in these spaces provides welcome foliage and shading for the inner-city as well as providing a more naturally relaxing experience for commuters waiting for a connecting bus.

The main structure comprises small square hollow section columns spaced at 2 metres, connected with a horizontal I-beam to form a portal. In the longitudinal direction, the columns are connected at regular intervals with hot-rolled channels and angles, according to the architect’s design. The portals are connected longitudinally with a deep channel profile running the full length of the station at eaves level. The roof is characterised by an internal gutter (behind the tie-channel) and a raised centre portion (on the ridge).

Despite the relative high density of the structural steel frame (architect’s requirement), the overall impression of the station is still ‘light’, with all the glazed cladding. Detailing of the numerous connections and service opening posed a challenge to the design and fabricating team. There are no vertical service ducts in the station, and all services (electrical and data) is routed through the hollow sections. The concept of a Meccano set was used to manufacture as many parts as possible off-site and to bolt them together on site.

Internally the space is ‘animated’ by a suspended wooden ceiling which consists of hanging wooden panels cut to form an impression of flowing waves. When the internationally acclaimed artist Diane Victor saw the station for the first time she remarked that the “dancing ceiling” makes the everyday journey more pleasurable.

Vertical elements announce each station and act as landmarks in each specific urban setting. Therefore the idea was proposed and accepted that these vertical elements should include an artwork which relates specifically to their surroundings. These art works will enhance the city with a remarkable art collection from some of our most prominent contemporary artists; brightening the day of the daily commuters and even becoming a reason to simply do an ‘Art Circuit’ tour of the city on the TRT system.

Working in unison with glass, the steel component in this project brings a user into a world-class public transport system.

Tswane Rapid Transit Project Profile Steel Construction Journal Extract (PDF)
(Articles or extracts thereof may be reproduced provided that prior
permission is obtained from the publisher and full acknowledgement is given.)


Client: SANRAL
Architects: Mashabane Rose Associates Architects (Retro stations),  Mathews & Associates Architects (Memory Box stations)
Structural Engineer: Royal Haskoning DHV
Quantity Surveyor: Equate Quantity Surveyors
Main Contractor: Group Five Construction
Steelwork Contractor: Khombanani Steel
Detailing Company: 3D-Struct
Hot Dip Galvanizers: Armco Isando
Corrosion Protection: DRAM Industrial Painters