San Sebastian Subway Entrance / Snøhetta

San Sebastian Subway Entrance / Snøhetta
Courtesy of Snøhetta

The building of the new metro in San Sebastian Donastia will connect the people and the different areas of the city in a new way. It will set a new standard for the future of the town and its way forward. It will offer donastiarras and visitors a new means of public transpiration, and be a part of the future pulse of San Sebastian Donastia. The entrance design by Snøhetta is based on a continuous movement from underground level to over ground, and vice versa. The design element goes from being a ceiling structure underground to create a roof structure over the stairs and up over ground. The structure describes the transition between the two states and connects the city life with the metro world. More images and architects’ description after the break.

San Sebastian Donastia has a unique and dramatic setting on the coastline in Basque Country. With it’s perfect harbor the city has developed by the forces from the sea and the land. San Sebastian’s picturesque coastline makes it a popular beach resort. Adding to the seaside environment, it benefits from hilly surroundings easily available, Mount Urgull (at the heart of the city by the seashore), romantic Mount Ulia extending east to Pasaia, Mount Adarra rising proud far on the south and Igeldo, overlooking the bay from the west. The city sits at the mouth of the River Urumea. San Sebastian Donostia having built to a large extent over wetlands of the river during the last couple of centuries, with the city’s downtown and the areas of Amara Berri and Riberas de Loiola lying on such terrain and the former bed of the river diverted to its current canalized course


San Sebastián shows a dynamic cultural scene, where grass-roots initiative based on different parts of the city and the concerted private and public synergy have paved the ground for a rich range of possibilities and events catering to the tastes of a wide and selected public alike. The city bids to become European Capital of Culture in 2016 with a basic motto, “Waves of people’s energy”, are summarizing a clear message: people and movements of citizens are the real driving force behind transformations and changes in the world. The new Metro Donostiaaleda will be a key part of this transformation.

competition board 01

During centuries, the city has been open to many influences that have left a trace, often mingling with the local customs and traditions and eventually resulting in festivals and new customs. This can be seen in the decorative element, like the balustrade along the La Concha beach, the façade of the Cathedral, the colors of the fishing boats and the delicate pintoxs served in bars.

competition board 02

It has been an important design task to translate some of this richness in a new and modern way. The design of the entrances needs to be easily recognizable and have a design/aesthetics which reflect this special city Our goal has been to design an entrance for the Metro Donostiaaleda based on the following:

competition board 03

- Openness; Open light structure, filter light at daytime, reflects light at nighttime. - Identity; Reference to marine geometry - Iconic design - Flexibility; same design adjustable to all stations

The roof structure extends the width of the stair creating an area on the side where we have placed a bench and information signing. This will give the entrance a connection to the street life and create small urban spaces around the entrance where it possible.

competition board 04

The roof and ceilings structure is built up as a honeycomb structure in aluminum or steel. The pattern of the honeycomb is inspired by marine structures and geometry. The honeycomb structure is a sufficient way to build up a light open structure with depth. For the roof portion of the structure can be glazed on both sides and will behave as a sandwich structure. The idea is that the honeycomb structure is the basic element which other element can be added on, like glass on top side of roof portion, railings, sidewall or bench

The honeycomb structure is 3D model with parametric design so you can adjust the geometry to different width, length, depth and density. This gives a freedom in the forward design process to optimize the structure for production. All elements in the structure are planar, both plates and glass elements. The facets of the structure are orientated towards a common point, so it can be stretched for fit different site conditions.

We have studied the urban integration of the design at three stations:

- Antigua: At Antigua both Boca Acceso1 and 3 are placed along a street side. And will be covered. The roof structure will be slightly longer version at these entrances both at Matia Kalea and Heriz Pasalekua to fit the limited area for the entrance fottprint.

- La Concha: The two entrances at La Concha will be covered. The entrance Boca Acceso 1 at Zaragoza Plaza is in an open park situation and will be a shorter and wider version then the entrance at Urbieta Kalea, Boca Acceso 2. In Urbita Kalea the entrance will be on a street corner with limited space around.

- Altza: The station in Altza will have open stairs. In this situation the structure can fit as an open roof / ceiling structure in connection with the stairs. Width and length are adjusted to the dimension of the stairs, Boca Acceso 1 and 2.

The use of materials are based on section 8.2.3 under Functional Specifications:

- Steel: Roof / ceiling structure is AISI 316 stainless steel or similar Structural elements is AISI 316 stainless steel or similar

- Glass element is 16 mm tempered and laminated glass stair is terrazzo in a light colour, paving around entrance is terrazzo with inlays of stainless steel

- Bench

The use of daylight and artificial light is important to “stage” the design of the roof structure. At daytime daylight will filter through the honeycomb structure and cast a lace of shadows in the stairs and on the pavement. The ceiling portion of the structure will continue this diffusion of light up to the station tunnel. At nighttime LED lights integrated in the depth of the structure will make the structure light up from within.

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About this author
Cite: Alison Furuto. "San Sebastian Subway Entrance / Snøhetta" 28 Nov 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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