Rail Baltica is a greenfield rail transport infrastructure project with a goal to integrate the Baltic States in the European rail network. The project includes 5 European Union countries: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. The Rail Baltica project is a symbolic return of the Baltic States to Europe. Up to World War II the Baltic States were connected to Europe with standard 1435 mm gauge railway, but after the war, they have been changed to Russian gauge of 1520 mm. Today most rail freight traffic in the Baltics originates from CIS countries, Russia in particular, and the 1520 mm system makes it difficult and costly to interconnect the Baltics with the rest of EU via Poland. Therefore, there is a full consensus on the need to fully integrate Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the single European railway area, eliminating the missing rail link of the EU’s North Sea – Baltic TEN-T Core Network Corridor. The current state of art of the railway line creates a clear separation between the Baltic countries and the rest of Europe. Nowadays, the best way to reach the Baltic countries from Europe is to travel by plane, which is expensive, in terms of costs and time, and difficult because of the absence of daily direct flights from the main airports. Today most of the imports of goods that comes from Europe is transported by truck, which is unsustainable in terms of environment, cost and time.
Rail Baltica is one of the most important public infrastructural projects in central Europe, co-funded up to 85% of the total eligible costs, and consistent growth is expected in multiple sectors, such as tourism, economics, trade, and culture. One of the biggest challenges of the project was to create a unique language taking into consideration that the network is connecting 3 different countries having a proper identity. Based on this need, Rail Baltica decided to realize a manual collecting all the guidelines that the project will have to follow during the design and construction phase.
The Architectural, landscaping and visual identity guidelines will cover all the elements of the project, such as railway and road bridges, noise barriers, animal passage, pedestrian overpass and also the regional stations that will be realized along the entire line.
In order to define the elements that will represent the identity of the project, three levels of identity have been identified: network, country, and regional identity. One of the focal points of the design is that this infrastructure must be recognizable in its entirety. The“Rail Baltica touch” must be visible in all the elements of the track, both from the passenger’s point of view and from the external point of view. The design of the elements must be standardized on the network and applied to the different elements. The cultures and identities of the 3 Baltic countries have much in common: they share the same history, face the same sea and are located in similar natural environments. The Baltic cultures also have many peculiarities that need to be taken into account by differentiating and enhancing them in each country. The same elements that characterize the identity of the network will need to have specific variations according to the country such as materials or colors. Culture and traditions of each of the 3 Baltic countries vary widely between their regions. Valuing local identities is therefore of fundamental importance, both for the concerned communities and for their integration. Especially in regional stations, spaces or elements shall be designed to show the local culture of a particular region, enhancing and increasing its awareness first on a national and then on an international level.
Based on these inputs and on several activities performed during the study with Stakeholders, local people and associations, the guidelines to design the Rail Baltica architectural, landscaping and visual identity elements have been realized.
The manual consists of 7 books. Each book provides specific instructions about a specific item of the project. Of course, each book will communicate with others so, expectations, deliverables, and general rules are illustrated in a Volume 0. The other books consist of two main themes: the explanation of the brand and the illustration of the elements from the design and materials point of view.
In addition to the identity, adaptability has been the other principle to be followed.
Since the Guidelines elements will be placed along with three different countries, it was very important to consider that site condition and municipality requirements could be very different from each other.
Considering this as a starting point, every element has been designed to be adaptable to site conditions and extendible if necessary, preserving the specific identity.
One of the main items analyzed has been the typological regional station.
In addition to the international station, regional stations and their landscape, are the places where people will have direct experience of the “Rail Baltica Touch”.
Stations have been designed in order to provide a comfortable and safe place for passengers and make them feel at home. The concept design, in fact, is inspired by the traditional architecture of the Baltic house interpreted in a contemporary way.
Also, the landscape takes inspiration from the local environment. During the interviews with the Stakeholders, one of the most poetic answers we have received when we have asked: “What you have in common with the other countries?” they have answered “the sea”.
Sinuous lines characterized the design of the external area of the regional station gathering all the functions required for a multimodal station such as the bus stop, bike and car parking, electrical stations and a big pedestrian area in order to provide to municipalities a place where organize local events and activities making the station a real public space to live.
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