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High Speed Rail Network, Taiwan

Issue 46 Dec / Jan 2008/9: Architectural : Transport


Jimmie Wing reports on a remarkable lighting design collaboration in Taiwan.

The Taiwan High Speed Rail network runs along the west coast of Taiwan for approximately 335 kilometres (208 mi) from Taipei City to Kaohsiung City. It began operation on January 5, 2007. The total cost of the project is currently estimated to be US$15 billion, and it is one of the largest privately funded transport schemes to date. Express trains capable of travelling at over 300km/h travel from Taipei City to Kaohsiung City in roughly 90 minutes as opposed to 4.5 hours by conventional rail. In late October 2005, Taiwan High Speed Rail passed its targeted speed of 300 km/h (186 mph) to 315 km/h (197 mph) during testing. Funded by private means, it is billed as the largest Build-Operate-Transfer project in known history.

The New York Times reported, “Passengers who travel on a fully loaded train will use only a sixth of the energy they would use if they drove alone in a car and will release only one-ninth as much carbon dioxide, the main gas linked to global warming.” The rail line has reduced much of the Western Taiwan domestic air traffic due to its popularity.

The lighting for the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) stations was created by internationally renowned designers. Three of them happen to be Taiwanese - Tawei Lin, JK Yao and Chiming Lin. The other two are New York City based Chou Lien of BPI and Charles Stone of FMS. Tawei Lin’s company, CWI was the branch office for Brandston (BPI) when these projects started in 1999. Chou Lien was involved in the concept phases. In 2002, CWI became independent and after reaching an agreement with BPI, carried on with all the work for its projects as it had done from the beginning.

But for the indomitable Nita Ing, Chairwoman of THSR who was the driving force behind the entire project, it might have been a lot simpler to select just one architect and lighting designer for all these stations. Ms Ing set up a series of anti-corruption measures for the THSR project, ranging from competitive bidding to seminars aimed at instilling anti-graft culture. As part of her vision, various leading architects were invited to join the project, thereby including some of the world’s most illustrious lighting designers. This is the result...

It was Tawei Lin who first brought the projects to mondo*arc’s attention and contributed the major portion to this report. In the early stages of planning, Lin had been invited by the architects to participate in the rail project spanning almost the entire length of Taiwan. According to Lin, for the Taoyuan Station project they had decided to approach it from the perspective of a landscape architect due to the huge size of the site with two other buildings alongside the station. With a long low horizontal building for the station, they felt they could express a feeling of speed and movement through linear patterns and modular alignments. A pronounced lantern effect was created with LEDs to dot the columns. In Taoyuan, almost a satellite city of Taipei, the architects focused more on the system - architectural, lighting, and landscape, especially the 12 metre architectural grid.

For the Chiayi and Tainan projects, two stations that are virtually identical and farther away from Taiwan’s major cities, the architects wanted to bring in the organic as a reflection of the rural, agricultural landscape. Their concept was to create a metaphorical forest with columns and space frames, paying attention to the elements of rain, wind and sun. To connect the rural and the modern, they used the concept of orbit for movement, with a slanted roof and tilted oval punch with organic tree branches holding a floating roof. The architects paid more attention to the organic shape and how the daylight functioned with the architecture.

These three projects went through various phases starting in 1999 and completed in 2006. Firstly the Concept Phase in 1999: When CWI started to get involved they found out right away that a lot of reports had to be produced due to the client’s project management requirements. Each station was assigned to different architects and different representatives from the clients and even though they were working on three stations, the processes and feedback were not quite the same. Next was the Design Development Phase in 2001: Lighting layouts were produced and illuminance requirements were very strict.

Computer calculations were carefully reviewed by the engineering consultants for safety reasons. This phase was more technical discussion. Following that was the Construction Document Phase in 2002 involving more detailed studies on how the lighting fixtures would ‘cooperate’ with the architecture.

Then came the Shop Drawing Review Phase in 2003: In order to have the data for the computer software (Lumen Micro or AGI), US or European products were initially required but due to the budget concerns some of these were replaced with local products. According to Lin, it was time consuming to double check and ask for the data to make sure their design would reached the required Illuminance level. After that was the Construction Phase through 2004 and 2005: Because different stations were constructed by different contractors, and by different contraction management companies, the results were not the same. For example even though the Tainan and Chiayi stations are almost identical, they had a more clear idea and communication with the Chiayi team.

Thus the lighting details were carried on more carefully and followed the original design. And finally there was the self-explanatory Final Adjustment Phase in 2006.

With many major lighting accomplishments under his belt for Tawei Lin, the project was unique in terms of the 7-year time span it took to complete. It meant that project management was extremely important throughout. Some project managers on the owner’s and the architects’ sides were replaced but fortunately two diligent project managers who stayed on board were / are from CWI - Ms Wu Su-Chen and Ms Penny Lin. They had very clear idea of the whole process and even assisted the architects’ follow up on all the lighting and architectural details. It was also unique because all the documentation had to be in English as there were so many foreign consultants. Thirdly, the strict power budget and light source restrictions made the project quite a challenge.

Lighting Solutions:
For Taoyuan Station: Strict power consumption, equipment and operating cost requirements defined the parameters. By using minimal light and only two different lighting temperatures in a strict layout following the architectural grid, a clear site organisation and feeling of connectedness are created. The Station Hall, flanked by covered walkways, is a bright white lantern standing at the intersection of the main axis. Secondary areas off the main axis and in the landscape are unified with a warmer colour and are still an obvious extension of the grid giving a feeling of safety to pedestrians.

By using different lighting temperatures 4000K (Metal Halide) and 2100K (HPS) in the major areas and pathways, viewers on the street or inside the Station Hall get a clear idea of the organisation of the site. The main axis includes the Station Hall in the center with operations office building and parking structure on the ends, all connected by covered walkways. The brightest level, lit with metal halide and fluorescent, includes the Station Hall (4000K MH), major axes (that extend through the buildings), covered walkways and entrances, but the Station Hall stands out as the focal point. In the Plaza, a clear lighting scale makes the space more organised. 5m pole lights with louvered LEDs and down-lights define the main axis, 3m lower pole lights (70W MH) mark a secondary path parallel to the main axis, bollards (26W TC-D) mark the cross axis, step-lights (TC18W) lead to a higher level where vent louvers become lanterns, and up-lights illuminate the trees. All fixtures are the same colour temperature, and less than 3W/sqm of energy is used. Areas off the main axes in the landscape are unified with HPS and parking is integrated into the grid unit (12 metres) of the landscape and architecture. Here 4.5m shorter poles (150W HPS) offer a more human scale and glowing tops add a park-like atmosphere.

The metal canopy grills on the Station Hall are lit with fluorescent up-lights mounted inside the curtain wall to create a floating roof image. White LED dots (6W) recessed in both sides of the steel columns create visual sparkle and a rhythm that marks the entrances. Minimal lighting on the exterior enhances the lantern effect and allows trusses to become lattice shutters. Woven horizontal and vertical elements along the Station Hall and covered walkway create a connection between covered walkway and Station Hall, aided by the LED dots that match the roofline of the covered walkway. Two horizontal lines of fluorescent up-lights illuminate both edges of the covered walkway and another brightens the bus canopy. 150W MH surface-mounted down-lights add more light for bus passengers.

For Chiayi and Tainan Stations: Minimal lighting on the plaza side with exposed industrial uplights (150 W HIT) (mounted on mullions) defining canopy louvers and initiating a floating-roof effect. Uplights on the main branches of the columns inside catch the eye and recall a tree canopy. The oval hovers over the main control and transition point for passengers and is the central focus of the lighting design. The organic completeness of the oval balances the edge of the industrial – two rows of fluorescent tubes in architecture detail light boxes around the perimeter of the oval imitate natural daylight. They work on separate circuits (4000K and 2700K) and are used independently on cloudy days (4000K) and after sunset (2700K). The exposed industrial down-lights (150W HIT) highlight escalators and the mezzanine.

Up-lights on space-frame branches at the top of columns would be redundant in this bright oval area. 150W HIT up-lights and pole lights mark the debarkation pickup area. CWI kept floodlights off the exterior façade in order to carry over the concept of a tree canopy. On the Pedestrian Bridge, fluorescent cove lights along the ceiling mark the path between the outer-concourse mezzanine in the Main Station Hall and the platforms.

Chou Lien, now president of BPI, was involved with the conceptual design for for Taoyuan, Chiayi and Tainan stations. The work was carried out by CWI, their branch office in Taiwan. By 2002 they had discontinued the operation and CWI became an independent office. As Chou Lien’s involvement was mainly on the conceptual level of work he was continually reviewing the work until 2002 when CWI became independent.

Chou Lien affirmed that the strong desire to create the best lighting environment for the user was of principal concern.

“However,” he said, “we also wanted to show the architectural forms and elements at their best during day and night. The functional requirements and the emotional factors were all equally important to the team. The long life lamp, a good colour temperature light source, and easy re-lamping were all part of the implementation requirements once we had reached consensus on the concept.  Refinements were taking place at all times. The strategy on the visual order and the balance on the contrast sequence provided us the chance to lower the lighting level as well as the lighting power density however the visual comfort was not ignored.”

Chiming Lin of OLDC was contacted and interviewed directly by the architect Sinotech and then became the lighting consultant for the Zuoying Station project. The brief was mainly to focus on the architectural design. They commenced working on the project in 2000 and as with CWI, the first 3 years were mainly focused on design (from concept to construction documentation). Later their works become more related to shop drawing review and queries reply.

With an astounding string of previous achievements in Taiwan and China including the National Palace Museum in Taipei, The National Taiwan Museum in Taichung, Taipei County Hall, the Taipei CBD Lighting Master Plan, and the Summer Palace Lighting Master Plan in Beijing, lighting Zuoying Station was different because it was their first transportation project; thus they approached it from a new perspective. Regarding this particular project Chiming Lin asserted, “The purpose of lighting design is not just to highlight the beauty of the architectural design or provide enough functional illumination. Our challenge is how to enhance the movement and passenger flow by using light. The creative part for this project was a design element to serve three functions: 1. Provide illumination; 2. Highlight the architectural features; 3. Create a visual element to help passenger orientation and speed up their flow.”

Lighting Solutions:To treat the station as a open plaza and develop a lighting system to provide comfortable indirect lighting and also create a visual element to enhance public movement and orientation. Custom-made light poles were designed to integrate uplights and glowing lanterns together. Speakers were also integrated onto this light pole system making this project unique from other stations in Taiwan.


JK Yao and his Chroma 33 team were hired by the architect, Hoy & Associates, as the lighting designers for the Taichung Station project. This station is actually 20 minutes away from Taichung’s central rail station and is officially known as Wurih (virtually unpronounceable to the Western tongue) Station.

Most of Chroma 33’s design discussions were with two Japanese architects, Shigenari Mori and Yosuke Hoshino, who worked for Hoy for this project. One of their primary goals was to light up the giant roof at the Platform Level. They also proposed a linear light source that would eventually be integrated into a suspended architectural trough system for the entire Platform Level.

Apart from Core Pacific City (featured in 2002’s issue 8 of mondo*arc) the immense size of the project was not so common compared to most projects they had done in Taiwan. “Other than that it was pretty straightforward” said JK Yao modestly. “One other thing for this project was it required illumination review in every area. This helped us to review our design as well. The Taichung Station is the largest station of all and it was the the first to complete design and got reviewed by the THSR Team. Being the first to be reviewed, the parameters were the most thorough and stringent of all THSR stations and fulfilled every requirement from the THSR review board.

Lighting Solutions:

Platform Level - T5 Fluorescent integrated in the suspended architectural structure provide all the lighting required for the platform and the staircase.Concourse level - Recessed metal halide downlights all the major lighting source for this level.
Additionally there was architecture-integrated lighting for the kiosk and ticketing booths.

Charles Stone / FMS had worked with Kris Yao and Artech in Taiwan on several projects over the past 20 years. In the 1990s FMS had worked on a total of 51 MTRC stations in Hong Kong, including the new Airport Express line. Many of the senior staff of MTRC (Hong Kong) moved over to work on the Taiwan High Speed Rail project – so he already knew many on the team and had completed significant similar projects in the region. And with all this experience behind him, compared to all the other lighting designers involved in this mammoth project, his creative experience in Taiwan was really rather similar to the process of designing transportation infrastructure works in Hong Kong or in the USA. Stone told mondo*arc, “These are big projects that have a life of their own. We try to develop strong simple concepts and then hold on as tightly as we can as the project moves into construction. Kris Yao is a good architect and an old friend. We had a good time working together. One other thing about working in Taipei is that the food is good.... There is nothing like Taiwanese dumplings from Ting Tai Fung in Taipei.”

According to Stone, Kris Yao of Artech and Nita Ing, the Chairwoman of the THSR project, presented a vision of a high tech future for Taiwan that Yao expressed in the aerodynamic complex curved roof and over a crisp modern glass and steel station concept. He wanted a soaring piece of architecture that expressed the speed and modernity of the project.

FMS were involved from the early Schematic Design. Their process was typical to any large infrastructure project. They did detailed calculations and complete construction documentation for the project.



Lighting Solutions:
Designed a sleek linear combination uplight / downlight that does much of the “work” on the platforms and for the uplighting of the roof. The exterior roof is lit in a non-uniform manner to reveal the soaring curve. Fluorescent and metal halide sources are used throughout. It is an energy efficient design.


High Speed Rail network, Taiwan High Speed Rail network, Taiwan
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