Sustainable Travel Blossoms in a Railway Station

madrid-atocha-railway-stationMost people do not think of railway stations when asked to consider sustainable travel. And while the notion of transforming public spaces into vibrant green spaces seems like a new-age way of thinking, the act of turning something mundane and unsustainable into something environmentally beneficial has been done for years. The Madrid Atocha railway is one of the many trailblazers in this “trend,” providing an aesthetically pleasing and environmentally preserving railway station fit for any sustainable travel plans in the city of Madrid.

A visit to any part of Spain is almost sure to include a visit to the Madrid Atocha railway station. First constructed in 1851, this railway station has become the primary railway station of Spain, connecting thousands of travelers by commuter trains, intercity and country trains, and even the AVE (Alta Velocidad Española)- Spain’s high speed and high tech commuter train, easily more impressive than most high- speed trains here in the US. So how does a railway station responsible for the transport of millions of passengers have a sustainable travel element? A step into the railway station will make it naturally clear. After almost 10 years of remodeling, designer Rafael Moneo transformed the previously mundane interior into a greenhouse. Common perception of the word, “greenhouse” is typically no more than a glorified atrium. That is not the case for the Madrid Atocha railway. An impressive 4000 square meters of the railway station’s interior is that of tropical gardens. The project was complete in 1993, whic
h is approximately 10 years before the surge of “green living” ideals washed upon the American shores.

Most people don’t think of spending much time in a railway station, much less as a part of sustainable travel, but the Madrid Atocha railway station is a welcoming mixed-use space that is perfect for people- watching, all while taking in cleaner air, compliments of the green foliage all around. Visiting one of the many shops and cafés will add a lovely tourist element to this sustainable travel stop. While most of the fun to be had can be found in house, a number of great tourist attractions are within walking distance of the railway station. However, it will be hard to resist the unexpected in- house evening entertainment. In addition to the expected tourist- saturated gift shops, the railway station also has a night club! Don’t hesitate to enjoy a fun night out with an environmentally sustaining backdrop.

The Madrid Atocha railway station shows that the need to preserve as much nature as possible is not a millennial trend. Rafael Moneo, as well as the people of Madrid, understood that a certain public harmony can only be achieved when people and nature are aligned and no longer competing with one another. After all, where else can you enjoy a delicious lunch alongside tranquil turtles while waiting for a connecting train? Be sure to include a visit to the Madrid Atocha railway station in any sustainable travel itinerary while visiting Madrid.

Photo Credit: dalbera