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Stations of the World: Kyoto Train Station

new penn station

This begins “Stations of the World.” New Penn Station will regularly profile a train station from around the world with images, videos, and basic facts. We’re focused on retail this week, so we thought it would be appropriate to feature Japan’s Kyoto Station – a mix of commercial/retail development, cultural space, railway hub, and contemporary architecture.

Kyoto Station, the second largest station in Japan, was designed by Hiroshi Hara and opened in 1997. It replaced an ugly 1950s concrete building, after the quaint, though aging Renaissance style structure, built in 1914 had burnt down in 1952.

The 780,000 SF station serves the shinkansen (“bullet train”), Japan Railways, and the subway. It contains a department store, exhibition spaces, the Granvia hotel, a theater space, an underground shopping mall, government offices, and several restaurants in its 15 floors. Live concerts, plays, and other events take place on the grand stairway every weekend (see photo on right). It has become an iconic gateway and tourist destination, but it’s also been criticized for intruding on the low rise character of historic Kyoto. Admittedly, we’re not sure how it works as a station. Any info?

kyoto train station

Yesterday, Michael Ewing talked to us about how retail can contribute to making a train station a destination for commuters and non-commuters alike and predicted that Moynihan East will have to provide a diverse “lifestyle” retail offering to become a destination for Midtown West. Kyoto Station supports the traditional restaurant/shopping formula with exhibit spaces, a green terrace, cultural events, and a theater. It seems to maintain a spacious and day-lit central train hall, but we haven’t seen images of the underground shopping spaces. Is it cramped?

We’re particularly enamored with “Happy Terrace,” the observation deck on the roof of Kyoto Station (see photo below right). Perhaps one day New Yorkers will sit on an outdoor terrace above a spacious and airy Moynihan East and view Moynihan West across the street in the restored Farley building.

Please give us your comments about Kyoto: Like the design? Too much mall? What about the idea of bringing cultural space into the station? We’d like to get more information about the retail mix at Kyoto, how it functions as a railway station, and the daily figures on commuters/visitors. And if you’ve visited, send us your impression.