Extension of the Atocha Railway Station, Madrid
Rafael Moneo 

Extension of the Atocha Railway Station, Madrid

Rafael Moneo 

The determination of the Spanish Ministry of Transportation to carry out a total overhauling of the old Atocha Station and quadruple its capacity, and the proposal put forward by City Hall in the Master Plan to free the Glorieta de Carlos V from the scalextric (an existing traffic overpass), are the two inevitable poles around which the com­plex urban piece we might call ‘Operation Ato­cha’ revolves.

The old canopy

The difficulty of this operation, with respect to the old station, lay in having to adapt it to the new complex. Both the permeability given it and its intimate union to the newly designed structures ensure the continued activity of a building whose life, for many and different reasons, deserves to be prolonged.

The old canopy built by Alberto del Palacio is conserved in its entirety, to accomodate all the services and activities it always did. To be sure, the disappearance of the old rails changes its appearance, but it will still be closely linked to railway life, with its exterior image reinforced by the erection of a clock tower over the station square.

The station square

The city of Madrid has evolved in such a way that what was always relatively lower than street level here (the railway yard is 619.37 meters above sea level) is now permanently depressed with respect to the surrounding traffic (levels between 625 and 628.50).

It was important to accept this fact and not try, once again, to propose a confusing and compli­cated approach system down to level 619.37. This level thus becomes a pleasant open space, enriched by a high turnover of pedestrians and a rich and varied commercial activity, and by the beauty of the old station, which can now shine in all its splendor.

Commuter train station

The project for this new station was based on a clearly defined railway scheme consisting of ten tracks and five platforms. The axes of said scheme are a given, and so are the dimensions of the platforms (7 meters) and the level on which to build (611.05), the latter being imposed by the existence of the Castellana tunnel, where the above mentioned system condenses into a bundle of tracks.

On the other hand, it must be noted that for the efficient use of the entire complex it was also clear that connection to the long-distance, sub­way and bus stations (at 619.37, 620.00 and 628.50 meters above sea level, respectively) be provided right at the head of the commuter train station. It is this spot that takes on the role of a true transit area and that facilitates the variety of transport options available to the traveller.

The transit area is in fact the key architectural piece of Operation Atocha. Its exterior image, resembling a lantern, emerges as a testimony to the complex architecture existing beneath the 628.50-meter level. From afar it acts as a land­mark to orient travellers, its assertive, cylindrical form acting as a necessary point of encounter between the diverse structures of the Atocha quarter.

The modulation of the roof above the plat­forms naturally reflects the geometry imposed by the railway lines. On the other hand it provides for good lighting and ventilation through sky­lights regularly fitted into the scheme, and allows the installation of a parking lot above with weather protection in the form of one-base alum­inum spherical segments.

Long-distance train station

Like the station for short-distance lines, this one is based on a previously defined railway scheme with fifteen tracks and eight ten-meter-wide plat­forms at 617.80 meters above sea level.

Its structure addresses what are considered to be its two main orientations: one determined by the head of the old station, and the other by the direction of the tracks of the commuter train lines.

With these guidelines defining the orthogonal axes of both stations, a slightly oblique mesh connects them to create a neat geometry enabling them to relate to each other without incurring any kind of formal clash.

From the very beginning of the project it was decided that the design of the roof should be closely linked to the pattern of the tracks, for reasons ranging from volumetric discretion - so as not to compete with the scale of the grand old station - to constructive considerations - a solu­tion involving a large span structure would not have been compatible with the foundations and the dense traffic network beneath - as well as for strictly formal and aesthetic reasons which lead one to think that the roof of a modern-day station should reflect, more than anything else, the weight of its surface and the enormous size of the railway yard.

Hence, the rails and the platforms were the primary elements to consider in the design of the station roof.

Here the roof is marked by the slenderness of the columns, and the logic of its construction in a horizontal plane, composed of thin slabs and beams, includes the definition of skylights which guarantee the illumination and ventilation neces­sary.

The station therefore becomes an undifferen­tiated space in the establishment of direct contact between train and passenger.


This is a vital part of Operation Atocha. The roof of the commuter station gives rise, at the 624.30 level, to a parking lot for 669 vehicles.

In addition there are two parking areas around the long-distance station zone: one in the arrivals yard, and the other on the access platform at 628.37 meters for 168 vehicles, meant for the quick loading and unloading of travellers in pri­vate cars...[+]

Cliente Client

Dirección General de Infraestructura del Transporte Ferroviario, Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. Department of Railway Infrastructures, Spanish Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.

Estación de cercanías Commuter train station

Colaboradores Collaborators

José Miguel León y Emilio Tuñón.

Consultores Consultants

INECO y Euroestudios.

Contratista Contractor

Fomento de Obras y Construcciones.

Estación de largo recorrido (AVE) Long-distance train station (AVE bullet trains)

Colaboradores Collaborators

E. Tuñón y Javier Revillo.

Consultores Consultants

Javier Manterola y ESTEYCO.

Contratista Contractor

Lara UTE (Construcciones y Contratas, Laing, Auxini).

Restauración de la antigua marquesina Restoration of old canopy

Colaborador Collaborator

Gabriel Ruiz Cabrero.

Consultor Consultants


Contratista Contractor


Rehabilitación de la antigua marquesina Rehabilitation of old canopy

Colaboradores Collaborators

E. Tuñón y J. Revillo.

Consultores Consultants

Jesús Jiménez y TYPSA.

Contratista Contractor


Tratamiento del borde urbano Urban refurbishing

Colaboradores Collaborators

E. Tuñón, J. Revillo y Eduardo Belzunce.

Consultor Consultants


Contratista Contractor

Fomento de Obras y Construcciones.

Señalización y mobiliario Signage and furnishing

Diseño Design

Addison (sin participación del estudio de Moneo independently of Moneo’s office).

Jardín tropical Tropical garden

Diseño Design

Eupalinos (sin participación del estudio de Moneo independently of Moneo’s office).

Contratistas Contractor

Huarte y Entrecanales.

Dirección de obra Site supervision

Colaboradores Collaborators

La Jefatura Zonal de Construcción de Transportes Terrestres, DG1TF, MOPT; E. Tuñón, J. Revillo y E. Belzunce (arquitectos architects); Arturo Gómez (aparejador; rehabilitación de la antigua marquesina technical architect; rehabilitation of old canopy).

Fotos Photographers

Javier Azurmendi y Lluís Casals.