Daniel Libeskind should need no introduction. But just in case he does, he’s the fellow who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the new World Trade Centre in Manhattan. You get the picture.
Now the globally famed architect has designed a “reflective façade covered with metal as facets and scales with serigraphs”, where “each peak is conceived as a harmonious crystallization whose edges speak to Avenue Jean Médecin”.
In other words, Libeskind is building a vast diamond-shaped extension to Nice-Ville train station, akin to a spaceship landing next to the Gare-Thiers tram stop. It looks very modern. And very cool.
So what’s the story? Nice-Ville station was built 150 years ago by Louis Bouchot. The architect then swept around France and Italy, designing similar wedding cake stations in Avignon, Toulon and Milan.
Alas, extensions from here since have been impractical or naff. A tawdry Buffet de la Gare was added in the 1920s. Along with a 43m tunnel (the width of two cars) to the Hotel de Poste across the street, where mailbags could be delivered without getting wet. In the 1960s the station’s Louis XIII ceilings were boarded over with fake plaster. Doh!
The area nosedived too. Once grand buildings in the Thiers district, enclosed by rue Paul Déroulède and avenue Durant, felt the full weight of Nice’s corruption through the 1970s and 1980s. Rococo façades faded and marble staircases crumbled until the first tramway line reinvigorated the zone in the noughties.
How times have changed. In 2018 the station was returned to its former glory, with the final addition of electric escalators across to all platforms. Direct trains now whiz to Moscow, Milan, Brussels and Geneva from here, as well as Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille.
Libeskind’s new extension, which will be concluded in 2020, will add 18,000m2 of high end commercial space. That’s the size of 200 three-bed apartments. Alongside a flagship branch of Zara will be a 600-seat auditorium, co-working spaces plus a Hilton hotel.
Better still, the Libeskind building will complete Nice-Ville as an intermodal transport hub. From 2020 travellers may arrive by TGV, then ride a tram, drive an electric car, unlock a Vélo Bleu or hail an airport bus within ten seconds of station exit. That’s progress.
The Theirs district has already seen real estate rates rise in excess of Nice’s official property price increase of 4% in 2017. As Libeskind has proven, the sky’s the limit.