What immediately comes to mind when you think of Cox's Bazar?
Of course, the longest sea beach in the world, a breathtaking stretch of coastline that beckons you with its natural and scenic beauty. Most certainly, it also reminds you of the marine life associated with it.
The most distinctive trait of marine life is that nearly all animals, from oysters to turtles, possess a fundamental and visually appealing outer body structure, often in the form of a shell or exoskeleton.
However, the majority of their internal bodily functions are intricately housed within, displaying a remarkable level of complexity and adaptability tailored to the challenges of oceanic existence.
The soon-to-be-inaugurated Cox's Bazar Railway Station, constructed on 29 acres of land in the Hajipara area of Jhelongja Union, seven kilometres east-north of Cox's Bazar Sadar, also embodies this very concept.
Its architectural grandeur, resembling the exoskeletal structure of an oval-shaped marine creature, boasts a magnificent canopy curved to ascend from one side and descend to the other. And within the station premises, provisions have been kept to accommodate a comprehensive array of amenities and services.
Thus, because of its distinct architectural features, resonating with the diverse natural landscape it resides in, the Cox's Bazar Railway Station has earned the title of "the nation's first iconic railway station," says the man behind this masterpiece, Mohammad Foyez Ullah, founder and principal architect of Volumezero Limited.
"We aimed to depart from the traditional notion of railway stations being merely standard structures alongside a few platforms," Foyez Ullah told The Business Standard.
"A railway station is a gateway to a locality, and our objective was to ensure that the essence of the locality is manifested through our design," he added.
Railway stations in Bangladesh commonly feature a solitary point for both passenger entry and exit. However, the Cox's Bazar Railway Station stands apart with separate arrival and departure points, resembling the setup found in international airports.
To reach the train platforms, which span 650 metres in length and 12 metres in width, individuals will need to use the escalators to ascend to the second floor. Departing passengers, on the other hand, will exit from the lower level.
Secure lockers will be available for tourists to store their belongings, allowing them to explore the entire city and the sea beaches without the inconvenience of lugging around their luggage or having to reserve a hotel room solely for storage purposes, even if they don't plan on staying overnight.
"Cox's Bazar is the largest tourist attraction in our country, and we aimed to provide our visitors with a seamless experience, which led to the conception of this idea," explained Foyez Ullah.
The platform area is equipped with three sheds, foot over bridges, escalators, ramps, lifts and stairs. Moreover, the station features green terrace areas, well-planned landscaping, and a captivating water feature with a fountain.
On the other hand, the centrally air-conditioned six-story terminal building, which is 1,82,000 square feet, encompasses three platforms, four escalators, six lifts, and four fire-rated stairs.
In addition to the standard railway station offerings such as ticket counters, tourist information centres, food courts, and waiting rooms, the terminal building also features a host of other facilities as well.
These include designated areas for luggage and parcel storage, vending machines, a children's playground, a prayer hall, retail spaces, leased office areas, hotel rooms, facilities catering to the needs of disabled and elderly individuals, as well as a complete range of engineering services.
Besides integrating these amenities, what makes the architectural design of this railway even more significant is its dedicated effort to maintain an environmentally-friendly approach.
As per architect Foyez Ullah, the building has been outfitted with glass panels throughout, eliminating the need for artificial lighting during the daytime. The design also includes the utilisation of energy-efficient LED light fixtures.
Furthermore, the expansive canopy envelops the entire structure, maintaining a consistently moderate temperature and reducing the need for excessive cooling.
"Consequently, this will significantly lower the air conditioning requirements, resulting in substantial energy savings for the station," he said.
On top of that, a minimum of 10% of the building's energy demand will be powered by solar energy, and rainwater will be harvested and recycled. Preparations have been made for natural ventilation, the implementation of low-flow water fixtures, and the incorporation of high-quality insulation.
"Considering all these, you could say this is a completely green building," Foyez Ullah claimed.
However, the implementation of all these was easier said than done, as the geographical location of Cox's Bazar posed some unforeseen challenges.
The primary obstacle stemmed from the persistent strong winds throughout the year, compounded by sporadic natural disasters such as cyclones, which disrupted the construction process.
"Of the 12 months of a year, we could hardly work properly for six months. Also, we had to travel to China to gain insights on how to effectively actualise the intricacies of the design," informed Md Abdul Zabber Milon, construction manager of the station building.
But still, after submitting the final design back in 2021, the railway station is going to be open to the public within just two years, marking a significant milestone in the country's development history, reckons Foyez Ullah.
And for that, he extended a commendation to Max Group, the construction company entrusted with the project's implementation.
"Ours was a very ambitious and unprecedented design, with no prior similar undertaking in the country to serve as a guide. But still, they never backed away from bringing to life the design we provided," Foyez Ullah remarked.
As per project officials, the highly anticipated Dohazari-Cox's Bazar Rail Line, constructed at a cost of Tk 18,000 crore, encompasses a new 102-km dual gauge single railway track.
While the inauguration by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is slated for 11 November, the line is set to be open for traffic from 1 December.