We don’t have to smoke any more to get social with strangers at the train station. Yesterday I came across a rather innovative urban installation at Schiedam Centrum station (a Rotterdam suburb) that has to keep the train travelers warm when they’re waiting at windy stations.
On a cold day like yesterday strangers huddle together to be close to one of the heat pillars on the platforms to profit a little from the heat that comes from the pillar. A green button enables users to switch the so-called Brasero on while it stops automatically after approximately four minutes. The Brasero is a clever concept by the French heating company Delestre Industrie, and is already used at several trains stations in France before its slow invasion of the Netherlands.
According to some fellow cold travelers the heat pillar was installed almost a year ago at this particular station. The Dutch railway authority ProRail says on its website to experiment with the pillars at several stations in the Netherlands. The Brasero is sustainable and works on electricity generated by solar panels on the station’s roof. During Summer the pillars are taken away. The heaters will only work when temperature drops below 12 degrees Celsius.
Seldom I’ve seen an urban intervention in public space that works this well. Not only does the Brasero keep you and your hands seriously warm, it also brings people together. The natural need of people to spread and ignore others while waiting for the train is instantly removed. Like in a sauna, a strange intimacy with strangers comes in place.