Massimiliano Fuksas and Doriana Mandrelli created the most beautiful station in Naples in the world
The new Duomo Station - designed by Massimiliano Fuksas and Doriana Mandrelli to create the most beautiful station in the world - opened on August 6th in Naples after twenty years of works. I had the chance to visit it a few days after the opening, and I also took the opportunity to see some other stations of the same line.
The Naples Metro - utilized by 45 million people every year - is renowned worldwide for being an exciting example of a decentralized museum spread over the urban area. The Metro Art Naples project concerns Lines 1 and 6 of the subway and includes dozens of site-specific artworks placed inside and outside the stations. The Art Stations are all designed by renowned architects, such as Gae Aulenti, Atelier Mendini, Oscar Tousquet Blanca, Dominique Perrault, Karim Rashid, Fuksas, Miralles-Tagliabue, Kollhoff, Podrecca, Álvaro Siza, and Eduardo Souto de Moura.
Metro Art Naples is also called "the subway of the three A's: Archeology, Architecture, Art." As stated by Professor Ennio Cascetta - President of the Metropolitan Society of Naples - it offers the great challenge of "crossing the city of Naples from the hill to the sea, passing through the historic center, opening the largest post-war archaeological excavation campaign and using avant-garde techniques in the excavation of tunnels and stations."
The idea of creating a subway in Naples started in the Sixties, but the first leg was completed only in 1993. Two years later, the concept of Art Stations was born under the artistic direction of Achille Bonito Oliva - the inventor of the artistic movement of the Transavantgarde - that invited artists from all over the world to decorate the internal and external spaces of the stations. Among them, Jannis Kounellis, Joseph Kosuth, Mimmo Paladino, Sol Lewitt, Mario Merz, and William Kentridge.
In many cases, the artistic installations significantly contributed to retraining the surrounding degraded neighborhoods, as in the Salvator Rosa and Toledo stations. The latter, designed by the Catalan architect Oscar Tousquets Blanca, was awarded by CNN in 2012 as the most beautiful in Europe. The underground space is carefully decorated to recreate the experience of entering the marine world while crossing all the soil layers until reaching the water, symbolized by extraordinary mosaics on the walls and the suggestive Crater de Luz.
One of the most exciting projects is the University station, designed by Karim Rashid, which offers a unique physical experience inspired by technology and research. The passenger is catapulted into a dreamlike world that impeccably incarnates the concept of Metro Art. Here vivid colors and patterns dominate the atmosphere, with every detail designed carefully to offer an incredible experience, far from the city's atmosphere above the ground.
MAM (Open Museum of Naples Metro) is a proposal that has been debated in recent years. If realized, it will formalize creating a "Metro Museum" by applying the standard management methods used in the traditional institutions, for example organizing cultural programs and experiences within the stations. As affirmed by Philippe Daverio: "Naples today has the only contemporary art museum with a guaranteed public and at a substantially zero cost."
This 'underground museum' - accessible to everyone and included in the subway ticket - contributed to promoting Naples' unique cultural heritage and having the city among the most significant European capitals. It is not a coincidence that the museum is underground. Naples is a dual city, with an eternal contrast of lights and shadows, sun and darkness. Besides the exterior town, there is another city hidden underground. It is created by the stratification of millennia of history and emerges every time the external surface is excavated.
In the last quarter of the century, the digs for the new stations have unearthed incredible archaeological finds. Due to the quality and quantity of the ancient discoveries and the complex excavations and conservation techniques used, a new archaeological typology called "urban archeology" - studied worldwide - was born right here in Naples in recent decades. In many cases, those findings forced the architects to rethink their projects from scratch. It is the case of the Municipio station - designed by Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura - and the new Duomo station designed by Fuksas.
The first, when completed, will create a large hub connecting Line 1 and 6 of the subway. This station will incorporate archaeological heritages found during the excavation works, such as the ancient port of Neapolis, some building's remains of the Angevine period, and the outer fortifications of the Maschio Angioino castle.
This dialogue between antique and modern is the foundation of the project designed by the two Portuguese architects. The historical and archeological findings will be fully embedded in the construction of the subway rather than becoming an object of display. In a recent interview, Eduardo Souto de Moura said that archeology was valuable for the project.
A stone wall is not there just to be photographed and to place a legend with the words' ancient Roman' or 'Spanish' alongside it; for us, this wall is used to support the ceiling of the entire station. An operational rather than a contemplative relationship with history.
Duomo station by Fuksas is another example of meaningful interaction between modernity and archaeology. The works started in 2001, but in 2004 the excavations unveiled the Temple of the Neapolitan Isolympic Games, where the Olympics have been held for 400 years since the time of Emperor Augustus. Interestingly, the station opened this month on the 6th, only two days before the conclusion of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
After discovering the Roman temple, the project was radically modified by Fuksas to create a Museum-Station. Currently, only the underground part of the project has been completed. The temple will be visible from the outside when the project is finalized, thanks to the transparent dome made of Corten steel and glass. The dome will also "deform" the rectilinear urban axis realized in the 19th century.
Like the other "Art Stations," this one was also conceived as a journey into art. Here the passengers will experience an excursion made with light colors and geometries. Fuksas describe this project as a "spacewalk" that helps reduce the anxiety of the passengers descending underground, thanks to natural light - which penetrates from the transparent dome - and an artificial lighting system that reproduces the variation of light throughout the day. The illumination, designed by the lighting designer Filippo Cannata, is also inspired by the infinite variations of the colors of the sky and the sea that characterize the Mediterranean light. One interesting aspect, not mentioned by the architect, is the cinematic experience offered by the hexagonal shapes, anamorphically deformed to provide an everchanging look when walking nearby.
Besides the great originality and effectiveness of the Metro Art Naples concept, over the years, many criticisms have flourished regarding the efficiency of the service, the lack of proper maintenance, inadequate signages, and even the poor quality of construction. It is also the case with the new Duomo station, which opened a few weeks ago and whose interior finishes look already worn. We are talking about management problems and project implementation. In this case, the architectural project has no responsibility, but it is the offended party.