Friday, October 16, 2009

Milano Centrale

Milan Central Station is an impressive piece of architecture, and one of my favorite places in Milan. (Just in case you don't know, I have a weakness for all things related to travel: suitcases, maps, airports, train stations, etc.) In addition to my modest opinion,  Milano Centrale has been called one of the most beautiful stations in the world by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright. Do I have your attention now?

You can click on the pictures to see them larger.

The building we use today is a simplified version of the original design by architect Ulisse Stacchini. His monumental project was designed for the 1912 competition, later modified and simplified, and finally approved in 1924. Heavy ornamentation of towers, statues, clocks and chariots was eliminated, and a more austere, simple and functional design emerged. Engineer Alberto Fava replaced the initial cantilever roofing over the tracks with unprecedented iron canopies. The main arch measures 72 meters, the largest in Italy, the canopies extend for a length of 341 meters. Just as Lloyd Wright would have it: "form follows function." Personally the canopies fit in my category of ugly-beautiful, I love their simplicity, their size, but i find them too industrial and austere. They make for great pictures though!

The station was finally opened in 1931, finished at last by the fascist regime of the time. Mussolini found the grandiose architecture of the station fitting to his ideas, and various motifs expressing the regime and depicting the Duce were added. It would be a mistake to call the station an example of fascist architecture, as they just appropriated a magnificent building. Most of the regime's elements were removed after 1945.
If not fascist architecture, then what? It is difficult to narrow down the style of the station to one word, the most prevalent style is Art Deco, mixed with some Liberty style, with a heavy influence from the Roman Thermae architecture.

A recent renovation project has left the building shining under a new light. All the architectural details have been cleaned, not to limit the facelift to the old, new access ramps have been installed, and a brand new ticket office has opened its doors. Long lines still await you, but not to worry, you can just stop and enjoy your surroundings. Happy travel.

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