A PERSONAL MEMOIR
The leitmotiv of the project emerged when the works had barely started, making substantial structural modifications possible. The pit, more than 40 metres deep, beneath the crane that was extracting tonnes of volcanic sediments, was Piranesian in its grandeur. It was intended to cover this cavern when the crane had finished but I proposed not to do so entirely. Space was needed for machinery and ducting but it was possible to preserve a crater, and for travellers to sense how deep they were and to glimpse the sunlight above, while in the piazza strollers could lean over the parapet and see passengers moving around 37 metres below, something surprising and dizzying.
The other driving idea arose because much of the station is below sea level. The parts above sea level seem to be excavated in the rock whilst the lower levels seem sunk in the sea. The floor and walls of the upper part are faced in natural stone, and the discovery of a muro aragonese in the ticket hall heightened the image of excavation. The “underwater” areas are entirely faced with blue vitreous mosaic. Above, everything is earthy and matte; below, blue, shining and vibrant.
This dichotomy is heightened by the works of the two artists with whom I had the pleasure of working. In the “excavated” areas William Kentridge made two murals in stony mosaic, with a rough, ancient character. In the “aquatic” areas Bob Wilson installed, facing one another, two enormously long views of the sea-shore whose waves move subtly as one walks along the gallery. Wilson also played a fundamental role in lighting the crater, creating a programme to coordinate the colour and intensity of each LED over time.
Apart from through the great crater, natural light penetrates the mezzanine through three skylights that illuminate the interior while also enabling passers-by to glimpse the muro aragonese and Kentridge’s mural.
In addition to the underground works we designed part of the Via Diaz, which has now become a broad pedestrian piazza, a pause for calm along the always teeming Via Toledo.
Trees were planted in the narrow unexcavated area whilst along the southern perimeter we arranged parasols to protect the street stalls that were formerly scattered over the pavements.
Adjacent to the Via Toledo stands the equestrian statue by Kentridge.
Oscar Tusquets Blanca
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