Angiolo Mazzoni, Stazione ferroviaria in Siena (1931-1936)
Siena had had a railway station since the 19th century, but by the beginning of the 20th century it could longer meet the city’s needs, leading Ferrovie dello Stato (the Italian railway company) to commission a French railway company to construct a new one. Work began in 1914, but came to halt in 1925. Finally, in 1931, architect Angiolo Mazzoni was asked to design a new railway station: he presented five blueprints, but only the last one was accepted and transformed in a wooden model publicly exhibited in Palazzo Pubblico (1934). Though the design was not entirely greeted with local approval, the station – located on a square just outside the city centre – was inaugurated on the 25th November 1935 and then completed the following year. Composed of three main buildings, it was destroyed by bombing during WWII and then partially rebuilt by the architect Roberto Narducci (1946-1948). Due to these changes, the whole structure was radically modified and compromised.
The Spatial Construction of the New Man’s Urban Reality
Narrative Rationalization: Staging a Collective Spectacle
Angiolo Mazzoni is one of the principle figures within public architecture of the Ventennio, since he designed and supervised the construction of many modern buildings conceived for a wide public of users, such as post offices and railway stations. He worked on the stations of some major cities, such as Florence (see Santa Maria Novella railway station and Rome, as well as in more minor centres. The railway station of Siena is an interesting example of the latter. The old station building was outdated and no longer fit for purpose, and needed a change. That is why, after a series of unsuccessful attempts, Mazzoni was contacted and put in charge of the project: the long and prolific planning process (5 designs in three years, from 1931 to 1933) ended with the construction of a new building, considered an example of Futurist architecture for different reasons. First, it was characterised overall by a tripartite volumetric shape (one building with accommodation, one for the passengers and one as post office), where the horizontal load was contrasted and balanced by the verticality of the clock tower. As McNamara wrote, “Mazzoni’s railway stations exaggerate their ‘order of movement’ in an expression of extreme horizontality. Stations are elongated by the use of elemental pieces […] separated by open areas and simultaneously connected by extremely long, thin canopies which weave the parts together” (McNamara 1999:202). Secondly, the use of colour – an important feature of Mazzoni’s other projects – played an important part, with the exterior of white marble and brick and the interior, decorated with coloured marble, glass and tiles.
On all levels, the railway station of Siena was a harmonious construction where geometry, colours and light were essential to the ultimate result. The general modernity of the building – unfortunately compromised by the changes introduced after WWII – lays within its shape and within the elegant functionality of its spaces, conceived for collective use. Over this ‘layer’, one could also retrace a discreet Fascist symbolism, like in Mazzoni’s other works (see Colonia Rosa Maltoni Mussolini). Here, a massive pillar at the corner of the ‘passengers’ section’ was vertically traversed by a jutting decoration that recalled a stylised “fascio littorio”. In this way, the railway station became one of the architectural and visual points of reference of the modern city: during Fascism, traditional buildings such as churches and town halls were flanked – where not substituted – by these new architectural symbols of the society. Such buildings were part of the ‘nationalisation’ of the public places(tag/totalitaria-art), which were transformed in a network of spaces intended for the local community. The public building is the emblem of the State itself and of its efficiency, guaranteed by modern and fast services.
Cozzi, Paola, Godoli, Mauro and Ezio Pettenella (eds). 2003. Angiolo Mazzoni (1894-1979). Architetto Ingegnere del Ministero delle Comunicazioni. Milan: Skira.
Forti, Alfredo.1978. Angiolo Mazzoni. Architetto fra fascismo e libertà. Florence: Edam.
McNamara, Michael. 1999. 'Angiolo Mazzoni: Geometry. Materiality and Motion in the Fascist City.' ACSA International conference, Rome:200-204