Balancing the eternal tension of form and function with the Monte St Angelo subway stations

Back Story: Collaboration with Anish Kapoor in Naples

August 20 2014

The brief from the City of Naples, to create a fully-functioning tube station that is in itself a work of art, demanded a synthesis of purpose and beauty that was fundamental to our creative process.

A second primary point of inspiration was the site. At the surface the station will be the central element in the urban and cultural regeneration of the Traiano district that has suffered in its recent history from infrastructural isolation and neglect.

Simultaneously the network of tunnels and vaults designed and subsequently abandoned midway through a previous tube station project, describes an underworld barely tangible in the gleaming and sanitary underground spaces of contemporary subway projects.

In the shadow of Vesuvius and embedded in layers of early civilisation, these dark and brutal concrete shells have been inspirational to our formal and material approach.

We began the process by stretching and moulding plasticine forms, synthesising the primary access requirements within and around the existing negative volumes. As layers of programme were introduced, the eternal tension between form and function was worked through while preserving the singular purpose and integrity of the forms.

The Corten steel form of the Universita entrance appears to have been pulled out of the earth, an intuitive response to the mountain as a backdrop. It amplifies the moment of threshold and dramatises the act of descent.

The second Traiano entrance was reimagined as a tube that has slipped into the ground with a sense of unreality.

The entrances have been constructed in boatyards in Holland and are now crated up ready for shipping to Naples.

The tunnels have been deliberately left in a raw state using sprayed concrete to contrast with the sleek granite floor and balustrades. The bridges over the tracks have, by contrast, a smooth concrete finish.