Infrastructure as Interface: Thinking the Urban and the High-speed Railway Station: Italian Case-studies

By Zeila Tesoriere.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The recent launching in Italy of a number of large scale urban operations centered around High Speed Railway (HSR) stations has added a wealth of examples and themes to the overall European picture; these go to make up a global point of reference for other countries that are, in this period, undertaking the construction of their own HSR networks. Above and beyond the territorial questions often linked to the issue, further research investigating the architectural aspect of these operations would be highly relevant, but is rather lacking. Instead, we shall be focusing on current HSR stations in Italy, such as Turin Porta Susa, Florence Belfiore and Rome Tiburtina, and comparing them briefly, where necessary, with European case-studies, whilst directing our attention towards certain aspects that still need to be examined. A key element in past studies (Castells: 2000; Harvey: 1989; Hall: 2002) is that contemporary railway operations should be assessed on a city-regional scale. Indeed, focusing on Italian HSR stations, which readapt existing railway stations to HSR use, the importance of the local scale suddenly emerges, since it is through these buildings that the urban residual, pre-existing conditions, due to the 19th and 20th century infrastructure, are now being integrated into larger Master Plans, in which the railway station acts as the primary integer of urban and architectural space. However, replacing these contemporary HSR stations within an architectural framework raises a major question at the district level, about the impact of these huge complexes on the ancient urban fabric and about their new role as urban mediators, also in terms of density and morphology. Finally, addressing specific factors in the design process, this paper aims to describe and illustrate the peculiar features through which HSR infrastructure today manages to transform itself from the urban separator that it was during the last century into an urban connector.
This paper concludes by providing two main scenarios that might contribute to our understanding of the spatiality of these new HSR stations, and attempts to show that HSR stations may be seen as an interface, whose main qualities become those of exchange, adaptability and compatibility; this would call for a more complex association between flows and urban matter, focusing more on the relationships between objects than on the objects themselves.

Keywords: Rome-tiburtina HSR Station, Turin Porta Susa HSR Station, Florence-belfiore HSR Station, Infrastructural Architecture, Rail Infrastructure, Intermodality, Mobility, Urban Regeneration Project, Urban Connector

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.71-87. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 6.119MB).

Prof. Zeila Tesoriere

Professor, Faculty of Architecture, Università degli Studi Palermo, Italia/LIAT ENSAP-Malaquais, Palermo, France

Zeila Tesoriere (1971, architect, PHD), is Professore Associato in Architectural Practice at the Università degli Studi di Palermo, Facoltà di Architettura. From 2000 to 2005 Tesoriere taught at the Ecole d’Architecture de Paris-Malaquais, Paris. She has been Chercheure associée at the IPRAUS (ENSA Paris-Belleville), and at GRAI (ENSA Paris-Versailles). She is Chercheure associée al Laboratoire Infrastructure Architecture Territoire (ENSA Paris-Malaquais) and a member of Dipartimento di Architettura (University of Palermo). Her research revolves around innovation in contemporary architectural practice, with a focus on the role of great urban infrastructures (high speed stations and intermodal poles) in contemporary city practice and planning.