While studying abroad in Italy last semester, I was a little worried about traveling to Naples. If you aren't familiar with the city, it has a reputation for being run-down, dirty, and dangerous. The idea that Naples is a sketchy city with a bad crime problem is pretty widespread. However, people like Oscar Tusquets Blanca, a prominent Spanish architect, designer, writer, and artist, are working to turn this image of the city into a misconception. Blanca recently designed Naples' newest metro station: Toledo (pictured below).
Public transportation has a bit of a stigma to it, especially in Naples. When people think of a metro station, they usually think of things like getting from point A to point B, dirt and litter, and probably an odor. None of those things would cross your mind if you were entering the Toledo station. Blanca's design for this station was inspired by light and the sea. The tunnel shown in this photo is 38 meters long and extends from the lobby of the station to the piazza above. The commuters below are shown a glimpse of natural sunlight through this window and are connected to the people in the piazza, who can gaze down on them from street level. Throughout the station, travelers are presented with so much beauty that it almost seems as if they are walking through a work of art, rather than a metro station. Blanca's design of Toledo emphasizes the natural beauty of the sea that the city of Naples overlooks and is so dear to the Italians who live there and creates an entire experience for the people who are traveling through the station.
Blanca took two common elements-light and the sea-and used them to develop a new definition of public transportation. Everyone is familiar with light and water, but in the Toledo station, Blanca has taken aspects of each concept and presented them in a way that makes walking through the station a complete experience. He mixes tiles of different shades of blue and places them to give the impression of moving water. There is even an artistic hallway that displays waves along both sides. Some parts of the station are actually below sea level, which just gives the traveler a stronger feeling of connection with the sea. Light is also a prominent feature throughout the station. The natural sunlight that streams down from the aforementioned crater draws those traveling below to the real world above. The light boxes in the escalators guide commuters either down to the depths of the sea or up toward the hopeful rays of sunshine. The white tiles, that Blanca has placed more prominently toward the highest points of the walls and the ceilings and seem to have more light shining onto them, illuminate the image of sunlight penetrating the surface of the water.
So what makes this metro station design by Oscar Tusquets Blanca so especially creative? As I mentioned before, Naples, and particularly its public transportation system, does not have a good reputation. The way Blanca merges the concepts of light and water with the functionality of a metro station redefines the purpose and experience of transportation. While the beautification of metro stations is not an entirely new concept itself, the way Blanca uses these specific elements in their location gives his project a special significance. Light and the sea are typically viewed as warm and positive things, particularly for Italians. By highlighting these features in a system that is usually regarded with a sense of danger and unpleasantness, Blanca transforms the commute from potentially dreadful to something more like a trip to the beach. In a city that struggles so much with crime and a bad image, metro designs like Blanca's and other Metro Naples Art Stations have the potential to make people feel safer and actually be safer (Broken Windows Theory). At the very least, the Toledo station is an important first step in changing people's attitudes about Naples and its public transportation system.
Other links to Toledo:
Other links to Toledo: