In Italy, art is alive, it is something to be seen and enjoyed every day. Something to live not only in museums, but also during everyday’s rush and routine. This is the philosophy underlying the building of what has been defined by the Daily Telegraph as the “most impressive underground railway station in Europe:” the Toledo underground station in Naples. The list, created to outline the 22 most beautiful underground stations in Europe, is topped by this unique, all Italian example of modern art and architecture.
The Toledo underground was born within the project Stazioni dell’Arte, Arts’ Stations, and is witness to a way of thinking that wants art at the centre of everyday’s life, so that everyone can enjoy it.
Even if lying under the ground, the station is full of light, thanks to carefully located skylights meant to create a link between the inside and outside of the station. Each area of the station is characterized by a colored-themed motif, which enhances its architectural shape.
The black of the earth is also a call back to the past history of the area
In the lowest level, black is protagonist. It is the color of cutouts inspired by the history of Naples, flowing on a background made of images from the history of the city’s railways. The color also recalls the asphalt of contemporary cities. All the artwork has been created by artist William Kentridge, who used the ancient technique of mosaic. The main piece, Naples Procession, is a juxtaposition of classical images, defined by the use of black, which recalls the ancient pottery of Magna Grecia, of which Naples was part. This is not the only bow to Naples’ glorious historical past in this area of the station: both ruins of Aragon times’ city walls and the cast of a Neolithic ploughed field are part of its layout.
Another stunning mosaic, entitled Bonifica dei quartieri bassi di Napoli, the recovery of Naples’ slums, is situated at the very top of the escalator and is dedicated to all those workers who helped in the creation of the station. The Bonifica was the first artistic project to be proposed and chosen for the Toledo underground.
The Crater de Luz and the colors of the bay
Yellow is the main color of the second level: it evokes the warm colors of sun, land and local tuff stone. At its deepest, Toledo Station is dominated by the blues and the greens of the sea. A LED light piece, ideated and programmed by Robert Wilson, creates a bright beam of light through the oval mouth of the Crater de Luz, a volcano-shaped cone that goes through all three levels of the station, linking the street with the main hall, built over 40 metres underground. The shape of the tunnel-like construction, as well as the choice of blue and green tassels for its lining, makes it an amazing feat that brings sunlight deep down into the bowels of earth.
Photography is also present through the work of Achille Cevoli and Oliviero Toscani. The first proposed a piece called Men at Work, dedicated to all those who contributed to the excavation of the underground galleries. Razza Umana, a piece by Toscani, well known for his long and controversial collaboration with United Colors of Benetton, explores the morphology of human beings by juxtapposing and superimposing the faces of people of all origins and ethnicities.
Other works, such as the futurism-inspired Rame fuso colato sulle rive del golfo di Napoli (Molten copper poured on the banks of the bay of Naples) by Lawrence Weiner, recalls the gulf of Naples with a curve line and presents words as a form of artistic decoration.
Another beautiful installation is a meta-artistic piece called Theatre is life. Life is threatre dedicated to the role and relevance of Naples and its people to the theatrical art: nine black and white portraits of famous Neapolitan theatre actors have been produced and installed by Shirin Neshat and Luciano Romano.
If you’d like to get a better impression of the look and feel of this station, voted the most beautiful underground station in the whole of Europe, take a look at this video proposed by napolimagazine.com on its youtube channel. You’ll probably agree that the Toledo Station is worth a visit, even if it’s not on your line.
Edited and updated by Francesca Bezzone