Italian architect and design studio, Atelier Mendini and New York-based industrial designer Karim Rashid, has collaborated with the M.N. Metropolitana di Napoli to create the interiors of the University of Naples subway station.
Rashid said a subway station is a temporal, transitional space, yet the commuter is contained for a short period of time before continuing his/her journey. The design concept focuses on the commuter experience within the train station, and how the surrounding environment can serve as a respite in a person’s daily schedule.
“There was a great synergy working with Atelier Mendini, particularly on the creative and technical level highly required for this project,” he said.
The subway station is the first of five new facilities integrating the Naples subway line 1 that serves strategic areas of the town and is part of the “Art Stations” network, which are all conceived by internationally renowned architects and enriched in both interiors and exteriors, by sculptures, installations and contemporary artworks.
Entering the venue from the piazza, the visitor walks though a space clad with tiles, each one printed with new words created in the last century.
The mezzanine level of the station has four black columns clad with DuPont Corian in Nocturne (black). These are all positioned close to the gates, with two in a cylindrical section, and the others featuring the profiles of huge heads.
Along the back wall of the lobby level are lenticular icons that change colour and perspective as commuters proceed to the platforms below and intersecting the space between the head profile benches is an abstracted, Synopsis sculpture reflecting the nodes of the brain and the synapses which occur within that.
Nearby, the subway station control centre is clad with DuPont Corian Glacier White to contrast with the pop-style graphics on the floor and wall.
Various artworks and other graphic art serve as a focal point. These abstract images invoke the user to shape the environment according to his/her own creative interpretations. The platform steps feature abstracted portraits of Dante and Beatrice. The accent colours, lime and pink, indicates the direction and guides visitors through the descent to the final destination.
“I started this project more than six years ago. I visited Naples, in 2004, for a briefing with Mendini then he and M.N. Metropolitana di Napoli selected various famous architects to design each station,” said Rashid.
“They showed me Gae Aulenti’s station design that was completed in 2002 as well as the station Mendini had designed. Aulenti’s station has work by Michelangelo Pistoletto and Joseph Kosuth. Some stations have art from Sol Lewitt to Sandro Chia. Alessandro and Francesco Mendini were the master planners on the projects.”
Rashid used pop colours in two tones – lime and pink – taking the theme of a conceptual descent when entering the subway as a physical and mental transition for visitors.
“A new world is discovered below ground where travelers are impacted by the soft nature and striking palate of the space. Since the stations were under the auspices of art, this allowed me to design something more than a station, that is somewhat conservative, and ‘accent’ it with art,” he said.
“I did the whole station as a digital art space so I sunk the art budget into the interior wall and spaces instead of selecting art. I always thought it was a better way to spend money.
“A person is in the station on average for three to four minutes and in that time I want to communicate the idea of knowledge, global information, the shrinking world, the data-driven third technological revolution, infosthetics, and a place that stimulates, inspires, and exudes energy.
“When I designed the station with large ‘digital data-driven brushstrokes I did not even think about whether it is wild or not, I guess I was more naive then, and thought that they wanted my aesthetic. And they did and along the whole process from the president to the politicians to the engineering team, everyone loved my concept. The only reason it took so long was because of the tumultuous political condition that prevails in Naples.”
The whole interior design of the Università subway station is conceived to guide travelers on a pathway to knowledge and to stimulate creativity, imagination and reflection. Beyond guiding the traveler through the underground space in a fresh and exciting way, all decorative and structural elements of the environment create a link between the pragmatic function of the station and the academic and multi-cultural relevance of the city district.
The overall result is an astonishing, environment for a subway station: curved walls, sculptural columns, vivid colours and graphics reflecting a strong spatial personality.
Rashid is currently working on a 600-room hotel in Bangkok and a condo project in Miami as well as a children’s store in Russia, limited edition cell phone and clocks for Alessi. His award winning designs include democratic objects such as the ubiquitous Garbo waste can and Oh Chair for Umbra, interiors such as the Morimoto restaurant, Philadelphia and Semiramis hotel, Athens.