Railway stations, buildings and infrastructure in France and Italy, 1918–1945 | Call for Papers

Mag 24, 2023 | convegni e workshop

17 – 18 novembre 2023
Paris et Versailles
Deadline: 20 giugno 2023

As places where different scales of mobility intersect – from building interior to immediate neighbourhood, to urban, regional, national and international destinations, – stations have, since their first appearance, created new focal points and centralities in the urban landscape. They have always had to respond to multiple requirements, whether expressing invitation to travel, a call to set off for other places, or acting as a city’s first showcase at the moment of arrival. These buildings present specific technical and functional challenges, and their construction requires architects and engineers to keep up with advances in rail traffic management and infrastructure modernisation. The circulation of models, methods and knowledge is inherent in the development of railway networks, generating collaboration, emulation and competition between countries and companies.

For railway architecture, the interwar period was a time when damaged stations were rebuilt, networks were modernised (advent of electrification), reinforced concrete was introduced, and new building standards were imposed. The railway station as a specific architectural programme changed profoundly and to a certain extent independently, even while participating in and contributing to broader developments in architectural and urban history. During these decades, the world of architectural planning and design was marked by vigorous debates and accelerating circulation of information, knowledge, and ideas. The long-standing close cultural ties between France and Italy continued in this new context. Exchanges and crosscurrents between French and Italian professionals were also informed by the changing political situation and by attempts to bring the two countries closer – attempts whose political and strategic implications attest to the complexity of the period.
In Italy, from the 1920s on, modernisation of infrastructure and proliferation of construction sites for new facilities were a key part of the Fascist regime’s efforts to build consensus and support in the nation.  Modernisation occurred differently in France, a country with a long history of centralized administration that had experienced a period of intense industrialisation and railway development in the 19th century.

Among the structures that marked the history of architecture in the first half of the 20th century, railway stations constitute a stimulating corpus for exploring the various dynamics at work. A parallel analysis of French and Italian railway architecture, and of passenger stations in particular, can provide keys for exploring the range of possibilities developed during this period of radical transition. A period during which familiar plan types and series could be found alongside entirely new spatial propositions, and where historicist references, picturesque approaches reinvented by regionalist currents, and hybrid proposals reconfiguring elements of the classical tradition, could coexist with buildings deeply engaged in the architectural avant-gardes of the time.

Looking at the development of railway architecture in France and Italy can help us distinguish aspects that are part of a broader, supranational cultural climate, of modernisation on the scale of Europe and beyond, from a discourse or expression that is more strictly national, if not regional or local in scope (whether for simple display or deeply felt and real).

more info abou the Call for Papers: AAC_Railway-stations-buildings-infrastructure_EN

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