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Milano Centrale

exterior view of the station today
Milano Centrale is Italy’s second-largest station in terms of size and traffic volume, with around 600 trains per day, two metro lines, the nearby Railway Link, the terminus of a number of urban bus and tram lines and shuttle buses to the airports; located in piazza Duca d'Aosta, in the centre of the city, it is used by over 320 thousand persons per day, around 120 million per year.


exterior view of the station at the beginning of the XXth century - photo from FS archives
Until 1850 the city of Milano had two railway stations, Porta Nuova and Milan Porta Tosa, that were not linked up with each other. They were both located outside the city limits and were both at the end of two separate railway lines, one of which went to Monza and the other to Venezia. Between 1885 and 1891 the Milano railway was equipped with an outer circle line to connect up the incoming lines at Porta Sempione, Rogoredo, Porta Romana e Porta Garibaldi. But Milano’s rail system soon proved unable to cope with the constant increase in passenger traffic. On 15th January 1906 a design competition was launched for a new station, in which the city’s most prominent architects took part. The projects they presented, in line with the classical and eclectic tendencies then in vogue, featured large cupolas and monumental ornamentation. The project designed by Cantoni was chosen, but was not built; six years later the same public administration held a new competition, which was won by Ulisse Stacchini. The monumental image was sustained by heavy ornamentation consisting of crowns, festton and abstract geometrical motifs. From the original project dated 1912 and the variant presented in 1915, a series of towers, statues, clocks, festoon and chariots were progressively eliminated, in keeping with the austere criteria that had come to prevail in Italy in Giolitti’s day. Stacchini’s design received final approval in 1924. It reflected the changed political climate of the times in its new architectural requirements and different decorative choices. Amongst the changes made, we note the replacement of the cantilever roofing over the tracks that had been foreseen in the original project and the introduction of the vast iron canopies designed by the engineer Alberto Fava. The free span of the main arch measures 72 metres, the largest in Italy, and the canopies extend for a length of 341 metres, covering an area of 66,500 m2. The Station was finally opened in May 1931.
After some ten years, problems had become apparent regarding vehicle access to the ticketing areas and passenger access to the tracks. In 1942, the architect Mario Palanti proposed a solution that consisted of inserting pedestrian and vehicle ramps running from piazza Andrea Doria to the head gallery. In 1952 a new design competition was launched for a solution to Milano Centrale Station’s access problem, but no award was made. Later on, in 1955, the State Railways independently started up a project for the construction of the moving staircases that connect the ticketing hall to the head gallery. For this purpose a new opening, stylistically identical to the original ones, was made in the central ticketing hall, which broke the continuity of the ticketing counters and negatively affected the height/width proportions of the lateral stairways. In more recent times the station underwent further alterations. Amongst these, we recall the installation of new moving staircases along the sides, the creation of a mezzanine waiting-zone straddling the central gallery and the head platform, fitted out with various furnishings; and lastly the construction of a series of cubicles to host services and commercial facililities, installed on the occasion of the 1990 world cup tournament in the head gallery, to the detriment of the legibility and coherence of the historical structures.
interior view of the station before the requalification - the main concourse


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