Théophile Gautier described railways stations as the palaces of modern industry in which trains, the gods of the nineteenth century were worshipped. I always loved railway stations. When I was young, they were the gateways leading me into the world yonder. They aggrandized my excitement at departure. I have since then been intrigued by the coincidence of sensations my mind and these buildings evoked. Did its architects express a sentiment not unlike the religious fervor of the old cathedral builders? After all, they were monuments to worship and faith in industry and progress. And human emotions collided in these spaces.
These days I have limited experiences of wonder entering those grandiose spaces. Milano Centrale fractured my apathy. Dazzling heights, marbled halls, vast dimensions and monumental carvings shore up a world of humming crowds and relentless movement.
Modeled after Union Station in Washington D.C. and subject to continuous modifications, both on the drawing board and during its construction, it was finally opened in 1931. The winning design by the architect Ulisse Stacchini, does not bear the seal of an identifiable style. Art Deco elements, classical antiquity influences and some Liberty details appear here and there. The most recognizable fascist signs were removed after 1945 so one can talk of a successful pastiche. Beyond its blended style, this is an instance of modern architecture conveying fiery feeling and tremendous presence. Attributes somehow lost in more contemporary cases.