The Santa Maria Novella railway station, the masterpiece of Giovanni Michelucci, is a conceptual breakthrough in Fascist architecture.
The inauguration of the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence, October 30, 1935, is contemporary to that of the Florentine National Library and follows by only four years that of the Milan Central Station. The comparison between the three buildings highlights the extraordinary novelty of the Florentine railway building. Designed by Gruppo Toscano – Nello Baroni, Pier Niccolò Berardi, Italo Gamberini, Sarre Guarnieri, Leonardo Lusanna – headed by Giovanni Michelucci (1891-1990), the Italian interwar masterpiece came into being in the midst of heated controversy, protests and unqualified exaltation: a turmoil that was to accompany its fate for years until its image was fixed in the alleged fetish of an Italian Rationalism misunderstanding. For over half a century, the improper sacralising criticism proved a real obstacle to the textual analysis of the building and so too an in-depth knowledge of its history. The Santa Maria Novella railway station of Giovanni Michelucci and his young collaborators actually represents a watershed and conceptual breakthrough in Fascist architecture. The building, in fact, materializes the modernizing will of the regime, personified by the educated and enterprising secretary of the Florentine Fascist Party, Alessandro Pavolini; revealing the great constructive talent of Giovanni Michelucci, able to compete with history and the living material of Tuscan building; it is highly effective in terms of propaganda by representing the modernizing and benevolent “consensus” face of Fascism. A close analysis of the architectural masterpiece and its history – enriched by new documents, photographs and drawings, found in collaboration with the Fondazione Michelucci in public and private archives – opens up surprising perspectives of knowledge, not only concerning the Florentine but also the Italian reality at a crucial moment in the history of the nation and the whole of Europe.