03 Sep 2022

Afragola TAV by Zaha Hadid

“This is a through-station that acts as the nucleus of a new, proposed business park linking the various surrounding towns. It also allows two strips of extended parkland to move openly through the site alongside the tracks, opening and connecting the station to the surrounding landscape and business park…Our concept is a bridge extending across the tracks, an urbanised public link shaped by a dynamic architectural language geared towards the articulation of movement.” Zaha Hadid Architects

The Napoli Afragola high-speed station, known as the “gateway to the south”, was built by Astaldi using a design by Zaha Hadid Architects. The first phase was inaugurated in June 2017. Its curving form snakes for over 400 m, with a total area of roughly 30,000 sq m. At times, the structure rises as much as 8 m above the tracks.

Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-born architect is one of the most successful female architects in history. Hadid was born in Baghdad in 1950. After graduating from the Architectural Association in 1977, she joined her former professors, Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis, at OMA. She established Zaha Hadid Architects in 1979, which she ran with Patrik Schumacher.

But, there are many “but” about this train station. The Italian press calls the white building a “cathedral in the desert“, an idiom for an unused thing that is expensive to maintain that you cannot get rid of. There are several reasons for this. The connection to the public transport is poor. The train station is not directly connected to a subway, the nearest station is more than 15 minutes away, or to the regional railway Circumvesuviana, which connects Naples to the surrounding towns. Shuttle buses frequently get stuck in the dense city traffic and on top of that there is a lack of parking spaces. When it comes to the high-speed train connections, the important line between Naples and Bari is far from being finished. Zaha Hadid’s portfolio largely comprises a collection of masterpieces. But the list of controversies that her work triggered is not exactly short. Whether it was projects in China that are ignorant towards man and environment, inhumane conditions for the workers of her World Cup soccer stadium in Qatar or the complete cancellation of the order for the Tokyo Olympic Stadium due to over-taxation – Hadid had a lot of space for criticism during her lifetime. So it is ironically only logical that the last of her supervised projects, the train station of Afragola, does not seem to be without controversy. On top of all that Afragola, which is one of the many agglomerates around Naples, is home of the very last “Emperor” in Naples and Campania, Antonio Bassolino. Some questions are on the table