In late 2003, the high-speed train company, TAV Spa, which for the last ten years (and certainly for the next ten as well) has been building a high-speed train network from Milan to Naples, announced that it had selected the British architect Sir Norman Foster to design a 450-meter long, 270-million Euro train station in the heart of downtown Florence.
Foster & Partners’ station will connect to a 7-kilometer stretch of this new track that is being constructed underground, running along the edge of Florence between the existing train station (Santa Maria Novella) and the Campo di Marte suburban station. Sunken 25 meters into the ground, the station will sport a cantilevered glass roof that bubbles out of the earth.
A key feature of the design is its transparency. Although the trains will be 25-meters (75-feet) below ground, they will be visible from above. In a press conference after winning the competition, Foster compared his firm’s proposal to the similarly aerie, and much heralded train station that he designed in the mid-1990s at London’s Canary Wharf.
At 45, 000 square meters, the building will be absolutely massive. It will be located in the Belfiore area, just beside the existing station at Santa Maria Novella. A new surface tram line will connect it to the Centro of historic Florence.
Work began in earnest earlier this year with the reorganization of the road system in this area (much to the consternation of Florentine commuters). In a few months, excavation will begin on the great hole. Expected completion date is 2008.