Heating plant and main controls cabin, Florence

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The Heating plant and Main controls cabin is a technical facilities building in Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station designed by architect Angiolo Mazzoni in 1929. The complex is recognized as one of the masterpiece of Futurist architecture.<ref name=Krier>In 1978, architect Léon Krier described the heating plant as the greatest masterpiece of Futurist-Constructivist-Modernist architecture. Published in London 1978 - An architecture thesis on Angiolo Mazzoni by Flavio Mangione and Barbara Weiss; Angiolo Mazzoni e l'Architettura Futurista p.45</ref>


File:Stazione smn squadra rialzo 03.JPG
The Squadra Rialzo building and the water tower also are part of the plan around the new station and designed by Mazzoni

The heating plant and main controls cabin of Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station, like others support buildings, were planned between 1927 and 1929, before the construction of the new station (which began in 1933). At that time Mazzoni was assigned to Projects and Construction division of the Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian State Railways). The heating plant was part of a bigger plan that included the Post Office in via Alamanni, the recreational club for state railways workers, the Squadra Rialzo building and the overpass on viale Umberto I (today viale Fratelli Rosselli).

The heating plant was designed to house four boilerplates for the new station central heating system; the main controls cabin primary purpose was to house railroad switches control tower.

The heating plant was officially commissioned to Mazzoni in 1929, later he was also charged with the main controls cabin, so in a second time he worked to a solution to join the two blocks. The project was approved on 9 February 1932 with a decree by Costanzo Ciano, minister of postal and telegraph services, as a correlated work for the new station with the a 11,500,000 £ budget. In 1933, Mazzoni obtained second place at the competition for the Santa Maria Novella station, equally with Sot-Sass, Ferrati and Pascoletti. The competition was won by Gruppo Toscano (Tuscan Group) (Giovanni Michelucci and Italo Gamberini the notable members). The same year, on 4 July, the heating plant and main controls cabin construction was contracted to Bianchi Gabriello & Figli building firm the 1933, to be complete two years later, on 15 June, a little before the new railway station.

The iron works: the four boilerplates (with vertical water tubes and three drums) and their chimneys ("Prat" type), the catwalk above them and the helix stairs was contracted to Anonima Pignone in February 1934.


The complex of the heating plant and the main controls cabin is placed along via della Ghiacciaia, at the corner with via della Cittadella. On the other side it overlooks directly the rails, placed a floor up to the roadway.

The complex presents. two main blocks:

  • The heating plant: at the ground floor on via della Ghiacciaia, with two technical rooms, one for the ashes and one for the steam accumulators. On the first floor (at rails level), the boilers room and on the second floor the room with the hoppers to feed the boilers.
  • The main controls cabin: with a semicircular head on via della Ghiacciaia, with porthole windows on the inner side and the third floor the deck with a full-length windows, as a control tower for the rails.

These two main buildings are joined and completed with three other blocks:

  • The two floors building at the corner with via della Citadella. On ground floor the offices and the technical rooms with the pumps; offices also on the first floor and on the second floor two apartments.
  • The building between the heating plant and the main controls cabin. On ground floor the local for the coal crushers, on the first floor (rail level) the area to dump coal and on the second floor, additional technical rooms.
  • This building is completed with a semicircular "hinge", with the stairs, the elevator and a volume with cloakrooms.

The complex structure is in reinforced concrete (frame type) with different types of briks cladding and truss. The retaining wall on rail side, with the rise of 5,20 m between the street floor and rail floor, is made on stones, tapered with a foundation 2 meters.

La connotazione formale, con richiami e citazioni mutuati dalle esperienze futuriste e costruttiviste, si affida sostanzialmente alla aperta e immediata dichiarazione delle funzioni tecnologiche svolgentesi all'interno.

Critical reception

Since after the completion the building aroused vivid admiration and critics, for its technical aspect. Giacomo Devoto defined the main controls cabin, with its 280 levers to manage railswitches and signals: the most perfect, most complex and complete, the most beautiful that exists in Italy and maybe in the World. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who already praised another Mazzoni work Littoria's Post Office, enthusiastically appreciated the "avant-garde" formalism and especially admired the iron spiral stairs that becomes a catwalk to reach the chimneys, becoming an elegant promenade dangling in space; the stairs and the catwalk give agility to the whole building, remembering some flighty and elastic musics by Debussy. Also was sharply bashed, defined as an hideous booth painted in red, and only from the 1970s the project has been reviewed in the general reevalutation of Mazzoni's work. The revaluation started with Carlo Severati, who written some articles in charge of Bruno Zevi in 1975, and with Alfredo Forti, who written a Mazzoni's biography in 1978. Also architect Léon Krier, in the same year, described the heating plant as "the greatest masterpiece of Futurist-Constructivist-Modernist architecture".

After this revalutation, the complex has been defined as: The other gem that can match, on the level of quality, against the coeval train station.





Further reading

  • Template:It icon 1934, Una nuova opera di Angiolo Mazzoni, in "Artecrazia", a. III, n. 75, dicembre
  • Template:It icon Devoto G., Il grande valore dell'opera tecnica, "Il Bargello", 31 ottobre 1935
  • Template:It icon Giovanni Klaus Koenig, Architettura in Toscana 1931-1968, Torino 1968, pp. 142 e sgg.
  • Template:It icon Severati C., Il caso Mazzoni e le poetiche del '900, "L'Architettura Cronache e Storia", a. XX, n¡ 231, gennaio 1975
  • Template:It icon Severati C., Mazzoni: dalle poetiche al linguaggio moderno dell'architettura, "L'Architettura Cronache e Storia", a. XX 1975 n. 233, pp. 714 – 723
  • Template:It icon Forti A., Angiolo Mazzoni, architetto tra fascismo e libertà, Firenze 1978
  • Template:It icon Savi V., Ritorno alla stazione di Firenze, "Rassegna", n. 2 1980, pp. 74–88
  • Template:It icon Godoli E., Il Futurismo, 1980
  • Template:It icon Angiolo Mazzoni (1894-1979). Architetto nell'Italia tra le due guerre, Catalogo della Mostra, Bologna 1984
  • Template:It icon Cresti C., Architettura e Fascismo, Firenze 1986
  • Template:It icon Gobbi G., Itinerari di Firenze moderna, Firenze 1987
  • Template:It icon Puma P., Cabina apparati della stazione di S. Maria Novella, in AA. VV., Firenze. Guida d'architettura, Torino, p. 216
  • Template:It icon Polano S., Guida all'architettura italiana del Novecento, Milano 1991
  • Template:It icon Branca M., Stazione di S.M.N: prime problematiche di un intervento di tutela, "Notizie di cantiere", n. 4
  • Template:It icon Cresti C., Firenze capitale mancata. Architettura e città dal piano Poggi a oggi, Milano

External links

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