Preserving the heritage of railway stations has, due to present-days privatisation processes, become a topical issue and as a result a series of town-planning projects with architectural interests have been launched. The projects range from the design of the re-use of abandoned railway yards to the operations involving partial upgrading of the railway stations and annexed buildings. The aim is to increase the profitability of this property heritage. In these circumstances it is of prime importance to gain an in-depth knowledge of this heritage. This needs to be done in order to suggest compatible uses that will preserve the historic, documentary and artistic value of these properties and also the design elements contained therein. Furthermore, in order to organise this framework of knowledge, it is necessary to carry out an evaluation of the railway property heritage as well as the different degrees of aesthetic-documentary value of the handmade items.
Literary works dealing with the history of economy and modern history, usually include chapters dedicated to the development of the national railway system. This topic is also covered in studies of the history of town planning, in numerous studies on the individual railway buildings, but mainly in the monographs on single architects or single cities, as well as in a limited number of monographs on some most important Italian railway stations (for further bibliographical informations refer to A. Giuntini, Il paese che si muove. Le Ferrovie in Italia fra '800 e '900, Franco Angeli, Milan 2000). Contrary to other countries, in Italy there is a regrettable lack of specialised magazines and concise studies dealing in a exhaustive manner with the architectural, structural and town planning complexities of railway buildings. Moreover, the bibliography available is not recent.
The research, where eight Departments of seven italian Universities were involved, has been carried out along the following lines:
- The earliest experiences of the use of reinforced concrete in the railway infrastructures.
- The architectural competions for the railway stations from Milano centrale to Roma Termini (1911-1957).
- The railway policies during fascism.
- The railway building in Italy between the two wars.
- The residential buildings for railway workers.
- The interior design of the railway stations.
- The visual communication system in the railway buildings.
- The iconography of the railway theme (posters, photography, paintings, etc.).
- The seaside and mountain holiday camps for the children of railway employees in order to obtain consensus for the regime.
- The impact on the urban context of the new railway buildings between the two wars.
- The protagonists of railway architecture between the two wars.
- Railway engineering and manuals.
- The transformation of the railway buildings caused by the wars.
- The railway buildings during post-war reconstruction.
- Mapping of the archives for studying the railway building industry.
- Prospects for the reuse of railway buildings.
The research will take into consideration the archived documentation relating to Italian stations and deal with stations that have been built and those which were designed within competitions but not built. The documentation of interest is related to both the design aspects and the planning context. Additionally press releases will be investigated. The analysis will need to trace the modifications that the built stations have undergone during the years.
The more significant results of the research are three books where the reports of three meetingswhich took place in Florence (2001), Florence (2003) and Palermo (2003) are collected: Angiolo Mazzoni (1894-1979) Architetto Ingegnere del Ministero delle Comunicazioni, edited by Mauro Cozzi, Ezio Godoli and Paola Pettenella, Mart, Rovereto - Skira, Milano 2003, pp. 416; Architettura Ferroviaria in Italia. Ottocento, edited by Ezio Godoli and Mauro Cozzi, Dario Flaccovio Editore, Palermo 2004, pp. 512; Architettura Ferroviaria in Italia. Novecento, edited by Ezio Godoli and Antonietta Iolanda Lima, Dario Flaccovio Editore, Palermo 2004, pp. 524.
The Florence University's research group produced two monographical numbers for the periodical 'Storia dell'Urbanistica Toscana': Strade ferrate e stazioni: nuovi paesaggi urbani e territoriali, 'Storia dell'Urbanistica Toscana/IX', 2003; Fabbriche e stazioni. Il parco ferroviario di Firenze Santa Maria Novella, 'Storia dell'Urbanistica Toscana/X', 2004. The research produced also some unpublished works: a bibliography on railway architecture in Italy (more than one hundred periodicals has been listed) and a biographical dictionary of Italian architects and engineers who worked inin the branch of railway architecture. One of the most important research's results has been to improve the conservation of railways archives.
Actions undertook to awaken a more careful conservation of railways architectural heritage enabled conditions for drawing up pilot projects in order to restore and use those railways stations, that are no more working, in different ways. Especially the knowledge acquired will be useful to set acceptable limits in restructuring and transforming buildings.