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When in Rome...

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Try and think of the five most famous places in Europe and Saint Peter's in Rome is likely to be on the list. The historical associations are manifold - the basilica itself, the Pope, the Vatican city, all set within a city packed with Roman remains. It is therefore both surprising and exciting to see a piece of unassuming, but confident, contemporary design inserted in the heart of Roman Catholicism. The building, only 300m from the basilica, is a railway station, built as the terminus for a new metro line constructed as part of the 2000 jubilee celebrations.

Designed by architect Marco Tamino, working with technical staff of the Grandi Stazioni team, the building uses sinuously curved fir glulam. This achieves spans of up to 18m, with elements joined by carbon steel plates. The building has extensive glazing and a prefabricated concrete floating floor with a grey ceramic finish above it.

As well as fitting into such a sensitive site, the building had to be designed in a manner that allowed simple prefabrication. This was essential since not only was the construction period very short, but so was the projected lifespan of the building. With other uses earmarked for the site, the station had to be designed with disassembly and removal to a new site in mind. It was prefabricated in three sections each of about 400m 2.With two zones of connection as well, the total structure covers about 1,400m 2.Timber is probably not the first building material that comes to mind in this most monumental of cities. But as this station demonstrates, it has great advantages both in practical terms and in providing an architectural solution that neither jars nor smacks of embarrassing pastiche.

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