Walls that speak italian
Main line, suburban and metropolitan railway stations are important locations for exhibiting urban art and architecture. A prime example is the Grand Central Terminal in New York, which was constructed in the late nineteenth century and over the years has hosted unique artworks and been used as the set for famous Hollywood films. Another is the London Underground, popularly referred to as « the Tube » due to the circular shape of its tunnels, which was first opened in 1863 and is the world’s oldest suburban infrastructure. The Paris Metro dates from the period of the Belle Époque in the early twentieth century. Opened without ceremony in the summer of 1900, it now comprises 301 stations and 16 lines running over a total length of 215 km, largely underground. But Paris also has another rail network, the RER suburban express railway with 590 km of through lines and urban segments.
Line A, with a total length of 80 km, consists of a number of branches connecting the city’s eastern and western suburbs. It runs underneath the commercial district of La Défense, an area not far from the Arc de Triomphe renowned for its experimental architecture. In recently completed projects, the entrances to three of its stations have undergone restyling operations. Two of these in particular, Val de Fontenay and Sucy in eastern Paris, have used tiles from Ceramiche Refin’s Velvet Ground Bianco collection. The same tiles in a 30×60 cm format are included in the specifications for renovation work at the Nanterre Préfecture station, the second largest in terms of traffic in Île-de-France. The Cenere colour version was chosen to enhance the concrete effect considered essential for the purposes of the project.
The station has been fitted with three new entrances, five lifts, four staircases and nine escalators, clearly demonstrating the operator’s intention to meet high standards of modernity and accessibility and to remove architectural barriers for users with disabilities or reduced mobility. Concrete effect porcelain tiles contrast with the coloured walls to create a strikingly modern aesthetic. The chosen tile supplier, the Italian company Ceramiche Refin, has been collaborating since 2009 with the RATP group, the state-owned operator responsible for public transport in Paris and its hinterland. The project, including the choice of materials, was coordinated by internal staff. Last but not least, tiles from Refin’s Pietre di Borgogna Oro colour collection were chosen due to their technical performance for the remodelling project at the Gare RER Luxembourg, still undergoing completion.