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When the sea laps against Naples

‘When the wise man points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger’ states an old proverb.
A proverb that leaps to mind as soon as one crosses Via Medina, in Naples, finding oneself in front of the last great test of the two Iberian masters, Souto de Mura and Álvaro Siza.

An intervention misunderstood by most, which has received a great deal of unjustified criticism: some complain about the absence of trees, some about benches, others about shading systems. But the silent design of the two masters, the result of years of construction work together with the underground site for the metro – which later turned out to be an huge archaeological ‘park’ – is not a space that can be defined by canonical terms. It is neither a piazza, nor a boulevard, nor a place to wait. It is a device of the gaze that simply answers the city’s paradox – ‘the sea does not lap against Naples’ – and resolves it.
And so, after decades of work on the metropolitan site, the two masters silently manage to give Neapolitans back the last layer of an ancient but almost always hidden landscape: that of the relationship with the sea.

The last part of the intervention open to the public, after the underground and the square next to Palazzo San Giacomo, is the large space connecting Via Medina to Via Acton, a plate, a slab covering the complex metropolitan area. To reveal the relationship with the space below, the long, deep blade that crosses the space and directs the gaze: suddenly Castel Sant’Elmo, the Certosa di San Martino, the Magazzini Generali, the maritime station, and the sea, of course, are very close. A few other elements, the seats, a few trees, minimal interventions still aimed at directing the gaze ‘beyond’, and allowing what is never possible in the dense, dense city of Naples.



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