Piazza dei Cinquecento , Rome

The purpose of a traveler is usually the arrival instead of the trip. As a gateway to the city, the station often lacks the attention it deserves.

This is the case of Roma Termini; a railway station that is the gateway to Roma Caput Mundi. Knowledge of its cultural heritage, personal experiences and oral histories, will add value to this place of transit. The later two can be referred to as ‘immaterial heritage’; the kind of heritage TerminiTV strives to bring to a wider audience.

Soft values, such as cultural heritage, oral histories, and local memory experience serious competition with economical and political interests within the process of urban development and planning. Even though planners and designers are becoming increasingly aware of the added value of cultural heritage for the experience of the city, these different powers are in direct conflict, and soft values mostly lose this battle.

Want to read more: Dutch research on the economic added value of cultural heritage

Especially railway stations often seem to lack these softer values and, therefore, could be defined as non-places (“Spaces of circulation, consumption and communication,” Marc Augé). People pass by on a daily basis without knowing what they pass. Communicating these values can turn this around, and could even be used for branding purposes. Here TerminiTV comes in as a possible vector.

Take Roma Termini; the major railway station of the capital of Italy. What most of us probably do not know, is that at this one spot most of Rome’s historical layers are livable. When passing the main entrance you cross six centuries of history, still visible along the walk from Piazza dei Cinquecento to the metro or the train platforms.

Termini 1950In front the Servian Wall and behind it the new facade and high hallway.

The Servian wall at Piazza dei Cinquecento represents the oldest layer, dating back from the fourth century BC. Passing through the wave-shaped façade one passes the last added post-war layer; its modern ‘face’. Between the high hallway and the train tracks, a time travel brings you back to its Fascist period. During this period, Roma Termini had to fulfil a representational role to communicate the greatness and power of Mussolini. This was done through the use of marble materials and bow shapes. History clashes at its most downstairs where parts of the Servian wall still function as such in the underground structure of McDonalds. This makes traveling from or to Roma Termini, from a traditional space travel into a time traveling experience.

Want to read more: The heritage of the Servian wall at Roma Termini

In other words, by adding value and additionally knowing what you see, such non-places change into places. Another way to do so is by literally giving a non-place a face through storytelling. This is what TerminiTV does on its online platform.

“Termini […] shown through videos and photos, interviews of those who leave, who arrive, who wait. This is the goal of TerminiTV, where a group of filmmakers and photographers united in order to tell the stories of people and places linked to this crucial station, where ‘italian-ness’ is so seriously challenged. That’s why we talk about traveling, and about what brought people here.”

Often railway stations are places where homeless people or immigrants gather. By giving these ‘non-people’ a face, they turn into people belonging to the whole. But not only these people are represented on the platform. TerminiTV gives a voice to the multicultural contemporary city of Rome. Their stories, and of those who work at and around the station area, or just pass by, add an identity layer to Roma Termini: the railways station as theatre of human migration.

Find out more about Termini and its people at www.termini.tv.


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