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“The challenge of the new innocence”. This is the prevailing sentiment when wandering around the historic city centre of Naples in search of architecture and design both old and new in a city which, now more than ever, needs to reinforce its strong link with traditional craftsmanship and simplification of form.
To get an idea of what Naples is all about today, I suggest you start by visiting the studio and workshop of architect Riccardo Dalisi, who receives visitors on appointment. Allow yourself to be enchanted by a great master who has always worked with simple materials, recycled and rejected objects in a city where the biggest problem in recent years has been precisely what to do with all the garbage. Poor materials such as papier-mâché, waste wood, rough iron, tin and copper in an ultra-poor form of design which is all about devolution and sustainability, issues of great relevance today. Riccardo Dalisi has held street workshops where he gets children and teenagers involved in “participatory design” to create the new physiognomy of Naples: a suspension bridge between Africa and Europe, a city you have to pass through to go either north or south, fully expressing the city’s new geo-cultural context.
The concept is underlined in the subway lines of Naples, offering a true “Metrò Tour” of art and architecture. The most recent addition is last year’s Università station on metro line 1, designed by architect Karim Rashid, with its spaces conveying concepts of simultaneous communications, innovation and mobility featuring curved design and an H3D grid system. Salvator Rosa and Mater Dei stations were designed by studio Mendini.
The Mater Dei project also included redevelopment of the square above it, Piazza Scipione Ammirato, transforming it into a pedestrian zone and enriching it with new street furnishings such as the Carpe Diem sculpture, realized by Luigi Serafini or the ceramic reliefs covering the outdoor elevator, realized by Lucio Del Pezzo.
Gae Aulenti designed the Museo and Piazza Dante stations; the latter also included urban redevelopment of the piazza itself, without altering its eighteenth-century layout, and the metro station incorporates works by Joseph Kosuth and Jannis Kounellis as well as Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Intermediterraneo.
Three different hotels are within a few minutes’ walk of the Piazza Dante station, each with a particular identity of its own. At Via Correro 241 is Naples’ first Art Hotel, Hotel Correra 241, the product of conversion of a former industrial building set next to an outcrop of tufa stone which marks the end of an ancient Greco-Roman aqueduct, with an interior completely saturated in sunny colours.
For those who prefer clean lines and graphics, the Hotel Piazza Bellini is the perfect place to stay. Designed by OD'A architectural studios of Naples, it is decorated with entertaining murals and illustrations by Alessandro Cocchia and sets contemporary furnishing designs in a 16th century nobleman’s palace.
Another interesting place to stay is Albergo Costantinopoli 104, which is, curiously, located in a position adjacent to and intersecting with Hotel Piazza Bellini. Yet another of the many surprises offered by the intriguing city of Naples, this hotel offers guests an opportunity to stay in a late twentieth century villa accessed via a little door leading into a secret garden with a tiny swimming pool.
What about the food? The city centre of Naples has thousands of traditional take-outs and pastry shops, including Scaturchio in Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, which has offered its customers delicious babas and other traditional Neapolitan pastries since 1905. An unusual place for dinner is the Stanza del Gusto, a creative “room” packed with design objects perfectly in line with the “flavours” of the menu, proposing traditional local dishes made with zero km ingredients.
And to continue on this itinerary for visitors who wish to make the most of the earth’s resources and recycle them wherever possible, it is worth going a little way out of town to Spazio Amaltea, where flowers and design objects are created drawing on the city’s floral tradition and innovative use of materials. The works are produced using 1600 different moulds, dies and scales dating back to the last century. The lovely creations of young local architects and designers who work with Capodimonte ceramics are also available for sale.
And to complete the itinerary, it is essential to visit Museo Plart, a research centre dedicated to plastic design which has realised how valuable plastic can be as an artefact in a museum rather than just garbage piling up to bury the city!
Calata San Francesco 59
To make an appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org
Museo Station – Line 1
Hotel Correra 241
Via Correra 241
Hotel Piazza Bellini
Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli 101
Hotel Costantinopoli 104
Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli 104
Piazza San Domenico Maggiore 19
La Stanza del Gusto
Via Costantinopoli 100
Via Solimena 92
Via Giuseppe Martucci 48