Train Tunnels in the Western Alps: Monumentality and Achievements

Communication Assets of Network Companies
By Kevin Sutton

The tunnels which allow the crossing of the Alps are technical objects unlike any others. Celebrated and commemorated, they are a discursive support as much for the railway companies which make use of them as the States which finance them. The symbol of their monumentality is traditionally the gateway, where there are celebrations, speeches, steles and dedications. Nevertheless, the recent opening of the Lötschberg Base Tunnel and the ongoing construction of the Gothard tunnel seem to mark a new perception of the object’s visibility. Their ends seem to be less in keeping with a process of monumentalization in a memorial sense than with a demonstration of the immediate splendour of the feat associated with the works. They appear to dissolve in the quest for integration into the landscape which has a tendency to trivialise the moment of traversal. In other words, the work is enough in itself in the technical prestige of the breakthrough. Is this a novelty effect or the lasting sign of a trivialisation of the achievement of traversal within the transport chain?

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