The city, the visit

The time spent in Genoa was enough to have glance of the existing challenges and to better understand how a complex geography can condition the development of a city and a port. In the previous post we mentioned the particular situation of this case regarding its context. The fact that there is almost no flat land has forced the development parallel to the coast line of both the city and the port. The urban agglomeration has also other two orthogonal development axis, matching two rivers, the Bisagno and the Polcevera. Another particularity of this case, although is something we might appreciate in other cities, is the fact that several city districts used to be independent villages that were later annexed to the main urban core. In the Genoese case this situation is even more flagrant since its longitudinal configuration increases the differences and the distances. When we analyze this situation we see that the port and one particular road are the main links for the territory in this direction. The fact that the Port spreads along the coast from Piazzale Kennedy to the Voltri Terminal creates a continuum of maritime activities of different kind, from industrial harbour to marinas.

For the analysis of the case we followed the same methodology as in the previous cases. We visited the areas where the port-city relation is more intense and the elevated places from where we can see the contrast between the different environments. Along the visit we also made a photographic survey where the possible conflicts or synergies can be visited. The result of this work will be published in the Flickr  where all the other port-cities albums are. Besides the field analysis of the relation we also visited the cultural institutions that could provide insights to the interaction between the different realities. Finally several interviews with the responsible stakeholders were performed.

panorama small
Porto Antico Author: José M P Sánchez

In this city we can find several institutions that relate with the port identity. One of the main cultural venues where we see the historical relation of Genoa with the port and the sea is the Galata Museo del Mare. This museum fulfills the role of city and maritime museum. As we will later see until very recently there was another important space to understand the linkage between city and port, the Port-center. We can also find a maritime museum in Pegli, a smaller space more focused on the maritime activities.

The interviews

In order to better understand the Genoese reality we got in contact with the local authorities that could add important information to the case analysis. More specifically we were able to reach the Municipality, Arch. Antonio Pastorino and Arch. Nicoletta Poleggi. In the Port Authority we spoke with Ms. Paola Gianpietri (PG), responsible for the new Port Plan (Piano Regolatore Portuale – PRG in Italian) currently in approval phase as we will later see. Finally we spoke with Arch. Stefano Russo (SR), responsible for the Blueprint concept plan in the Renzo Piano Building Workshop. This last interview was an exception when compared with the previously analyzed cases, where we did not speak with private companies. Genoa is special in this aspect since the work of the architect Renzo Piano has a significant influence in the city, the port and waterfront development.

The relation between the city and the port

Emotional

In the emotional relation between the city with the port we can find similarities to what it happens in other port-cities, particularly Marseille. The maritime roots of Genoa are very clear and until not so long ago many families had a strong relation with the port activities. Obviously this has change in the last decades, the mechanization processes and changes in the economic flows has led to the situation we currently find ourselves in. The port is no longer the job creator it once used to be, although still is an important stakeholder in the employment market. Parallel to the decrease of jobs in the port we have also seen the continuous expansion of the port territories. In the case of Genoa, as we saw in the previous post, the increase of port areas took place mainly during the past century, from the east to west leaving the historical port behind. Also we find port areas near the Castello hill, mainly industries related with naval repair, yacht and rowing clubs.

Due to the physical evolution of the port, as explained before, the relation with the port is not uniform in the entire city. In the areas where the harbour first expanded,for example in San Pier d’Arena, the rejection of the port activities is not so strong. Curiously is in this part where the physical relation is more complex since the barrier effect produced by the port is stronger and is harder to intervene. The planned projects for this section of the city, as mentioned by the municipality, are in fact focused in taking profit of the port border, to transform the existing road into a sort of main connection that would reduce the traffic in the district’s urban tissue.

san pier d arena
San Pier d’Arena: Harbour next to the city Source: it.wikipedia.org

Towards the west is where the relation gets more complicated. This happens mainly because further west we find the most recent expansion projects. In the collective memory remains the image of this part of the city as the area where beaches of Genoa used to be. In the area of Cornigliano we find naval industries and the oil harbor. Both activities produce strong negative externalities regarding acoustic, air and water pollution. In the future we will see several changes in the area, mainly in the Porto Petroli (Oil Harbor). This infrastructure will be reduced and some of its activities will change their operation into a less space consuming one. Moving some of its elements to the inland and making connections with pipes directly to the ships.

In the Voltri area is where we find the most delicate relation, matching the area where the last port expansion, the Container Terminal, took place. This project was inaugurated in 1992 and changed significantly the configuration of the coast in this part of the city. At the time the possible impact was not a main concern, although a water channel was created as blue buffer to the city. Nowadays there are several construction sites in this area to configure a green buffer running parallel to what is known Fascia di rispetto di Pra (Respect strip of Pra). In this space we can find several public sport and leisure facilities such as a football field or the waterfront promenade.

voltriVTE
Voltri Terminal and Fascia di Rispetto di Prà Source: http://www.porticciolionline.it/

In the west part of the city, the most affected area by the Voltri terminal, we can also find an association named Fondazione Primavera,focused on the development of the city district. This autonomous organization tries to handle the relation with the port, considering it an important part of its territory. For example, in their vision for the district they include a point regarding the porto amico (the friendly port). They accept the port presence but demand certain improvements for their life quality, such as electric quays that would cause less acoustic pollution. This is not an organization created by the PA or other institution, although they do keep a dialogue.

It is clear that the majority of the coexistence issues might be found in the west part of Genoa, but also in the east we could see problems. More specifically in the area near the naval repair where an intense industrial activity takes place. The city district in the hill next to it does not have any barrier that could protect them from the noise, also the  height difference accentuates this issue.

View of Genoa with the port and La Lanterna on the back Author: José M P Sánchez
View of Genoa with the port and La Lanterna on the back
Author: José M P Sánchez

In general terms, as pointed out by PG, the port community is aware that the city does not know well what happens in the port. To solve this problem, as we will later see, in 2009 the Port center was created, this type of initiative will be further studied in the next stage of the research. Nowadays the PA is conducting a study to better understand the impact of the port in the city and the hinterland. The focus of this survey is the economy, but also includes the employment impact and it might provide new information regarding the public perception of the port.

Institutional

The institutional relation in the case of Genoa has as well several peculiarities. On the contrary of what we have seen in most of the previous cases the interviewees from both authorities, the Municipality and the PA, agreed that the relation is quite straightforward and the synergies are in general terms positive. This is quite surprising if we consider that usually there are several points where is difficult to find an agreement, but we must also understand that there are precedents of close collaboration among both institutions.

The cooperation between the Municipality and the PA started in the late 1980’s for the 1992 exhibition. During the process there was a strong dialogue for the development of the project. Later on, for the different waterfront interventions near the city, the collaboration was also necessary. From the year 2008 to 2012, the Genova Urban Lab was established, where once again both entities worked together for the improvement of the relation and the urban environment.

Porto Antico Area current state Author: José M P Sánchez
Porto Antico Area current state
Author: José M P Sánchez

Simultaneously the PA has changed their way of looking to the city. PG explained that there has been an evolution of the PA initiatives towards the city, mainly regarding the activities that can happen in the boundary between port and city. The intention of the PA is to go further than the mandatory relation forced by the law for the approval of institutional documents and plans. However she also pointed out that each body has different priorities and goals, what eventually might lead to more intense negotiation.

Where we could find more difficulties was in the relation between the PA and the national government. In Italy a centralized system is established, just like in France and other south European countries. For this reason the PA does not have full control over its budget and the revenues their activities generate. Although in recent years the control by the central government has slightly eased, the PA still is not able to fully decide where it will allocate its resources without consulting the national authorities. The interviewees mentioned that probably, if the port was more autonomous regarding its financial management, it could be more generous regarding the projects more related with the city.

In previous posts we have already seen how the organization of the country regarding its infrastructure can affect the relation between ports and cities. Related to this subject we will also see some changes in Italy in the near future. In recent years there has been a discussion regarding the organization of the Port Authorities. The main issue is the possible combination of different PAs into what could be consider regional PA, for example creating the Ligurian Port Authority replacing the ones from Genoa, Savona and La Spezia. The initial idea behind the process could, in our opinion, bring positive outcomes, since it would allow a better organization of the port system and better coordination regarding the maritime traffic. The law is currently under discussion and the initial idea has evolved, changing the criteria for the combination of the different PAs. As it was explained by PG, the last news they got was that the new PA would combine Genoa and Savona, leaving La Spezia with the PA responsible for the ports of Tuscany. Another problem could be the new Port Plan. This document, which we will later see in detail, is currently in the final development stage and the PA expects to have it functional by the end of next year. In case the new port system law is official before its approval, it could mean significant delays for the port plan, with the need of a new unprecedented document for the new institution.

Liguria region: Genoa in the center, Savona on the left side and La Spezia on the right. Source: http://www.geodus.com/
Liguria region: Genoa in the center, Savona on the left side and La Spezia on the right.
Source: http://www.geodus.com/

The Port and the Waterfront – Long standing discussion topic

Previous approaches

The waterfront of Genoa has been a subject of public argument of several decades. As we explained in previous posts, in the late 1980´s and early 1990´s the port area near the city center was released and a new public waterfront was created with a project from Renzo Piano. After this operation we can find other contributions from several renowned architects and urban planners for the port and waterfront of Genoa, including Piano himself several times. In 1996, the PA decided to create a specific agency where the new port plan would be discussed and new ideas could be developed. This new approach included the collaboration with the university and four well known architects: Rem Koolhaas, Marcel Smets, Manuel Solá Morales and Bernardo Secchi. The process was coordinated by Stefano Boeri and it brought new concepts, mainly for the port-city interface, which could have inspired the port plan published in 2001. We will not stop in detail in each one of them since there are several publications and articles that explain in detail the projects. The main areas of intervention were in the Cornigliano-Airport area, by Smets, the boundary between the city and the port from Ponte Parodi to La Lanterna, by Koolhaas, and the east part of the harbour, from the Porto Antico area to the Fiera del Mare (Exhibition fair). The last mentioned project was focused in a section of the city that is currently been discussed thanks to the Blueprint from Renzo Piano that we will later explain.

Proposal from Solá Morales Source:
Proposal from Solá Morales
Source: http://www.oddweb.it/

L´Affresco

In the first decade of the new millennium we saw another ambitious plan for the Genoese waterfront. This time Renzo Piano decided to develop a plan for the entire port, not just the released area. The goal was to redesign the port territory giving it a certain coherence that would eventually rearrange the logistic area of the port and improve its capacity. Consequently, this could lead to new waterfront areas been released for public use.

First version of the Affresco plan Source: http://www.rpbw.com/
First version of the Affresco plan
Source: http://www.rpbw.com/

The main idea of this new plan, presented in 2004, was to transform the airport into an artificial island in front of the city. This would allow the space of the airport to be used for new container terminal. In the San Pier d’Arena area several quays would be landfilled to allow more area for port activities. At the same time the naval reparation could be transformed into an island placed in front of La Lanterna. The plan caused controversy and several changes were requested. In the following years, 2005 and 2006, the project was reviewed and adapted to different demands. The moving of the airport was considered a key point but the idea of changing the naval repair area was dismissed. Another main goal was the improvement of the public access to the sea, for this reason in the area of Multedo we would see several changes. Here was where we could find the oil harbour, one of the most polluting activities along with the coal energy plant, the idea was to relocate them and leave the opportunity for new waterfront uses.

The plan was very discussed by public entities and the port community, but eventually it was not translated into a reality. The need of massive investment, estimated by president of the region at the time in 4,000 mil. €, was considered excessive. When we asked the interviewees about the failure of the plan,they also mentioned other points, such as the airport or the landfill needs. Regarding the airport,the main issue was that moving it into an artificial island it would not solve the problems it causes. The height limit established by the responsible authorities or the limits to the port activities would remain the same since the landing and take over routes would be very similar to the existing ones. Another issue was the execution of the project. Until the new airport was concluded,the existing one would not be dismantled and prepared for port activities. Also the economical and ecological impact related with the key project were an issue. To execute the necessary landfill, the idea was to use earth coming from the new highway and railway connections, with several tunnels that would generate excessive dirt. Since these new infrastructures were not built the impact caused by the artificial island would be even greater.

Later version from the Affresco Plan Source: www.rpbw.com
Later version from the Affresco Plan
Source: http://www.rpbw.com

The Affresco was not implemented but some of its ideas would later become a reality, such as the reduction of the oil harbor or the deactivation of the coal power plant. In this plan it was already clear that the port community is formed by very different realities and that change is not always seen as something positive.

Blueprint

In September 2015 a new document named the Blueprint plan was publicly presented. The author, Renzo Piano, decided to give it to the city rejecting any kind of compensation. As told by SR, Piano’s office was contacted by members of the region, PA and the municipality to request him a concept plan for a part of the waterfront. This time, in contrast with the Affresco, the area was significantly smaller, with clear boundaries and specific problems. The concerned part of the port was the waterfront between the Porto Antico and Punta Vagno, where Piazzale Kennedy is in the east part of the city.

View of the west part of Genoa
View of the west part of Genoa

The main concern in this intervention was the current situation of the naval repairs shipyards that needed new facilities in order to continue with their activity and not move away to other city, such as Marseille as it has been rumored. On the other hand the same companies are not so opened to major changes, as we saw in the Affresco plan, so the solution needed to work without major configuration changes. Besides this main issue, which was the main problem for the PA in this area, we have other elements that demanded a new solution. Regarding the maritime activities in this area, we also find several marinas, sport and leisure associations, like the Yacht Club (the oldest one in Italy), the rowing club, or Societa’ Canottieri Genovesi Elpis, among others. These organizations are also very important since, as we will see, they do not fully agree with the proposed solution.

From the city side,the Fiera district has become serious urban problems. The global importance of industrial fairs has been diminishing over the last decades since the advent of new and more effective communication methods. In Genoa we can still find the Boat Show, which is one of the biggest worldwide, and other minor events that only use the existing facilities for a short period in specific dates. This situation is becoming problematic because the current buildings are oversized and have entered in a possible degradation process. At the same time the lack of revenues has caused serious economic problems to the public company that used to manage the industrial fair, therefore the maintenance is even more complicated. This is an urban problem that was included in the scope of the new plan.

Genoa exhibition fair Source:http://www.primocanale.it/
Genoa exhibition fair
Source:http://www.primocanale.it/

Finally another issues were the fact that the area hosts several important road connections that add complexity to the situation. Also this part of the city center until now did not had any sort of direct contact with the sea.

Renzo Piano, besides considering all the existing problems, also took the opportunity to give access to the water to this city district, creating a new longitudinal park, as pointed out by other authors following the idea of Solá Morales. This new public space would be able to connect the Porto Antico to the Piazzale Kennedy, an area that would also be regenerated into a new green area.

The main concept of this plan is the development of a new water channel that would create a sort of blue buffer between the urban and port realities, giving a more clear separation between the different industrial, sport and urban areas. The line followed by the new water canal it is not casual, it follows the path of the old port walls, the Mura della mala paga. This new water area does not always has the same width, but always keeps a minimums size in order to allow the navigability. The widest point would be in front of the current Yacht club, where it would stretch until reaching a maximum width similar to the one of the old dock, the first harbor of Genoa. Besides the new channel, that transform the shipyard section into an island, there would also be a reconfiguration of the industrial part, creating more space due to the planned landfills. These interventions would use the land extracted from the new waterway hence increasing the sustainability of the project.

Blueprint plan Source: Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Blueprint plan
Source: Renzo Piano Building Workshop

In order to grant the access to the industrial area, a new parallel road would be created in the level of the intervention, following partially the path of the Sopraelevata. The new island would include two connections with firm land. The waterfront longitudinal park would exist mainly on the city side of the waterway, and only partly on the sea side, in front of the Yacht Club. During the design phase there was the attention to provide at least the same linear meters of docking space as the existing ones, although in most cases the final figure was bigger than the current situation. What clearly changes is the configuration of the berths, from a compact distribution to one along the new canal and in the fair area.

The Fiera part would also suffer major changes. The area of the fair would be reduced to less than half and only the buildings that are considered more relevant would be kept, such as the one from architect Jean Nouvel. In this section of the plan the sport center Palasport would also be preserved, although its context would change due to the new presence of water that would allow the creation of roofed docks for small and medium sized embarkations. Also in this part of the plan is where we can find the new constructions. The program would be mainly focus on housing, tertiary and commerce related with the maritime world.

Section through the Palasport Source: http://www.comune.genova.it/
Section through the Palasport
Source: http://www.comune.genova.it/

Regarding the project financing, the PA is expected to be responsible for financing the works related with the port activities, but the private investment would also be part of the equation. Although the general intervention is to be led by public institutions, the new construction would be developed by private investors. The agreement would probably require certain negotiation, but these sort of financing schemes is a typical approach to the urban regenerations projects, as we have seen in previous cases. It is also a characteristic of the current model of large urban interventions which contrasts with the first generation of waterfront plans in the Mediterranean sea, such as the Port Antico or the Barcelona case.

There are several key ideas behind the plan, besides the physical interventions, that must be kept in mind as Arch. Russo explained us. First of all the fact that the plan is a conceptual plan, therefore is not to be taken literally and certainly it requires a considerable amount of work to fully develop the concepts presented. At the same time, the main features of the plan allow its adaptation to the different possible solutions to existing problems near the concerned areas, such as the creation of a tunnel under the Porto Antico bay. This option has been discussed for several decades and never fully dismissed. In the municipality we were told that the current mayor considers this to be an option for the cross traffic. If we eventually see in the near future a tunnel, the Sopraelevata might change it use for example to an elevated public space. The Blueprint is thought in a way that allows different approaches without compromising the key decisions of the plan.

Another important point is the fact that the plan establishes several areas that should be discussed in further detail in new urban planning competitions. The decided boundaries are simply a suggestion from the project team and could be adapted to changing scenarios. The intention of Renzo Piano would be to allow young architects to bring new ideas for the waterfront and further develop the plan.

The Blueprint has caused a considerable discussion since its presentation to the public. Not all the concerned actors are in favor of the plan concepts. As mentioned before, there are several groups opposing its implementation, mainly the Yacht Club. This organizations disagrees with the idea of changing the distribution of the berths although their main building would remain in the same location. One of the main reason for this opposition is the fact that in their eyes is not so clear what happens when the nautical fair takes place, since they would need the berths next to main fair halls, an area they would use. For this reason, in the plan the project team carefully increased the linear meters of docks when compared with the existing ones. On the other hand the port community is very often reluctant to change, as we have seen in other cases. In this particular context the members of the yacht club are often persons with considerable connections and resources. At the same time the concession contract for the docks given to the club would end in December this year, therefore a negotiation was already necessary. At the present there is an intense discussion about the topic, hyped by the press. During the next year we should find out if the pressure groups against some of the plan ideas succeed and are able to force a change.

New context for the Yacht Club building Source: http://www.comune.genova.it
New context for the Yacht Club building
Source: http://www.comune.genova.it

Finally there is another point we were able to discuss with SR, the name of the plan. Blueprint is the name given in architecture to the construction plan that are taken to the site to have the instructions and detail for the construction. In this case, the plan is exactly the opposite since is a concept for the waterfront, far from the execution phase. The name is related with the dominant color of the intervention, blue. Renzo Piano insisted in leaving the water with its color and abstracting the land and construction so the most important element would be enhanced. The key was to give a contact with the water to the city, and this was achieved with the new waterway. This main concept is even clearer in the simplified plans, without the satellite picture, therefore the simplification was crucial to better explain the concept and leave the essence of the project very clear, just like what happens with the sketches in the architecture projects.

Blueprint plan, contrast between the water and the city Source: http://www.comune.genova.it
Blueprint plan, contrast between the water and the city
Source: http://www.comune.genova.it

Port Plan

The new port plan has been under development since 2010 and currently is in what we could consider the final stage near the approval, something that it should happen during the year 2016 or beginning of 2017. In the new plan there are several elements that are innovate and could bring significant improvements to the port-city relation. The concern about the interaction with the city has been one of the key elements on the making process and the main goal, as expressed in the plan, is to be able to create value for the territory.

View of Genoa Source: http://www.porto.genova.it/
View of Genoa
Source: http://www.porto.genova.it/

We have seen in this post and the previous one that Genoa is placed in a territory with a complex topography, for this reason the expansion of the port has been decided to be inwards. The opposition to new landfills would be significant hence the only option was to improve the operation of the port within the existing territory, changing its morphology to receive the largest ships reaching 18,000 to 22,000 TEU. The plan is organized into two main components: the physical plan and the immaterial plan. Both are important and both have consequences for the city. In the case of the immaterial plan the main innovation is the improvement in the integration of control and custom system in order to have a more fluid traffic hence reducing its impact in the city. This is something we have also seen in other cases like Helsinki. In order to work it requires an effort not just from the PA, but also from all the other concerned authorities. The physical plan would be responsible for the changes in the port territory and for achieving the industrial, environmental and integration goals.In this plan is where we can find the new protection projects, a new system of breakwater that would allow the bigger ships a safe entry into the port.

Operational areas

The plan is organized in three different operational areas, the PO (Operational Port), the PP (Passengers Port) and the PU (Urban Port). For this article we will focus in the urban and passenger areas since are the one that will have a more direct interaction with the city. Regarding the operational port is important to understand that the interior growth would required still more land for the docks. This increase in the activity would partly be achieved by creating more space for the berths of ships in the San Pier d’Arena port section, land filing several basins like it has already been done in some areas. Another important change for the industrial port is the reduction of the oil harbour, as we have seen an idea already explored previously. The motivations are both environmental and economical, since the released area could be used by the shipyards Fincantieri. The system could be replaced by hoses therefore avoiding the birth of the oil tankers.

The operational fields aforementioned are very often intersecting with each other and with the city boundaries, the Passenger Port is the one that has a more clear physical translation. This last one is considered to form the transition areas in several points, such as the ferry terminals that allow more direct interaction between the citizens and the port. These points are also part of one of the strategies to improve the visual interaction, called the “grafts”, areas where there could a more direct physical and, mainly, visual relation. For the Passenger Port is also very important the parallel circulation, following the concepts that we already see in some of the ferry terminals or in Terrasses du Port in Marseille. In Genoa should be even easier to achieve since the topography allows the creation of two different heights, one in the harbor level and another in the street level. This increased interaction, that could be very positive for city’s perception of the port, is now jeopardized by the increase of the security measures which go in the opposite direction by separating the people from the restricted area as much as possible.

Urban Port

In the Urban Port we find several areas that will gather the majority of the interventions. In the west, the Voltri terminal will be transformed into an island by the creation of a new water channel, extending the Fascia di rispetto di Prà. This new waterway will include new public waterfront and it will work as a blue and green buffer between the city and the industrial area. Further east we might eventually see projects for the area of the oil harbor that could include a beach and public waterfront, although this is still an element to be discussed.  Another important point will be the area around the Lanterna. The old lighthouse should be better connected with the city center since it is considered the city’s landmark and the current access is clearly deficient. In this waterfront section we will also presence major changes in the power plant that will be deactivated in 2017. There is an ongoing dialogue to decide the future function of it, but it could be a very interesting point in the waterfront regarding the geographical location and for the possibility of turning it into an element of industrial port heritage.

Changes in the Voltri Terminal
Changes in the Voltri Terminal

In the central section of the waterfront, the Porto Antico area, the existing functions will remain and the previously planned project should be executed. In this case, the Silo Hennebique and Ponte Parodi would be the main interventions. Since they are object of controversy we will explain them in further detail later on.

Finally, the eastern part of the port, the one concerned in Blueprint plan, is where we might see the bigger changes. The ideas developed by Renzo Piano were incorporated in the plan and the concept of developing a blue buffer is consider to match the strategies that were already thought. In this area, we shall also see in the near future another project from the same architect, replacing the previous one that in May 2013 was destroyed in an accident.

Of all the waterfront interventions, the one that has more clear options of being becoming a reality is the one in Voltri, since it could be included in the plan for the terminal. This is an important issue because the port is mainly allowed to invest in projects that have a direct impact in the port activities. The intervention in Voltri could be considered a compensation measure or part of the necessary buffer to industrial activities. The other ones are more complex since they will not probably depend from one single investor.

Waterway of Prà Source:it.wikipedia.org
Waterway of Prà
Source:it.wikipedia.org

Silo Hennebique

One of the most notable projects in the Genoese waterfront is the rehabilitation of the old silos. This building is placed in a prominent location, particularly when seen from the sea, entering the bay. What it used to be a warehouse for grain, kept functioning until the beginning of the 1990’s and it is a crucial element for the completion of the waterfront, from the Magazzini del cottone until the cruise terminal Ponte dei Mile. The building is in poor condition and any kind of intervention would require important sums for the investment. Its size, over 8,000 sqm, the demands from the port regarding the future functions to be hosted and the economic situation caused that the call for proposals from 2012 was declared deserted. During our interview PG explained us that in the coming year 2016 there will be a new call for proposals which will demand 30% of public functions. In the near future we shall see if these important element of industrial heritage is regenerated and included in the urban life.

View of the Silo Hennebique from the water Author: José M P Sánchez
View of the Silo Hennebique from the water
Author: José M P Sánchez

Ponte Parodi

The second project, also very relevant for the completion of the waterfront, is the future cruise terminal Ponte Parodi. In 2001 the Dutch office UNstudio, led by Ben van Berkel, won the international competition for the new terminal project. The building would continue with the concept of sharing the space between port and urban functions, besides the terminal it would include a mall and public areas. The problem is that since 2001 the project has been constantly delayed for many difference reasons. Currently there are several port activities taking place in this quay, for example it still hosts the tugboats. During the process there were also changes in the investment firms and discussion with the affected port industries who also opposed to the project. We understood that also the administrative process has not been so easy. This part of the waterfront was included in transformation district, a part of the port territory that would pass to the municipality. This process is still ongoing, but the municipality considers it finished. The agreement was that the PA would be in charge of the maritime works, for what we could see they are taking place. At the same time the demolishing of the existing warehouse that have no value is happening. We can still see the project in the website of the owner company, the French firm Altarea.

 

Piano Urbanistico Comunale

In the past, the port and urban development plans were published almost simultaneously, therefore the coordination between both was easier since they referred to the same time period and the discussion would be in the same terms. This time the municipal development plan, named the PUC (Piano Urbanistico Comunale), was finished before the one from the port. In this new document the port is mentioned and the coastal development have an important role. The importance of the harbour is acknowledged and there are several key interventions in the waterfront that are coordinated with the PA.

In the interview with the architects from the municipality, they explained us which project will be more important for the waterfront. In the west part of the city, the area along the Prà water channel will continue to be developed adding new green areas and sport and leisure facilities. Further on, an agreement has been found with shipyards. They will be allowed to extend to the oil harbour territory in Sestri once it changes its configuration, in exchange the shipyards will give back to the city the land they own placed on next to the railway. Also in Sestri there is another area that will be subject of discussion in the next years, the Piaggio industrial plot. The historic brand is currently going through a difficult period which could eventually lead to dismissing a part of their industries in Genoa. In this case, the location of this land could be an option for increasing the public access to the water, but during our meeting it was clarified that this decision is not taken. Nearby we can find a marina and public waterfront, but as we understood they are not planned to grow. In San Pier d’Arena we can find another significant project, the Lungomare Canepa. The goal in this case is to improve the existing road in the boundary with the port in order to handle more traffic and retreat cars and trucks from the inside of the neighborhood. The current road is not in the best condition and the barrier effect is inevitable. In this area the PA has also not planned any changes, therefore the idea of retreating traffic from the inner roads could make sense.

Lungomare Canepà Source: http://www.repstatic.it/
Lungomare Canepa
Source: http://www.repstatic.it/

Finally, in the west part of the city, the Blueprint plan could show the path to the future. Since the problems handled in the plan, as we have seen, are not just port issues, the city should also be integrated in the solution. Since the document is very recent we should wait to see how evolves and how do the necessary agreements between the concerned authorities work out.

Renzo Piano

In the case of Genoa we can find a figure that has had considerable influence in the planning of the waterfront and the port over the last 25 years, the architect Renzo Piano. For this reason when spoke with the different stakeholders we had to ask how was this relation. In general terms they all agreed that this architect, and senator, has played a central role in the development of the city. Since the Porto Antico project his ideas have influenced the port and urban plans. Although nowadays his main office in is Paris, he keeps an emotional connection with the Ligurian capital that has taken him to donate several works, like the aforementioned Blueprint plan or the pilot’s tower project. In the municipality, we were told that his ideas do not always find the expected reaction, particularly regarding the follow up after the first concept. At the same time, his presence has became a political and economic assets, since his participation in projects and initiatives gives them credit and work as a facilitator for their conclusion. Sometimes though, the dialogue in the high political levels are not so well connected with the everyday reality. For example the port plan was an ongoing process since 2010 without the collaboration of Renzo Piano, only later the concepts in the Blueprint were brought and incorporated to the plan, with the initiative of the high political spheres as mentioned by PG. This was not so traumatic since the ideas were coherent with the ones in the plan and a dialogue process was rapidly established.

Torre Piloti from Renzo Piano Source: http://www.porto.genova.it/
Torre Piloti from Renzo Piano
Source: http://www.porto.genova.it/

In general terms the work of Renzo Piano and his contribution for the city is much appreciated, also by the inhabitants who identify him as one of the most notorious Genoeses of last century and beginning of this one.At the end, if the majority of his ideas were to become a reality, we could observe a port-city with a more coherence vision making it more particular when compared with other cases.

Soft-values, cultural initiatives

The relation between the port and the city in Genoa has evolved significantly in the last years. In recent times we have seen several initiatives that allow the citizens to have a better understanding of the port. Particularly important is the Genoa Port Center, inaugurated in 2009, it functioned until September 2014. The port-center was born from a collaboration between the PA, the port community, the region and the university. It received initial funding from the EU and it implied a considerable preparation work in order to sum up something as complex as the port into a short exhibition reachable to children and youngsters of different age.

Genoa Port Center Source: http://www.genoaportcenter.it/
Genoa Port Center
Source: http://www.genoaportcenter.it/

This facility was one of the founding members of the AIVP Port-Center network. During the years it has been open it has been a success, during the first three years it welcomed almost 20,000 students of different levels. PG recognized it was a very useful tool for the disclosure of the port activity and importance.

The center has been managed by the Muvita foundation, an organization from the region. Unfortunately the port-center has to close their doors due to changes in the management. From what we could understand, the idea was that it would be managed by the PA when the European program ended. When this happened, it closed and since it has remained like that. We tried to contact the person responsible from the organization but unfortunately got no answer. We expect it will reopen in the future since it has not been fully dismantled, although it has been already closed for over a year. The port-center issue will be studied in further detail as the research advances. It is relevant to say that the network has been expanding and in this year the Livorno port-center opened their doors in the historical context of the Fortezza Vecchia, the old fortress.

The PA has also engaged in several initiatives related with soft-values and communication with the citizens, such as the web TV and other cultural activities. These events, like the port-day, were more common when the port-center was fully functional, since they were also in charge of the cultural agenda, as we can see in the website.

In Genoa we can find other cultural facilities where the port’s role in the city is well explained. The Galata Museo del Mare is another example. This museum works both as sea and city museum. The link between the city and the maritime activities is very clear and a very complete exhibition, including actual size galley models, explain us how it has evolved. We can also find the naval museum of Pegli. As the name indicates is more focus in the maritime history and affairs.

In the case of Genoa we might also find often cultural initiatives related with the port. In the different museums there are exhibitions of photography or painting, also in spaces like Loggia dei  Mercanti, there are usually activities that have a relation with the port, for example the industrial heritage or the commerce.

Besides the local initiatives, there have been other related with the port that are focus on enhancing the cultural importance of this infrastructure. Particularly interesting is the international film festival “Zones Portuaires“, an initiative born in Marseille five years ago, therefore also very relevant for that city, was hosted in Genoa  in last September with a program full of events related with the seaport culture, mainly focused in this city.

Personal Opinion

The territorial constraints present in the case of Genoa force a more intense relation between the city and the port. The fact that the boundary between both territories is so complex has brought even more attention to the problem. As we have seen, the discussion of the waterfront and the physical and visual access to the water has produced interesting publications and plans from renowned architects and planners. Unfortunately, all this intellectual effort has not been translated into equivalent physical changes. Some of these plans were too ambitious and in other cases the economic and/or political context did not allowed their further development. The fact that since 1992 we have not seen major changes in the waterfront, except the ones in 2001 and 2004 in a smaller scale, might have affected the credibility of the new plans. As we saw there are important projects waiting to happen, but they carry a delay of almost 15 years in some cases.

View of Genoa Author: José M P Sánchez
View of Genoa
Author: José M P Sánchez

In this case the dialogue and cooperation is higher than in other studied cases, particularly if we consider that the institutions depends from different bodies in different levels, local and national. The initiatives like the Genova Urban Lab or the Agency for the Port Plan reveal a predisposition towards the dialogue, although the steps after the plan have not always been fully achieved. For other port-cities is a good example of joint project. We already saw in Rotterdam the positive synergies that can be created with this sort of initiatives, Genoa shows another path that might be better adapted for the southern European countries, where the central government has a strong influence over the PA.

The new port plan has also several concepts that might be interesting for other cases where physical boundaries constitute constrains for the port activity. It is an intelligent approach for the port growth, instead of physically expand the port territory to try to reach the maximum capacity by improving the efficiency of the existing infrastructure. In other port-cities with territorial limitations is a good option instead of demanding more land to the urban area next to the port. Another approach is the expansion in Brownfields that also has less impact than blue or green port expansion. We could see this sort of plan in Lisbon, since the port will expand to the south side of the river in an existing brownfield. This leads us to another important issue, the intervention in the active port to improve the relation with the city. In the case of Genoa we see that, due to territorial limitations, we will probably not see large waterfront interventions in dismissed port areas, instead the strategy will focus in specific points with smaller projects in the boundary between the active port and the city. The concept of the blue buffer is an example of this sort of project. In the eastern part of the city the ideas presented in the Blueprint plan could also be a significant improvement for both the city and the port. This sort of “urban acupuncture”, a set of specific small scale actions that lead to an improved relation, might be the model for the future in opposition to the previous large scale operation.

Regarding the social initiatives of the PA, Genoa was for some years a real reference in the field. Their Port-Center very often worked as a role model for the new ones in other ports. The impact this kind of initiatives is not to be seen immediately but more in the long term. In order to get the SLTO (Social License to Operate), the PA must develop an agenda of events and take profit of the existing structure. It is understandable that in the central government the soft-values of seaports might be more difficult to conceive as something important, but in the end is one of the main ways for the port to be accepted by the inhabitants of the city on their back. We can only expect that this situation will change and that the port-center will reopen its doors. The problem of social integration of ports will be studied in further detail in the next stage of the research. Hopefully, we will be able to get to know other cases and the role the AIVP has played in the development of this kind of initiatives.

In conclusion Genoa is one of the cases where the relation between city and port is more intense, however they have been able to keep relatively positive interaction. The strategies here presented could be adapted to other cases. The alternative of small actions against the policy of white elephants is an intelligent approach, particularly in crisis or post-crisis scenarios, like the one we find ourselves in. It is time to try alternatives to the business as usual model, and learn how we can act in the active harbor and still improve the relation of the city with the port and the water.

For more information consult the following sources:

http://portusonline.org/en/portus-portrait-26/

https://www.academia.edu/13021505/The_new_Port_Master_Plan

http://www.themeditelegraph.com/it/transport/ports/2015/02/27/genova-piano-regolatore-portuale-entro-anno-bwjhchPLx4JFoP9FCHT0hJ/index.html
Geno(v)a: Creating New Perspectives for Harbour Cities

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Genoa experience

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s