Back in February, we reported on the winners of the Solar Park South international design competition in Calabria, Italy which played with the theme of a 'Solar Highway', re-using sections of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway soon to be decommissioned by the Italian Highways Authority. The winning team, comprising French firms OFF architecture (Tanguy Vermet, Manal Rachdi, Ute Rinnebach, Marina Daviu, Clement Gerard), PR architect (
Project Description from the Architects:
Every consideration on viaduct redevelopment must start with particular attention to the largest sense of its context1 as well as its components, both visible and invisible.
It is of course essential to consider the site’ potential in order to integrate the project within its landscape; furthermore, to gain a deep understanding of every single component representing the milieu2, appears as a fundamental task for the development of such a project.
We also have to be aware of the current international climate that goes far beyond the Calabre region, as it can influence, and maybe even develop the local scale of the project.
We are facing the difficult task of offering new scenarios to these significant masterpieces.
These Viaducts can either be adapted to integrate in the continuity of Calabre’s common society (agriculture?), or on the other hand, they can give a push of motivation for new possibilities that such an atypical redevelopment offers to the region.
It is this second option that we have intended to develop.
Our choices have been carefully considered in order to develop a pragmatic answer and propose a rich, efficient and feasible scenario.
This project is indeed ambitious as well as audacious in both its program and architectural form.
These viaducts have intrinsic qualities: The lanes crossing are very well connected as they are former main roads. They were built sightseeing a heavy traffic flow, therefore the potential load of the bridges is higher than normal.
The aim of the ‘pile & deck’ structure is to span as far as possible by using as few material as possible. The result is a limited impact upon the landscape where it sets relative to the dimensions of the project.
The site where those bridges are located has also some inherent qualities. The Tyrrhenian see can be perfectly observed and the landscape reviles a natural context carefully preserved. Indeed the site benefits of a complete disconnection from any human intervention apart from the high lines.
Several other signs indicate some significant qualities of this site like the presence of Etna, an active volcano that points out a strong geothermic potential on the site.
In addition the presence of ‘Bergamots’ shows also some interesting particularities. Almost 95% of the world’s Bergamots production comes from Calabre. As this fragile vegetable need some very specific weather conditions to grow (need of air humidity and exigency on much reduced temperature span), the climate of the Calabre region appears as one of the most stables in the world.
Probably originating in the East, the bergamot is a Calabrian adoption. Introduced in Europe, according to some by the crusaders, to others by Christophe Columbus who brought it from the Canary islands, it spreads out since then in the south of Italy. This delicate plant needs a very moderate climate. Calabria is the perfect place for its growth as it is one of the most moderate places of the world, ranging between 13° and 39°. This a rare citrus fruit whose scientific name is «citrus bergamia risso», (or auruntium), of the botanical family of the “rutacee”, a fruit similar to an orange. The bergamot tree is mainly cultivated in Calabria (95% of the worldwide production) where the quality of the oil is known as the best in the world, and marginally cultivated in Ivory coast, Morocco and Portugal.
The sites’ regular climate as well as its proximity to the sea, makes Calabre the optimal holiday resort for the elders.
Its context seems ideal to draw the attention of North European retirees who, like the so called “North American Snowbirds”, once retired decide to migrate voluntarily to other countries where they can find a better quality of life. With this new touristic infatuation, the European offer for such specific places has difficulties to follow. Calabre region seems completely predisposed to draw the attention of this migratory flow.
The redevelopment of the sites’ viaducts appears as the perfect opportunity to develop the right infrastructure for the accommodation of this new kind of migration.
Our intervention upon this original structure in addition to the site’ diverse qualities can potentially lead to a greater excellence than the actual offers.
It is then a matter of developing a specific typology that will enhance the residential aspects such as leisure and health centres. It is also necessary to take advantage of all the forces of the site in order to develop an innovative and environmental project.
The term snowbird was already employed around 1925 in South America to designate t he inhabitants of the northern regions who migrated to avoid the winter. But it seems that the label was spread, particularly in the field of tourism. Towards the end of the 1970’s the term was mostly used to designate the Canadians coming to spend the winter in Florida. This illustrated employment, which concerns the familiar language, is consigned today in the English, American, and Canadian dictionaries.
The viaducts’ morphology and especially its piles inspired us to develop vertical villages. The deck therefore should be reinforced by a display of commercial spaces, equipments, medical centres and leisure spaces.
We can only imagine how much time these viaducts have needed to impose themselves upon the landscape where they finally have become a significant part of. This project does not intend to impose a new architectural form as it could fracture the existing one and hence become inadequate.
Consequently we intend to reinforce the viaduct’ existing architectural form in order to keep the impact upon the landscape itself to minimum. This project aims to participate to the evolution of the original viaducts in order to consolidate their original identity.
The project will appear as a contemporary archaeological contribution discordant with its double; it will wrap around the existing one and restructures it in order to give it a new breath.
A harmonious combination of viaduct’ morphology and common pavilion typology, taking place in a new dimension which combines the isolating qualities of a pavilion as well as the advantages of a condominium (proximity, mutualisation etc…). The upper part of one of the viaducts deck will inhabit a pedestrian “promenade” nonetheless for the others the deck will remain as traffic road in order to respect the existing paths of the city. The communion of the infrastructure within its landscape should be sufficient to establish a first-class quality of life along with a responsible response to the environment.
The concept consists in volumizing the bridge.
SCHEDULE / COSTS
a) Project development
Architectural studies, structural studies
First phase: 2011 / Preparation
c) Second phase: 2011-2015 / Networks
d) Third phase: 2011-2015 / Water & Energy
(European Grant + Private investment)
e) Fourth phase: 2013-2015 - Programatic structure creation
f) Fifth phase: 2015-2025 / Colonization
(10 % + Private Investment)
Many more plans and drawings in the image gallery below. All images courtesy of OFF Architecture.