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Urban landscapes - Genoa

DART, (Department for the Environment, Network and Territory) of the "G. d'Annunzio" University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy

Since the beginning of the nineties Genoa has hosted many important international events - the 1990 World Cup, the 1992 celebrations in honour of Columbus, the G8 meeting in 2001 - to be finally designated as the "2004 European Capital of Culture". The capacity to create a synergy between the extraordinary financial talents connected with these events within a complex urban identity upgrading strategy has contributed to changing the face of the city. A process of progressive transformation of the main public spaces and the most important vehicles of culture of the city has generated a sort of effect that has surpassed private entrepreneurial initiative. A "Genoa model" now exists to define the combination of strategies (urban, financial, economic and social) that have brought this city, that was on the threshold of a severe industrial crisis, in the limelight of a privileged European city circuit in the space of only twenty years. Today, given urban spaces, to begin with Renzo Piano's old port area, render Genoa the most international of Italian cities; an international air that up until only a few years ago we sought in the squares of Barcelona and Berlin, and in the streets of London and Paris.

Industrial re-conversion
Genoa is coming out of a period of economic crisis that had struck all the important sectors of its historical economy founded on government public industry at the same time; above all the metalwork industry, but also the ship building industry and plant engineering together with activities connected with the port and petrol. From the beginning of the nineties a slow but constant re-conversion process of large scale industrial plants has been witnessed, which has been accompanied by great risks and great potential. First, a not to be ignored employment problem had to be resolved: within the space of a decade Genoa had lost two thirds of its metalworkers, the principle employment sector up until the time. Secondly, entrepreneurial enterprise, not previously heard of activity had to be born from residues of big industry, that is small and medium-sized businesses. The process of industrial re-conversion and employment retraining was accompanied by a renewed interest in issues dealing with environmental and urban quality. Or better still, a process in need of far less space as compared with other traditional production activity, given its technological nature and the fact that such activity requires far less space. This process has provided the opportunity to free up utilisable areas for other functions, for example high quality urban services. Therefore, via a re-conversion process of production activity, which does not only concern the peripheral area of the city, but also the more central areas, Genoa has tried to develop a proposal for an overall re-organisation of not only the industrial area, but also the urban area. Indeed a great challenge for the new millennium.

Port activity
The desolating image of the port in the mid-eighties is still vivid in the mind of the Genoese: one would pass over the flyover (the raised road that embraces the entire port area) and one would scrutinise the deserted piers with a profound sense of discomfort. The Genoa port has a symbolic meaning that goes well beyond the functional. The port represents the history, the prestige and the pride of the city. It is the life of Genoa. The very tough "arm wrestle" between the then president of the Port Authority, d'Alessandro, a promoter of attempts at organisational reform of the port structure, and the Consul (the "Camalli" still have noble titles) of Compagnia Unica Lavoratori Merci Varie, Genoa's historical dock workers' guild, Paride Batini, took up much space in the press while ships full of merchandise passed in the far the horizon to other destinations, more competitive ports such as Marseilles and Rotterdam "that were never on strike and that cost much less than Genoa". Now, on seeing the container traffic at Voltri and Calata Sanità, or the continuous coming and going from S. Limbania, or the magnificent new cruise ships at Ponte dei Mille, one almost would not believe that a little more than an decade has passed from then .(1)

The residential sector
The extension of residential building in Genoa witnessed it last interventions with the hillside Public Housing Plan of the eighties and nineties that left its mark on the face of the city .(2) It cannot be maintained that no other significant territorial transformation took place during this period, in any case public residential building can be considered as a sort of banner for the period concerned of the left wing administrative executive of Genoa. It is now a matter of reflecting on how this sector exercised such an important role in terms of settlement, concentration of financial resources, management methods and above all (for Genoa) the creation of new urban settlement models. Without a doubt, from the point in time that the Municipality of Genoa put itself forward as the promoter and manager of the process, it attained considerable success. In a short period of time it is able to draw up complex agreements with the CIGE (Consortium of Genoese Enterprises) for the realisation of interventions at Begato. At the same time it is able to contract out and realise not only urban works but also whole parts of new settlement areas with public funds for this purpose. However, the most important feature of the whole process is that the Municipality became a credible point of reference for those who operate in the sector, to the extent that there is reciprocal convenience for management agreements and public contracts . (3) It is therefore reasonable to assume that an excellent point of balance was established between the political and financial interests of the Municipality and the financial interests of those involved in the building sector, despite initial diffidence and adverse orographical features. The results achieved from this association remain to be seen, in particular with reference to the expected quality of transformation. Suspicion rests that such a successful operation under the political, administrative and management profiles have produced only instances of problematic Genoese "peripheries". The size of the settlements realised with Public Housing Projects (4) corresponds to approximately 12,000 inhabitants and they are concentrated principally in dwellings which in most cases include more than 1,000 units, and with significant peaks of approximately 2,000 inhabitants in Quarto and 4,000 in Prà-Voltri and Begato. At least three settlement models can be identified within the Public Housing Projects that in turn could be made to correspond to as many instances of settlement "periphery". The first model is a completely removed model from the urban grid (and often even removed from the territorial grid), as is the case with Prà-Voltri, Begato, Pegli but even Quarto and Quezzi. The second model is characterised by a settlement development that is set at the back of a pre-existing, more or less consistent, urban centre on which are established (or at least an attempt at establishing is made) rather weak synergies; this is the case in Sant' Eusebio, Borzoli and Granarolo. The third model is characterised by the model's effective insertion into the pre-existing urban context, for the multitude of relationships it is able to establish to the extent that it is able to annul the independent settlement configuration, as is the case with Sestri Ponente. It is obvious that the worst elements are produced by the first model when other negative elements are added to it that reflect the morphological, typological, social and organisational character of the settlement.

Important international events
Territorial policy interventions of the nineties were greatly conditioned by a few important engagements that saw Genoa host international events. In the mid-eighties Genoa was selected along with eleven other Italian cities to host the World Soccer Cup in 1990. The works that were realised with public funding were the upgrading of the Marassi Stadium and a series of other initiatives associated with mobility towards peripheral areas of the city, including the underground rail system. Also during this period Genoa was designated by the "Bureau International des Expositions" in Paris as the site for Expo 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary from the date when Christopher Columbus, her most famous citizen, who saw for the first time the Caribbean Coast of the American continent. Subsequent to this designation the Old Port is chosen as the place where to organise all events. The choice was not only determined by the relative availability of the area, but also the philosophical principles on which Renzo Piano's project was based. He maintained that holding the Expo in the Historic Port would overcome the ephemeral nature of the events and provide the opportunity for recovery and upgrading of old port areas with the objective of integrating them into the urban grid of the Historic Centre . (5)The Columbus Celebration represented the perfect opportunity for restoring the relationship that the sea, which today upon project completion, can be understood to attribute extraordinary value to the city of Genoa and in particular to the Historic Centre. In June 2001 Genoa was the seat of the G8 international summit of the eight most industrialised countries in the world. What remains in memory of those days is a surreal tense atmosphere; black block vandalism; the absurd death of one of the young protesters; and one of the saddest pages of our Police Force history - the breaking into of the Diaz di Bolzaneto police barracks. If it were possible to forget all this, we would realise that even the G8 contributed to the discerning use of extraordinary public funds which has made Genoa in the recent years an international reference point for culture. The World Cup in 1990, the Columbus Celebrations in 1992, the G8 in 2001 and finally the role of "European Capital of Culture" in 2004 have defined the progressive steps of a recovery and upgrading process of the city's public spaces and culture venues, thanks to extraordinary public funds, that have given rise to a beneficial soaring effect of local entrepreneurial activity. Genoa, the city that is hastening its race to the first of the decade of the new millennium, thanks to its rightful management and synergy of important events, is probably the Italian city that is most oriented towards an international dimension that is characteristic of the circuit of cosmopolitan cities of the old continent.

1) The following figures can provide an idea of the extent of recovery. In 1990, 310,217 containers transited through Genoa; in 1999 the traffic multiplied four-fold and rose to 1,233,817 containers (source Port Authority Genoa - Office of Development Management).
2) For a more detailed analysis on the phenomenon consult the numerous studies conducted by the Experimental Workshop on Residential Quality of the Labò Foundation, Genoa.
3) Luigi Lagormarsino, Il progetto locale, I nuovi quartieri di edilizia residenziale pubblica, Polis, n.4, Milan, 1995.
4) The Public Housing Project for the Municipality of Genoa is divided into 11 sections and is distributed throughout the entire municipal territory: in Ponente (Prà-Voltri, Pegli, Sestri, Borzoli and Cornigliano); along the Polcevera (Begato) and Bisagno (S. Eusanio and Quezzi) valleys; in the central area (Granarolo and via del Colle); and in Levante (Quarto Alta and Costa degli Ometti).
5) Bruno Gabrielli, La Città nel porto, , ERI edizioni RAI, Rome, 1992.