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Story - Re-development of the Genoa Old Harbour
Genoa, Italy, 1985/2001
In 1992 the City of Genoa organized an international celebration to commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage to America.
RPBW's proposal was to carry out the works based on the immediate requirements, while at the same time improving the area around the old port in a manner that would endure over time.
In terms of urban space analysis and intervention methods, the project was linked to the experiences of the building site workshop in Otranto and the upgrading of the Lingotto factory in Turin.
The primary objective was to re-establish the link between the port and the historic city, which had been somewhat broken due to the construction of the customs office and its stores in the nineteenth century, which were later demolished to make way for the railway line and, ultimately, the high speed causeway. The connection between the old town and the ancient harbour area is piazza Caricamento, extending from the arcades of the quay down to the waterfront, which was created by burying a section of urban roadway.
The project made use of studies that were carried out in 1981 for the restoration of the City of Genoa's Ancient Quay district, which was never completed.
The project included the renovation and restoration of the historic buildings along the quays: the 4 seventeenth century customs warehouses, the Cotton Warehouse and the Millo District.
The new structures, on the other hand, included the Aquarium, the Bigo and the Biosphere.
The Millo district, a warehouse built at the beginning of the century, underwent drastic internal renovations and was returned to its original proportions: in fact, by eliminating the two floors that had been added at a later date, a large panoramic terrace was obtained at roof level. The Millo, together with the seventeenth century districts that it overlooked, constituted the port of Genoa's "Bonded Warehouse". The restoration intervention allowed for the buildings' spaces and original architecture to be recovered. The Cotton Warehouse is an early 18th century industrial building, built with a precise modularity linked to its structural mechanics system. The structure, in fact, which is 391m long, 30m wide and about 20m high, is made up of a series of juxtaposed modules. The original part of the building (the first 9 modules) was renovated in such a way so as to obtain an area of exceptional functional flexibility. The last three modules, which were more recent and had different structural characteristics, were gutted in order to obtain the necessary space for the Conference Centre.
The Bigo is a large derrick made up of enormous circular steel arms, which are tapered at the ends. Each arms protrudes from a common base located at sea level. Seven of them protrude outward around a central vertical element; the shorter arms sustain the support cables for the longer arms, while the main arm supports a panoramic lift, which slowly rotates on its axis while rising.
Two other arms support the elements from which the traction cables protrude for the curved supports of a tensile structure that's used to cover Piazza delle Feste: a portion of the pier that's been transformed into a 2000 m² multifunctional exhibition area. The support structure is comprised of two main spars, with cables fanning out from the upper ends to support the tensile structure's load-bearing framework. The latter is made up of four arched parallel beams, which are used to sustain an elastic membrane roof. This enormous roof over the quay is about 30 m wide and 60 m long, and is divided into 5 bays. The area receives natural light via the open sides and transparent roof, and is artificially lit by glass ceiling lights, which even reveal portions of the overhead support structure.
Acquario (the Aquarium)
The “Acquario” extends over the original geometry of Ponte Spinola, for a total length of approximately 200 m. A large underground level for housing the systems' machinery was created by digging behind the breakwater. The building is comprised of two main overground structures connected by a central backbone, the various levels of which house the exhibits, the services, the emergency stairwells and the facility's systems. Beneath the aquarium's two stories, which are sustained by circular concrete columns, the wharf level has been restored and rendered accessible to visitors, hosting public locales and services as well as various interchange points. The concrete columns also support the structure's visible steel elements. These, in turn, support the pre-cast concrete encasement units, which constitute the structure's outermost longitudinal walls. At these points, the structure over the columns is cantilevered, and its intrados curves upward to form the outer walls.
By design, the aquarium's two levels are arranged into five linear bands, with different widths, lengths and functions. The central band manages all the vertical movements of the people and services, and contains the elevators and stairs (including the external staircases at each end of the building), as well as a wide range of lines and ducts. On one end there is a large section devoted to visitor traffic, which extends along the entire length of the building in a linear fashion, from the front door to the exit. The tanks have been installed in such a way so that they can be viewed from both levels of the band dedicated to visitor traffic: this allows for an underwater view from the lower level, as well as a surface view from the upper level, illuminated by natural lighting through the glass roof. The Aquarium has recently been expanded to include a large new dolphin tank, which will be inaugurated in April of 2013.
“La Bolla” (the "Bubble")
The Ancient Port area is constantly evolving due to new additions and changes to the original project. These include “la Bolla”, a biosphere which was built on a floating platform in front of the Aquarium in 2001. This spherical structure is made up of 32 meridians and 11 parallels. It includes 330 fusion junctions. The outer shell is comprised of double-curvature laminated glass sheets, which are fastened in place using reinforced studs. The structure, with a volume of over 4000 m³, weighs only 14 tons. The exhibit level boasts a surface area of 200 m², and is capable of hosting about 100 people.
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