by Aglaée Degros, architect, urban planner, teacher, member of the Europan Scientific Committee (NL)
How could we use the network to structure the city, and also maybe networks dedicated to slow mobility? It is not new that cities are shaped by networks –the Boulevards in Paris, the parkways in New York, the Autobahn in Germany, with a symbiosis between landscape and engineering; there are many historical examples of infrastructures structuring the landscape or the urban fabric. What is new is that now the infrastructure is changing. As the city is getting more flexible and transformable, the network is introducing “soft mobility”, also called “active mobility” because it implies that people take an active part in it. It is not an accident that in Italy bikes sell better than cars and the e-bike market is booming. It is interesting to see which modes of action young architects from Europan 12 chose so that the infrastructure has an impact on the city.
SPATIALISATION OF THE NETWORK
For the project in Almada - Porto Brandaõ (PT), the assignment was to reconnect the city on the North to the university on the South. The winning team, "Porto Novo", chose to use the connection with tracks –to which several names were given: productive path, wine path…– and they chose to use it to develop a new texture between the city and the university to reconnect it with the infrastructure.
In Ciney (BE), a relatively small city, the train station is quite important as it is on the line from Brussels to Luxemburg; the brief was to reconnect the station and the city centre. Special Mention project "Walk the Line" re-uses existing spaces and buildings and adds news paths and public space to redevelop slow mobility between the station and the city centre. As far as “re-use” is concerned, you can see it in many projects: it is not about imposing a new network to the city anymore but about using already existing tracks or obsolete infrastructures.
TUNRING NETWORKS INTO LANDSCAPES
The project "Conservation, Densification and Complexity" in Kalmar (SE) is a clear example of a trend: downgrading a motorway that goes along the city. The architects chose to downsize the road to a two-lane road and dedicate the “new” lane to slow mobility, bikes and pedestrians, and directly connect the new buildings and garages to this downgrade of the street. We then see that the infrastructure is visible, as a part of the regeneration of the urban fabric, but the network often becomes a sort of landscape. We are not dealing with the bottom-up concept of a network that should be a landscape but rather with a sort of incremental design that builds a landscape piece by piece on the long term –the landscape is generated by the place more than it is by a top-down vision.
In Mannheim (DE) the "ReEvolution in Mannheim" project basically tries to make stripes of infrastructure and combine them with nature with a certain openness to spontaneity and informal development in this ecological space.
In the project "Percorsi per riqualificare" in Venezia (IT) , the landscape is shaped by the infrastructure –in this case not a road network but a rail tracks network– and the architects tried to re-use the former tracks to generate a landscape that structures the new development.
The "Ramblas verdes" project in Barcelona (ES) uses the word “rambla” in its original meaning as “dry river” and tries to integrate the new project within the larger scale of the territory via corridors and support a network of slow mobility melting in the landscape.
SOCIALISATION OF NETWORKS
Another mode of action to make the city and use slow mobility is what we could call the socialisation of the networks. How to (re-)claim the networks for the inhabitants from the citizens’ point of view? Special Mention project "Right to Infrastructure" tries to use the effects of a new development to take place in Barcelona –the construction of a high-speed train– for the local population; it does not try to fight it but combines a recycling method to try (re-)use resources, energy or waste schemes to make the local network connect the high-speed and more regional network.
We could note that with slowness it is not only reflected in the use of the network but also in the slowness of the spatial design, in this more incremental design, in which we have an image that we try to reach step by step. In the Adaptable City, the networks of course establish the structure of the territory that has slowed down, but they also govern the slow structuring of the territory.
A debate on this topic will follow the presentation of two implementation processes of Europan 11 and ideas of Europan 12 winning teams, with refreshing ideas to throw in the discipline and by other professionals and municipalities. How can we go from those new ideas to their implementation?
Implementation Processes From Previous Sessions
HAUGESUND (NO), EUROPAN 11
Kristian Endresen, City Planner (NO)
Haugesund is located on the West Coast of Norway between the larger cities of Bergen and Stavanger. It is a regional centre of about 100,000 people. The historic city centre is located around the national harbour and the city is organized on a strict grid originating from the foundation of the city in 1855. Today there is a big need to revitalize the city centre with new commercial, office and residential units. Fortunately, the city owns a big plot of land located at the periphery of the city centre that used to be a ‘dump’ site of the city. In the fifties a bus station was built on it. Unfortunately, today, it is very run-down, most of the area is left vacant and it is not really a good use of urban space. So we realized that we had to look for more uses for the development of this land. Today a main road going through the city breaks connexions to the city, and the Flotmyr area is a void in the urban fabric. So we entered Europan and we went to make the program through a series of workshops. One of the main wishes coming out was to get Flotmyr as a part of the urban fabric, a part of the city. After the competition we decided to hire the winning team STWWT to develop their ideas for the area, from 2012 to 2014, and we now have enough substance to make a planning regulation for the area, which we hope to present to the Planning Committee by the spring of 2015.
STWWT Architects is composed of four different people who worked in different places and at different stages and we worked on the Europan competition on our weekends and free times, and then formed the company after we won.
The competition proposal on the site creates new connections in the city, an Activity Band, reaching important nodes in the city: the knowledge area, the pedestrian zone, the city centre and a cultural hub. By reflecting the surroundings we get these building blocks onto the site –that we call small, medium and large– so we can weave the new site into the surroundings. The building structure forms green courtyards and a main connection –the Activity Band– and one big structure in the middle with the bus terminal are connected to a bridge and a park. Even if we were runner-up in April 2012 we participated to a workshop on the overall vision for the city. Then we worked out a plan program with the municipality with the big lines for the area and then the masterplan. Going on with the development of the masterplan for the new Flotmyr, we have kept the whole layout of the competition with a lower density –considering with the municipality that the competition proposal was too high. There were some changes on the masterplan: the bus terminal changes place, the site grows a little bit but we kept the main ideas and worked more in details on the clusters that surround the central courtyards. We reinforce the green neighbourhood for sustainable reasons as an important recreational element. To make sure we had a varied and attractive neighbourhood we made out guidelines to be used for the zoning plan: how the building plans should be divided, heights, according to shape and how to program the new area –we worked with shifts and notches on the façades and building width and depth. And we got separate contract to work in detail on the design of the Activity Band, the new connection in Haugesund. The new buildings meet the Activity Band, which is a soft structure for pedestrians and bicyclists. And we worked out the design, the materials to use, the programming of it… Even though it is close by, very early in the work we worked out on a detailed time schedule with deadlines, Skype meetings and physical meetings and we also invited the municipality for a study trip in København so they could see our references. The placement was a central parameter in our competition proposal, but through a long dialogue with the municipality and the traffic engineers we changed our masterplan a lot, giving it some new qualities. The work on Karmsundgata was a big challenge right next to the site cutting the important connections in the city, and we had some fights with the traffic engineers that were quite stuck in their traffic simulation programs, but the municipality agreed a lot with our ideas for the central plaza – that was also a challenge: how to work with this when there was no bus terminal… So we did two proposals but they are not submitted yet, so we don’t know yet which one will be approved.
The last challenge was how to develop a strong but flexible plan that would last over a long time. We worked on a long-term planning that is flexible to changes in society, economy, climate and politics.
MONTHEY (CH), EUROPAN 11
Rodolphe Luscher, Europan Switzerland (CH)
Monthey is a town located in the French-speaking Canton of Valais, fairly dense, fairly typical of Switzerland, with few tall buildings. In the past, it was home to large numbers of large surface companies, several of which have closed; others have had changes of use with certain buildings, where start-ups or other mixed uses have settled. Monthey municipality proposed one of the obsolete industrial sites for the E11 competition, won by Alberto Figuccio and Mehdi Aouabed, who have now been working for two and a half years on its conversion. The project entitled “Three Gates” on a brownfield site with a few remaining buildings, creates entrance gates that link it to a network of infrastructures. The new traffic streets link these 3 Gates. Towns have always been designed on a road system; in Manhattan, Stuyvesant laid out the urban fabric on the basis of a rectangular grid of roads, but maintained only a single central boulevard, the only road that meanders through the site, which was the ancient Native American road. The same thing happens after destruction, after wars, what remains is no longer really buildings, but roads. So it is very important to begin urbanisation with a road, and itinerary. All the ideas introduced by Alberto Figuccio and Mehdi Aouabed prompted Switzerland’s main railway company, CFF, to reconsider opening a station to link Monthey to the neighbouring town of Aigle. So a design for a brownfield site led to the improvement of transport around the town, in other words one thing feeds into another. A first enquiry into the project is planned, but has been delayed until spring 2015 following the CFF decision.
The new district is located in a zone where two peripheral areas meet and is directly linked to a regional transport network. It will have the capacity to house the functions and infrastructures that the historical centre would only be able to with difficulty, because of its morphology. The configuration of this area is precisely that of being limited by 2 natural boundaries: a linear park to be developed in the future, already included in a municipal masterplan, and the mountains on both sides of the valley. Monthey is therefore part of the future development of a new linear town, and will play the role of “gateway” to the conurbation. The question of gateways arises because the heart of the historical centre today is no longer able to manage such large flows.
The project proposes a dense and mixed district, which maintains the traces of the existing buildings, which sustain a local identity in order to create a strong and functional public arrangement that will be able to support all future scenarios for greater density. We define the basic rules for this district without going into detail in order to leave room for all the discussions that came afterwards, when the project was explored further. In this scheme for the city, our new district is located between the points where the two towns meet and will function as an intermodal district that will relieve the two historical centres of a large proportion of the major flows. The site is bounded by a regional railway line that will soon become interregional with greater flows; another green mobility network is planned for the future, and a road network is currently developing North of the site. In these three mobilities, we have identified three strategic points to introduce the 3 gateways to the district with 3 public buildings treated thematically on the basis of the type of mobility adjacent to them. Early on in the competition stage, we identified the three strategic points, three public interest buildings that play the role of gateways: a performance hall, a conference centre and a new station.
We also identified an empty public space, which connects the three strategic points. The character of this district therefore develops around a green strip, which is the primary theme, can be managed by the municipality or the public administration and is bounded by a typology of linear buildings. Having defined all this, at the competition scale we did not worry about trying to define the type of density within the site, but simply to indicate a potential for densification, postponing the precise choices to later on, after discussion with the stakeholders.
After the competition, Monthey municipality commissioned us to explore the project in greater depth – at the time of the competition, they were talking about a surface area of 100,000 sqm, but at the time we got the go-ahead to develop the project, this had increased to 160,000 sqm. Today, of course, the plan is more detailed, more technical, it takes into account a whole series of constraints that make the neighbourhood work and make the project realistic. There is also an area added to the site after the competition, of around 60,000 sqm. Despite the inevitable changes, the green strip –the public space that is the essence of the project– has held out; we talk about this space holding out, because it is the only space, the only instrument that the public administration can control through to the end. On the other hand, the density has changed, whether because of the town’s real needs, economic concerns or the practices of the inhabitants. And because there is a shortage of housing at present, we had to make the neighbourhood denser with more dwellings.
The new station has now increased in scale because it needs to accommodate an interregional train; this is a significant input in terms of infrastructure, which will give impetus to the creation of a dynamic neighbourhood, ultimately serving around 20,000 users.
We characterised all the post-competition work through different specific themes: public interest, in particular the green strip that helped us design a station; the performance hall area, a former factory that we reclaim and which is the only trace of the site’s current life; and a hypothetical conference centre, north of the site.
Of course, we were obliged to work on the question of mobility; not only mobility characterised by the infrastructures outside the site, but also mobility within the site, which is primarily pedestrian. We restricted car traffic solely within the residential fabric in order to protect the green strip. In this type of eco-neighbourhood, you always have to prioritise walking and cycling by reducing car traffic to a minimum, while at the same time minimising underground car parks to avoid the need for excavation. The car parks will be at ground floor level, while the residential floors will start on the first storey. A study has been conducted on the station access, because the current level crossing will no longer exist. The crossing will be underground, connecting the public space of the green strip with the rest of the town. And we distinguish the allocation levels of the neighbourhood’s different areas with the buildings that form the boundary of the green strip… From the first stage of implementation, the green strip can begin to emerge; and develop over time. In the meantime, part of the plot will be used for sports fields or public gardens. Then, densification will subsequently increase.
We had already been competition winners in Nyon (CH) in Europan 10. Both projects are mixed neighbourhoods, but managed in completely different ways: because of the partnership between the municipality and private developers, the Monthey project developed much more dynamically, by contrast with what happened in Nyon where, after an initial phase of further exploration, the project became frozen because there was no one in the public administration who was really backing it. In Monthey, this partnership between public and private helped the work progress at an amazing pace, over an area of more than 160,000 sqm, and we were able to work with the private partner, Gessimo, whose interests are different from those of the administration. So the role of that company’s representative became fundamental. In Europan projects, we need to emphasise the importance of having people who, whether in the administration or a private entity, will follow the project and provide impetus for the process to develop.
Aglaée Degros, Architect, Scientific Council (NL)
The representative of Haugesund mentioned the participation of the inhabitants for the programming, before the competition. Europan is very interested in seeing how to merge participation with the inhabitants with the winner project.
Kristian Endresen, City Planner, Haugesund (NO)
When we got all the proposals, we had an exhibition that was open to the public and that created a lot of discussions and, as I said before, there was an important opinion in favour of reconnecting this area to the city. And this project actually got a lot of attention in open viewing thanks to its qualities of connecting to the city. The park bridge was a big part of that. How it goes now is that there are chances we get input from the neighbours on the project, but generally, the process created some kind of ownership before the program, a large and wide acceptance of the project. So I think it was a very important groundwork in a way.
Rodolphe Luscher, President Europan Switzerland (CH)
What is clever about the project approach in Monthey is that it is a structural concept. The main priorities are set out, the balances are defined, and after that things can evolve. Today, there are more than 1,000 people working on the site, there are many small start-ups and other activities. The aim is that as many as possible of the start-ups should grow and find somewhere else to develop. The detailed program was not known at the start, so in the competition the programme was kept as light as possible to encourage strategies of urbanisation rather than architectural or planning projects. After the competition, there were political changes in both communities in which the site is located. However, this did not prevent negotiations starting with the cooperative, which is a big client on the site, with the idea of separating incoming traffic from heavy goods traffic linked with industry and business. And so the team had to negotiate a lot of things to satisfy desires, needs, offers coming from outside. And at this stage of negotiation, the priority is not the layouts of the buildings but maintaining an open structure so that the negotiation on the architectural volumes can be left till later; and there will be further projects to be conducted by other architects, which the winning team will perhaps have to manage in the future…
We indeed prefer to talk about strategy because we are dealing with such a complex project that if you do not lay down basic rules, in case of a political change –as happened with the municipality just after the competition– you can lose everything. So our project consists primarily of two or three basic rules that set a sufficiently strong strategy to survive. That is the heart of the project, so in our case the green strip represents the element that will regulate the whole development of the project.
Europan 12 Implementation Processes
AMSTETTEN (AT), EUROPAN 12
Ramón Bernabé Simó, Architect (ES) – Winner, “Open”
The project is located at Amstetten, a small town in Austria, which enjoys good rail provision and is connected to other big cities. This site consists of five different plots, belonging to the ÖBB Austrian rail company. Because of a current change to the rail system, these plots are no longer in use and are available for the town’s urban development. The project is divided into different phases running through to 2015, primarily consisting of mixed-use urban development. Our project’s concept is “Open”. The essential idea is the fact that it is very difficult to predict the future, which can change over time, and we propose to create a flexible spatial system capable of adapting to future changes that may take place in the country. Fundamentally, our strategy is an urban proposal that can be adapted to diverse programmatic needs and different market demands. To this end, the system we propose leaves development completely open to the future, for exploration in concert with the client.
Tomáš Labanc, Architect (SK) – Winner, “Open”
One of our main ideas –how to deal with the topic of flexibility and adaptability– was to create a series of flexible typologies that could work for many different scenarios. This strategy allows us change of using the future and promoting mixed uses program. This planning solution will therefore have the capability to quickly adapt to changing market demands and needs that we did not know at the time of the process of the project. By mixing different typologies the sites will grow organically into a city of diversity, which will improve its capability to adapt to changes and restructure its functional logics. Thanks to this concept we are able to eliminate districts that die at night and most importantly we are creating rich special quality and diverse community of people. We see our concept of “Open” as a kind of mediator, a language, how we as architects can communicate with the other actors of the project. And this programmatic proposal evolved with the client and the city to a more realistic program scenario showing how flexible the concept of “Open” is. Then, during the process of implementation, the project was formed according to various parameters, opinions, local situations that appeared during the process, but the main idea of being flexible was still kept during the process.
Kurt Wilhelm, ÖBB Austrian Railway Company (AT)
Amstetten has a population of around 25,000, making it a medium-sized town. The surface area of the competition sites, currently still in use by the railways, will be partly occupied by housing. This area is very large, with space for the long-term construction of around 1000 new dwellings for the town of Amstetten. This means that it would be very risky to develop the total area in one go and it is better to plan for a phased implementation in order to meet the needs of the town.
The project began in early 2012. It was in this preliminary stage that the first needs analyses for future programs were carried out. The first meetings took place with the Municipality to decide whether it was interested in developing the totality of the area. Contact with local developers was also needed to analyse the development potential. Following this, the Municipality took the decision to take part in the Europan competition, because the timing was right for an early start to the development of the project.
The aim of the preliminary surveys was to analyse the condition of the land. Given that this was railway land, it had to be inspected for “contamination”, because during the Second World War in Austria, rail installations were heavily bombed. War “detritus” had to be removed so that the area could be developed safely.
Following the end of the Europan competition, the winning team was invited to work with the local planning actors, since they are familiar with Austrian legal and technical conditions and could assist the winners in planning the subsequent changes.
This year, the project has continued through 5 workshops, with the aim of reaching a basis for the area master plan and land use plan. At the end of 2013, the final public presentation of the results was made. In 2015, there will be a presentation of the project’s impact on the town. The next stages will be the decontamination of the zone and implementation of safety provisions. Other quality assurance steps will need to be taken. In the meantime, the “neighbourhood brand” has been chosen and a marketing strategy developed to transform the area in several stages. Preparations have already been made for the sale of the land.
VENEZIA (IT), EUROPAN 12
Oscar Girotto, Urban Planning Director (IT)
I am an architect and head of Venezia’s Municipal Planning Department, and as mentioned previously, one of the main people involved in the competition site. The idea proposed for Europan arises from an agreement dating back to 2010 between Venezia Municipality and Ferrovie dello Stato, or rather the Ferrovie dello Stato constellation, which is made up of different companies: RFI, FS Sistemi urbani, Grandi Stazioni, the last being the private station operating companies. By way of reminder, Mestre Station is one of the so-called “big stations”, and is therefore one of the stations currently undergoing restyling under the station refurbishment program.
This site is characterised by very good access, by road, since we are surrounded by a motorway network, but above all by rail with the national network, the regional network and the high-speed network, which makes this a very important site. And Mestre Station is linked by a whole system of public access roads, which means urban mobility, interurban mobility and numerous other links extending to international level: throughout the day at Mestre Station, incoming and outgoing bus lines link the city to Eastern Europe. In addition, a few days ago a new infrastructure came into operation, one in which Venezia Municipality has invested very heavily: the first tram line linking the north of the city to the Marghera district in the south, which has resolved a situation dating back to the 19th century, the split between the towns of Mestre and Marghera that arose with the development of the rail infrastructure.
In addition to a high degree of accessibility, Mestre Station is surrounded by the largest number of sites with the potential for conversion or refurbishment, whether physical or functional, both to the north and the south of the station.
There are three areas: a long vertical zone, which contains all the Ferrovie dello Stato buildings, whether in use or not; here, one of the competition requirements was to give the station an entirely new look, along with a functional transformation, whilst retaining certain buildings that are still essential to the operation of the rail infrastructure; the second zone is important because it is a park – also owned by Ferrovie – where social tensions have emerged; and further to the north, a big brownfield site left over from the former freight station. It is an area where urban regeneration has failed to bring about the integration between the original and new inhabitants. Successive waves of new residents have settled here, bringing an accumulation of different practices, customs and urban ways of life. The previous urban regeneration process therefore failed to achieve the goal of integration, leading to problems and conflicts that the population would like to see settled. The process was initiated by an agreement with Ferrovie; a framework agreement is being established between the Region, the Municipality, Ferrovie dello Stato and one private company, in order to create the conditions –we hope by the middle of next year– for the urban regeneration operations to get underway.
Andres Holguin, Architect (IT) – Runner-up, "Urban Grafts"
Our architectural practice is based in Venezia. Venezia is a city well embedded in the collective psyche, but as young architects we wanted to work with another town, Mestre, which is still Venezia, but which seemed much more interesting because it is here that the future of the city lies. The competition zone was the area around Mestre Station, one of Italy’s biggest stations, with almost 140,000 people passing through each day. We began our proposal by thinking about the city: we believe that it is above all a starting point, the triggering of a transformation which is seen not as the conclusion of a project, but rather as the birth of a process. The zone we worked on also affects city dwellers: it is a district inhabited by a large number of people of different nationalities, with social problems. The potential lies in the people who live there and in the presence of the railway.
We propose that the urban character of the railway section, like a vertical with the existing station and other functions, should be enhanced, whereas the upper part, the former railway station, could be more of a landscape area. Different operations could take place over time, with the social renovation of the housing, whereas the municipality could work on the public space and the rail company on the station. Finally, the private developers can conduct new programs on the wider urban fabric. There are therefore numerous possible interventions, and also many different actors. We think that the Municipality should take the initiative and be the driving force in the transformation of the site. After the competition, in 2014, the Municipality approved a framework agreement. The Urban Planning adviser for the City of Venezia commented: “This framework agreement is not a “dream book”, but the basis of a project.” We agree with this analysis, and we hope that it will indeed not be a “dream book”, but the basis of a project.
Chiara Gugliotta, Architect (IT) – Runner-up, "Percorsi per riqualificare"
The runner-up team Cottone-Indelicato-Gugliotta devised a project based on the development of connecting routes to generate relations between the three areas already described, and to link them firstly to the centre of Mestre and secondly to the Marguera district, in the south beyond the railway lines. At present, Mestre creates a split between two towns, the centre and the Marghera district, which although adjacent are separated. In order to overcome this split we therefore propose to reorganise the transit flows and, through simple operations, to enhance mobilities by introducing slower routes, cycle tracks or walkways, ending at Piraghetto Park, where the new housing will be located. The other side, in the park, the tracks are a reminder of the area’s historical past: they pick up the abandoned freight station rails. They are firmly anchored in the city and our project uses them as the foundations for new housing, which gradually moves away from the urban fabric towards the interior of the park. In a way, the tracks and the residences establish a new order in the park. The new tram station encompasses the changes that are already underway within the station and eliminates the division that breaks the continuity between the two towns.
We sought to work on an aesthetic of sustainability, with a station building that merges well into the surrounding fabric in terms of scale and volume, and gardens on the main road running parallel to the town’s principal axis, enhancing its proportions and integrating it more harmoniously into the urban fabric. The connection with the ground creates transparency, providing a visible link between interior and exterior. In addition, the other two volumes (the central volume of the restaurant which dominates the main entrance, and the tall tower of the hotel) may provide a strategic response to Mestre Municipality’s demand for new hospitality structures and give the station new functions in terms of generating a social dynamic, so that the mix of flows that the station experiences becomes a source of potential rather than deterioration.
Mario Cottone, Architect (IT) – Runner-up, "Percorsi per riqualificare"
There are 3 Runners-up and 4 Special Mentions on this site. We knew this from the beginning because it was a very complex site, it was not easy to find a project that could make everybody happy. The main actors in this case –which were already around the table before the architects– are first the municipality of course and the RFI, which is the Ferroviere dello Stato. So now of course there are a lot of ways to go ahead; maybe one way would be to use positively all the pool of projects that are on the table; the municipality could adopt, integrate all these ideas in the masterplan. And then for sure the main issue –at least for us– was the rail station.
Kaye Geipel, Jury member (DE)
I would like to ask Mr Girotto, as a planning director, how he is now considering to proceed to bring all the different ideas under one roof?
Oscar Girotto, Urban Planning Director – Venezia (IT)
Europan is not a public competition for operational contracts, but a competition of strategic ideas that, in Venezia’s case, turned out with good results since it satisfied both the Municipality and the main institution with ownership of the buildings, offering the possibility of a certain amount of development. As a result, the framework agreement we will sign with Ferrovie, the private sector and the Region, will also serve to make the necessary changes to the site plan to make the competition winning ideas feasible.
The intention of the municipal administration is to support each stage of this process through to the drafting of a project that we call “approved” by the administration, through a participatory procedure. This is very important, because the situation that I have tried to describe here, and that the authors of the projects have also described, is a social situation with very major specific expectations, in terms of direct participation, about the development of the project on the site. Indeed, we have already employed this approach on other sites in the city, to the great satisfaction of the inhabitants who took part in the working group in all phases, not only of the planning, but also of the implementation. So it is this process that we want to put in place. The winning projects show that the project is not just a single approach to be developed on 3 different sites, but three completely different themes to be handled as connected urban projects: the adjustment of a development of the railway station, the restyling of a green area for citizens, and the functional conversion of an abandoned freight station into a new residential neighbourhood and an extension of a park. The municipality’s aspiration regarding the particular issue of building new residential districts also relates to the fact that it wishes, through this project, to establish the conditions for the relocation of 70 families living around the freight station who, at present, live between two railway lines and an orbital road. This therefore emphasises the essential importance of the notion of participation.
BARCELONA (ES), EUROPAN 12
Eduard Balcells, Architect (ES) – Winner, "Ramblas verdes"
How was project designed with a transformational tool? The answer lies in “more connections”. In what ways is the project a process and not a definitive object? Three answers: detecting and developing large-scale connections; adapting the connections to a social infrastructure, the “rambla”, and to an ecological infrastructure, the “riera”; and finally connections as links between the different scales of the place, the neighbourhoods north of the River Besos and the city. The proposal is therefore based on understanding, maximisation and providing connections. These connections act as infrastructures, but ones that we believe to be ecological, social and slow-paced, the foundation for many potential futures.
So we are in Barcelona, there is the sea, the historic city, the Ensanche District, the mountains, the River Besòs (one of the two rivers that bound the plain of Barcelona). And the location of the Europan site is the apex of a triangle formed by 3 parts: the linear Besòs River Park; the future Sagrera linear park; and, in the middle, a very large park in the centre of a cluster of infrastructures made up of the city’s main access roads. We worked on the connections between sea and mountains and their parallels, and the parallels to the sea.
However, we realised that in addition to these three parks, there are also three other parks that it would also be good to connect: the Can Zam Park and the mountains. We therefore thought about linking them via a trail that we call “Six Parks Trail”. This establishes a direct connection between sea and mountains. So a cyclist can ride from the beach to the mountains through an uninterrupted sequence of parks.
Then we devised horizontal connections parallel to the sea. They are interesting because here there is a whole area historically situated between two enormous barriers: the railway tracks, which are transformed into Barcelona’s biggest park, and the River Besòs, converted from a sewage channel into a linear park that has become highly popular with local people. So these two big barriers become two big green junctions. To foster this transformation, we think that the horizontal connection is important. These transverse links follow the steepest slopes and run across the competition site. We imagine these corrections as “ramblas”. The typical rambla people always talk about is a social nucleus, a place of human encounter, etc. However, we want to reclaim the original sense of the word, which is “riera”, which means “dry river”, i.e. a space of ecological regulation. That is why we combined these two meanings, “rambla” and “riera”, to name the project “Ramblas verdes”. Using the slopes and attendance, the existing topography, we were able to create this Six Park Trail, which links all the park system and connects the sea to the mountains. We use the central trail through Sagrera Park to cross, reach, cross and reach again.
That is the project on the large-scale, the connections between scales. The triangular competition site is not considered as a fringe of Barcelona, but more as a new centrality between the Ensanche district, the Sedra district, the historic city and the whole metropolitan area of Barcelona, which administratively are different municipalities, but in reality constitute a whole. And at district scale, finer connections emerge – the green ramblas. And at site scale, with sharper relations at district level, connections that form strips with an open future.
Our desire within the context of Europan is to present not a typical urban plan, but rather clear game rules, allowing maximum openness. These rules act as a sort of basis for the proposals that may emerge within the place and between the stakeholders. Then we could, if necessary, perform the role of mediators between the stakeholders and also ensure that the project remains coherent and that the connections are maintained, since they are truly important. In terms of the relation with the park, these green ramblas also provided possibility of connections with the parks and infiltration, different public spaces, water management – the ecological function of this rambla is important. As well as its social function, we want to reclaim the ecological function of its former meaning. Then, different uses of the ground levels, of public space, a macro pedestrian neighbourhood, orbital flows, use of shade from the sun, mixed programs, north-south orientations – we have strong orientation rules and need to think about the typologies, the facades, which must be considered in terms of those rules, and a strategy of energy self-sufficiency.
Here we have done a simulation that applies the urban and landscape rules we have set. The result that emerges is interesting, but it is just one result amongst many others, what one might call an infinite range, since many things can be imagined on the basis of these strips of ramblas. What happens between them will depend on negotiations and processes. Each rambla is designed as a basin that generates a landscape. Fundamentally, the structure of each rambla is the same: there is a shaded part and in wetter weather, there are gardens that absorb the residual water generated by the buildings. And in the sunlit part, there is an area for the infiltration of rainwater, which can accumulate in these “vases”, which acts as a kind of sponge that releases water when the soil becomes dry. And then the trees to provide shade from the sun, cycle tracks, etc. Around, a variety of typologies could be generated, patio-houses with small office towers, public amenities, etc. A variety of urban fabrics like a carpet in the neighbourhoods north of the Besòs.
Carles Enrich, Architect (ES) – Winner, "Urban Insertions"
We used the competition parameters as tools to propose urban regeneration within the neighbourhood. The competition site is part of a special location in Barcelona, because it is situated at the apex of the future Segrera Park and the Besòs River Park. It is an advantageous and special location, but the site is also part of an industrial fabric. Europan was proposing to develop 80,000 sqm of residential and service buildings on this plot. For us, the location was not restricted to the site itself, but also encompassed the whole district. It was a district of empty apartments, closed premises, no activity outside working hours, abandoned industrial warehouses and empty premises for rent or sale. For us, all this material was part of the project for the site.
On one side, the River Besòs works very well on the edge of the Santa Coloma district, with many activities, whereas the Barcelona side is practically abandoned. So after the strategy was to link up with the River Besòs from the Barcelona side, while still working on this intermediate fringe as the competition site, so as to bring a general permeability, both public and private, between these two elements. To this end, the first operation is to reinforce the three streets that link the site to the Santa Coloma district, and we propose extending Calle Tucuman as far as Santa Coloma by a pedestrian bridge that would act as a platform for tertiary activities such as small local markets or temporary uses, thereby creating exchanges between the residents on both sides.
The other important point in the proposal is a certain programmatic redistribution. We proposed leaving the site empty, yet we also wanted to meet the conditions set by Europan. We therefore broadened our point of view and looked at the five blocks closest to the site. We thought that if we could locate in them the empty and abandoned spaces that we saw earlier, and insert the requested programs, we could begin regenerating the neighbourhood from its centre. Therefore began weaving this network –which here is more a micro-network, like a micro-block acting as a micro-district– an interior, pedestrian network, and a public space that links Santa Coloma and revitalises the industrial fabric. We relocated and inserted the program into the different blocks, creating strong structural axes. This is a way to revitalise the streets and make the public space more human; it also provides permeability and porosity at ground level, to generate a neighbourhood of greater intensity and activity.
Finally, we proposed inserting the residential program into the vacant spaces established, on the basis of a small living space that functions as a template for the basic living requirements –a small kitchen, a bathroom, a storeroom, a wardrobe– in order to reactivate these vacant and abandoned spaces. Here are a few examples of these urban insertions that we propose in abandoned offices or in industrial warehouses, each time combined with operations to generate a variety of typologies, always related to the public space and providing multipurpose habitable spaces for working and living, or as small workshops or stores.
Joan Llort, Deputy Director Urban Planning, Hábitat urba (ES)
So this is the great strength of Europan: to demonstrate or show that a single site with a sole program can inspire two totally different projects. These two approaches are not unique, but I would also like you to understand that if two professionals with the same educational background can submit such different projects, other stakeholders –citizens, neighbours, local authorities– also have their opinion on the topic. In any case, what we see here is a territory in continual development. The city has been investing for many years and its residents have to make major efforts to accept all this. On the basis of this need and the proposals put forward in the two projects, the municipality has identified two missions. For the moment, we will keep the original site free, because although it is true that the neighbours have earmarked this as an ideal location for amenities, we must first find solutions for the surrounding areas.
So the two projects have become the two tasks for the designers to complete. On one site, the team "Inserciones urbanas" is developing a project to reclaim the Rec Comtal, a mediaeval hydraulic structure that, for many centuries, provided Barcelona with water – remains of that infrastructure are actually still visible here and there. The team "Ramblas verdes" also develops a reclamation project yet of a former industrial fabric, which the city wishes to maintain confering to it urban qualities, now of vital importance on the boundary of the great city Park.
So we urgently need to enhance the quality of this area. At present, Barcelona needs high-quality industrial zones, with good service provision and well embedded in the urban fabric. The aspiration is to design a complex city, which is difficult because there are few remaining places where industrial activities can be developed. A very detailed analysis of possible plot types, existing activity, vacant sites, heights, spaces, the routes of former hydraulic infrastructures, is giving rise to new urban planning documents that had never existed in the past. Here then are the beginnings of two projects derived from ideas triggered by the Europan competition.
MANNHEIM (DE), EUROPAN 12
Kaye Geipel, Jury member (DE)
I am not Mannheim’s city planner… I am here because they unfortunately couldn’t be in the debate. I was in the jury of the Mannheim projects, so I know the site. We are here talking about urban landscapes at the entrance of cities and mainly about a motorway, which makes the entrance, which links, the motorways that are driving to the city of Mannheim itself. And the motorway represents a dream of the 60’s: networks, high speed mobility. But the new dream today is about soft mobility. But if you imagine these two expressions you will immediately understand that in the end there is a huge difficulty to bring them together. The question is: is it possible to shape an “autobahn”? The city of Mannheim was quite courageous: they chose a very small, strategic site, 220 meters large and 3 km long! A site that is literally right and left of this motorway coming inside the city.
But we have to speak about invisibility because this was a place at the entrance of the city that was not visible from the side of the inhabitants or in any way of the people who are coming with their cars to Mannheim as I often did and I didn’t realise that behind these front barriers on the right and on the left there were quite interesting quarters built in the 60’s but also two barracks from Americans, on the right and on the left side, and these areas are now in the phase of transformation because the Americans will definitely leave in 2015. So the question is: what to do with all these sites? If we think about these places we also have to think about the theoretical framework. And I want to mention Bernardo Secchi and his idea of porosity. He gave us an instrument to think how to link different parts in this infrastructural spaces of our cities.
And if you work on this type of transformation area, you have to think of the inhabitants of the whole city. For them nowadays it is only a motorway entrance to the city and it is nothing at all, so how to have a vision of the future? The winners, Alessandro delli Ponti and Ilaria Novielli, and the Runner-Up brought different images to this area. Europan, with its longer transformation time, is perhaps not so apt to produce quick images, but more apt to develop a long scale and transformative strategy, an adaptable master plan.
Alessandro delli Ponti, Architect (IT) – Winner, “Mannheim Connection“
What is interesting about Mannheim is the contrast between the city’s ambition and the controversial context in which we were operating. The B38 is a very wide but underused infrastructure, one of the main gates to the historical city centre. We would have the space to win available surface and make it a metropolitan public space. The barracks constitutes a wider metropolitan archipelago of military territories, which measures 500 ha and is currently going back to the city. This means that the dimensions of the city might double in a couple of years. There is obviously a lot of interest by private actors to go and search for these not necessarily very expensive territories and in the meanwhile there is a great risk of savage urban development.
On the other side, beyond the B38, there are inhabited quarters from the 70’s. But just like the military island is cut out from the rest of the city, the inhabited quarters are also cut out by other infrastructures from the historical city centre. So we have a sort of patchwork of autonomous urban areas that do not communicate with each other. So the project is a strategic plan to build relations; the idea of a relational story is sort of a way of recalling this idea of narrative, there is a new common platform between political ambition and our technical support or capability to imagine a space. This idea of narrative and of spatial palimpsest as a strategic evolutional way of designing space.
We imagined a transformation on the B38 as an adaptive field for this bi-dimensional surface, to play with this inactivated thick part of the urban fragment, and in order to activate relations with the other side and the nearby quarters. This is the main infrastructure going North-South, this is the main river, and the B38 is a green line. For us, the project was about trying to built this continuity and adaptive field, trying to introduce the backyard of the infrastructure on the infrastructure itself. The relation between landscape, time scales and mobility articulation between slow motion and fast motion is a sort of ideogram of how it could look like on the long term.
This is something about the building relations – relational strategy between landscapes, agricultural areas, North-South, these small humid areas that in a way give the only public quality to these quarters from the 70’s and the productive countryside. What has now been accepted and more developed in details by the local municipality was this idea of interlacing mobility lines with specific programmatic areas, having multi-modal poles, programmatic activators in which different scalar connections, different speeds and movement would activate specific programs. What must be said is that if we talk about a 500-ha development, we are talking about a regional issue in economic and mobility terms.
We think that the municipality has to think of a proper development for the area by imagining a compatibility of activities. What is hard in this case is to build a dialogue with different levels of administrative and planning powers, from the local municipality to the office of development of the Lander, integrating private actors to use the project as a dialogical basis to think economic complementarity and development. Otherwise we will remain stuck in this eternal competition between Heidelberg and Mannheim and all the network cities.
Between local and regional, between mobility and programs, between landscape and urban forms– helping us define a series of phases through time going from the immediate activation of available voids for public and mass uses to specific activations of buildings and sport programs which are very generous on the site, through a specific pedestrian connection from one side to the other, the B38, and a pioneer occupation of the nearby site of the B38, to then develop a mixed quarter also answering the programmatic demand of the municipality. This means that development could progress in the meanwhile on these 5 urban protagonists, but in a phased way as we have seen it before. What is interesting about this project is that it was conceived in a way that it allows renouncing to part of it without damaging the overall strategy of continuity and metropolitan activation. There was a great work on landscape, in order to use the available surface on the B38 in order to develop a recycled water and increase the permeable surfaces as a means to foster sustainable mixed quarter.