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PIAZZA NETTUNO REGENERATION OF AN URBAN SQUARE ALONG THE WATERFRONT IN THE CITY OF CATANIA Master thesis

Author: Roberta Sinesio Project Coordinator: Professor Luciano Crespi

to my father, my mather, my sister.

[MUID]3_MASTER IN URBAN INTERIOR DESIGN Public living spaces in contemporary cities III EDITION, October 2016

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1- Catania, site area........................................................................................................................................................................ 7 2- Catania, back in time - The urban morphology and the relationship with the sea, in the 1600’s....................................................................................11 - The urban morphology and the relationship with the sea, at the end of 19th century..............................................................13 3- Catania, today - The urban morphology and the relationship with the sea, the press.......................................................................................... 17 4- The urbanistic analisys of the promenade:: - Intersections............................................................................................................................................................................ 22 - Traffic..................................................................................................................................................................................... 23 - Services......................................................................................................................................................................................24 - Public transport....................................................................................................................................................................... 25 - Accessibility.............................................................................................................................................................................. 26 5- The segments of the promenade: -The tipologies................................................................................................................................................................................ 27 - Playa........................................................................................................................................................................................28 - The harbour............................................................................................................................................................................ 30 - Passeggio della marina.......................................................................................................................................................... 32 - Porto rossi..............................................................................................................................................................................34 - San giovanni li cuti.................................................................................................................................................................. 36 - Piazza nettuno.........................................................................................................................................................................38 - Ognina.................................................................................................................................................................................... 40 6- Strategy of intervention.............................................................................................................................................................42

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7- Project area: - Existing context.........................................................................................................................................................................48 - Topographic analisys................................................................................................................................................................. 55 - Fotographic analisys................................................................................................................................................................. 56 - The activity and the users.......................................................................................................................................................... 60 - The main events..........................................................................................................................................................................61 8- The project - Piazza nettuno: the concept......................................................................................................................................................62 - Plan of project, scale 1:2500................................................................................................................................................... 68 - Topographic analisys..................................................................................................................................................................69 - Plan of project and analisys areas, scale 1:1250..................................................................................................................... 70 - Plan of project, scale 1:700..................................................................................................................................................... 72 - Sections, scale 1:500.................................................................................................................................................................74 9- Urban furniture and materials - The pavement..............................................................................................................................................................................80 - The benches............................................................................................................................................................................... 82 10- Illumination system....................................................................................................................................................................88 11- Bibliography.............................................................................................................................................................................. 96 12- Aknowledgements......................................................................................................................................................................98

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country: italia region: sicilia metropolitan city: catania area: 182,7 km² population: 312.774 waterfront: 11,5 km

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sicily

catania 7


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catania

back in time 9


The urban morphology and the relationship with the sea: in the 1600’s In the second half of the 17th century, the urban planning of Catania was destined to be almost annihilated by a double natural catastrophe: the terrible 1669 eruption and, only two decades later, the deadly 1693 earthquake. Very few traces remain of the city before the earthquake and human memory can hardly make up for the loss.

managed to win “the challenge against rival cities over the rule over the valley and control on all mountainsides which was part of the political agenda of the ruling class”.

People visiting this area at the time would see a city enclosed by its fortified walls. These were already partially completed and were to be later The loss of the city archive and the fire that destroyed Palazzo degli further fortified during the beginning of modern times in the wake of Elefanti in 1944 during separatist riots resulted in further and unfixable the fall of Constantinople (1453) and the Turkish conquest of the Balkan damages that made it even harder to reconstruct historic and urban vi- area, as this meant that Sicily now had a different geopolitical role and cissitudes. The only evidence from times prior to the earthquake comes became an external border of Christianity. from philosopher Filoteto: Within this context, Catania had to strengthen its defences by building, “Catania is situated on the shores of the Ionian sea, which delimitates around the first half of the 16th century, more bulwarks and ramparts the eastern part of Sicily. It lays somewhere below the Mongibello, whe- which enclosed the city “like a crown” transforming it into an “imprere its roots find an end and create a good harbour which was eventually gnable fortress”. filled by stony material from the volcano and over which on its northern side the high mountain rests and from which Catania took its name”. Proof of all this can be found in the words of Spannocchi: “here the fences, spaced out by squared towers on the outer side and delimited by More evidence regarding the shape of the city’s coastal area: naturally risen ground explain the tortuous winding of the city walls on its southern and western side and why magma in 1669 did not immedia“twenty-six miles of problematic sea-side, from the Jaci Castle down tely affect the medieval walls”. to the Simeto river. Towards the east and Ognina the sea “wrestles everything from the deep between crags and the highest, most inaccessible cliffs” making it impossible to come ashore safely, although some small coves can be found and which were even used by pirates to refuel on water. In the south, on the other hand, there’s a wide beach “unsheltered and sandy until the Agnone” and the sea is “always rough due to the winds that never cease to blow”. This means that Catania, a commercial city and a marketplace for all sorts of goods has no real harbour but an unsafe landing place where boats and ships are “at the mercy of pirates at sea and thieves on land”. Despite the lack of a true harbour, Catania was still defined as the “capital” of the area below the volcano, not only on its southern side (including its fertile valley), but also on its coastal, eastern side where its coastline and ports made it its most dynamic area. In the long run, Catania 10

The urban morphology and the relationship with the sea: in the 1600’s

“Catania città clarissima”, Francesco Negro and Carlo Maria Ventimiglia, 1640

Representation of the 1669 eruption in Catania

Although these walls did not always manage to protect Catania from violent incursions, they helped protect the city from natural disasters. In April 1669 they protected the city from the lava front, at least initially, and only later collapsed in those few places where they were older and weaker. What was left standing of the walls after the eruption helped save the citizens of Catania from the tidal wave that followed the earthquake in 1693 and which destroyed much of the city. Many houses, buildings, palaces and churches collapsed, in fact, and there were 16 fatalities. Today, very little is left of those towering walls.

Representation of the devastating effects of the earthquake in 1693

T. Spannocchi, Descrizione della marina di tutto il regno di Sicilia, 1596, 11


The urban morphology and the relationship with the sea: at the end of 19th century After the catastrophic earthquake in 1693 which reduced the city to rubble, new information on urban morphology and demographics can be found in Sebastiano Itter’s planimetry, dating back to the first half of the 19th century. The planimetry clearly shows the creation of a new thoroughfare, which remains today the city’s main artery and which stems from the sea to the volcano Etna: Via Etnea. This planimetry, also shows the location of the main buildings of the city, both religious and institutional, and the division of the city into neighbourhoods. If between the 16th and 17th century Catania was confined within city walls that edged the coast and surrounded the city, in the 19th century this form of protection was no longer necessary. We can now find, instead, the new gates located on the eastern and western sides of the city, and bordered by the ruins of the ancient walls which fell down at the end of the 17th century.

With the 1886 census, we discover that in those days the most post populated areas are the poor ones around the city center suggesting that the majority of people in Catania had very little means. Eventually, the development of a middle-class with intellectuals and merchants would have been the decisive ones for Catania’s future. This new part of the population began promoting and financing the changes of the city from a commercial one to an industrial one. The most important new sectors, the textile sector and manufacturing, became the two most important as well as the agricultural one. This new working class could mostly be found south-west of the city and was very different from the fishermen of the east. Although profitable, fishing was considered a menial task. In the same period, the building of the railway along the coastal part of the city meant the end of the weak relationship between Catania and the sea as the railroad made much of coast inaccessible.

As per the sources cited above, the coastal area of Catania in the 16th century was indented, inaccessible and dangerous due to volcanic rocks and high cliffs. After the earthquake and with a new urban plan, however, the role of the sea continues to be marginal and will continue to not influence the life and development of the city. Most important buildings, including political, institutional, religious buildings anpublic squares remain located far away from the sea. This shows that inhabitants continue to ignore the sea and exploit different sources of supply both on an economical and social level. The only noteworthy urban development by the sea is the “Largo della Statua”. The statue which the name refers to is the statue of St. Agatha, patron saint of the city and to whom inhabitants are still deeply devout. With regard to the demographics of Catania, the first information of this kind dates back to 1861 when the first census was held. It showed that the city was growing and had a population of 69.000 people. What is interesting, however, is that in 1871 most of the population could be found in the western part of the city, while the eastern and coastal part of the city was much more scarcely populated and the most crowded part of this area was the one around the harbour. 12

The urban morphology and the relationship with the sea: at the end of 19th century

Sebastiano Ittar, Topograghic plan of the city of Catania, Paris 1832

Marina’s arches

The old town and the railway

Ognina pier

Beach club, Playa 13


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catania

today 15


The urban morphology and the relationship with the sea:

The urban morphology and the relationship with the sea:

the press

the press

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catania

t h e w a t e r f ro n t 19


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The urbanistic analisys of the promenade:

The urbanistic analisys of the promenade:

the intersection

the traffic

The urban growth of Catania happened without proper planning through the decentralization of services (including commercial, tourist, industrial and cultural activities). Meanwhile, the number of commuters moving daily towards Catania has increased and uncovers a lack of infrastructures as well as the inability to shape urban growth according to principles of sustainability. The urban fabric of the city witnesses the decline of the city center, the loss in coastal areas of natural reserves and the development of satellite neighbourhoods south west of the city; these lack in services and fuel social unrest and marginalization. At the same time middle-class neighbourhoods were built in the north east without proper planning and no green areas.

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One of the most critical parts of Catania is its promenade. To call it a promenade is an overstatement, as it is a highly trafficked road which only happens to have the sea on one side. The SS114 is a state road that runs alongside the whole coastal area of Catania and is a continuation of the ring road. Many problems are caused by this road and one of them is the fact that it limits access to the sea in most areas of the city. Originally, the SS114 used to connect Messina to Siracusa; today, traffic moving in those directions has been diverted to other roads and the SS114 remains one of the most important dual carriageways between North and South Catania and intersects with the most important roads in the city.

Traffic is frequently congested on this road and it has been identified by ISTAT as one of the 8 most dangerous roads in Italy. Many factors are responsible for such congestions. First of all, this road represents the only link between the northern and southern parts of the city.

All of this meant that the SS114 has now lost its scenic value and only serves a mere functional role. Data on traffic in the area are alarming. It was calculated in 2012 that up to 1000-1500 cars drive every hour on the south end of the road (Porto, Viale Kennedy), while in the north area up to 10,000 an hour can drive on the ringroad during rush hour.

Secondly, traffic is forced to convey here both from the coastal as well as mountain outskirts of the city. Finally, no parking areas have ever been planned in this sensitive area. This has clear consequences on the number of accidents, levels of pollution and noise in the area. To solve the problem, inhabitants have resolved to parking their cars in areas that were not originally designed as parking areas, such as squares and pavements as there is no control from local law enforcement.

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The urbanistic analisys of the promenade:

The urbanistic analisys of the promenade:

the services

public transportation

Planning around this area has not improved the situation. Urbanisation abuse meant that at the beginning of the 20th century private houses were built on the seafront making it impossible for other house to have a view of the sea and to develop an ordered plan for the area.

To try and solve the problem of congested traffic in the area and to invite people to walk on the promenade public transport has been increased in the area. The area is served by many bus lines, underground rails, and bike lanes. One may think that the area has effective infrastructures, but reality is much different.

As we already mentioned, however, very few elements characterise this road as a promenade and it is often hard to remember that the road lies so close to the sea. Bikes have to run alongside cars, thus reducing the environmental benefit of it and with no chance to enjoy the view of the sea.

Public transportation in Catania has many flaws: punctuality, lack of vehicles and lengthy journeys. It is still possible, however, to move along this coastal area with buses and to cycle in the bike lane, which however, only partially runs along this carriageway. The local government has developed the bike lane in an attempt to address the request of many citizens to transform this driveway into a real promenade.

Finally, in the central part of this coastal area, near the station an underground train line has been developed.

Finally, we arrive at the harbour. The city has always had a strong relationship with the harbour, but also contrasting feelings. The relationship has always been strong due to the historic presence of these facilities in the area, it has always been part of the social and economic fabric of the city and has always acted as a bridge between This possibility still appears to be an impossible task even today as it Catania and other Mediterranean cities. The relationship is made even would be necessary to demolish much of the area to allow for new plan- stronger by the fact that inhabitants are forced to drive alongside the ning. harbour during their daily commute. To make matters worse, at the end of the 19th century the central railway At the same time, although inhabitants are used to the presence of thestation was built and railroads started running alongside the coast for 3 se facilities in their city they have no access to it and to the coastal area kms making pedestrian access to the sea impossible, as well as any form beyond its borders. of urban planning.

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The underground is developing like a web through the city and will represent in the future the best way to fight traffic congestion in the city and to reduce the number of cars.

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The urbanistic analisys of the promenade: the accessibility In Catania, access to the sea remains problematic. It is only possible in very few spots on the promenade and it is often not free of charge. Only on the sandy side of the city, the “playa”, can you find private establishments that charge for entrance. On the rocky side of the city, the “scogliera”, platforms are built during the summer in those few accessible spots.

The only public and free of charge area along the promenade is the one called “San Giovanni li Cuti” a picturesque small bay characterised by black volcanic sand. It is only maintained by local residents and the city council remains oblivious to the needs of the area while it allows private residents to develop private accesses to the sea depriving others of up to 70% of available accesses.

The fact that establishments at the playa are run on a seasonal basis me- With regard to the commercial harbour, the city council has put in place ans that access to the sea is impossible during the rest of the year. The a plan to hand the area back to the citizens. city council declared three areas of the shore “public”, however, the lack of private investments means that these public areas are abandoned and in poor conditions.

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The segments of the promenade: Playa Moving south of the harbour, along the coast, the coastline is sandy and straight for 15kms. The area is covered by a large sandy shore with vegetation typical of sandy mediterranean areas. Much of this shoreline is part of the project: “Piano urbanistico attuativo catania sud”, which is responsible for maintaining the naturalistic value as well as the maintenance of sport and tourist facilities. Further south, one can find the “Simeto river natural reserve”, of great naturalistic value and one of the biggest in Sicily with its 1350 hectares. Within the reserve there is also an “animal protection oasis”, extremely important from an environmental as well as a scientific point of view. This area is greatly compromised, however, by the presence of tourist developments which cause damage to the area.

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playa

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The segments of the promenade: The main harbour The area of the harbour is full of contradictions. While, on the one hand, it is located in the city centre, the area is not accessible to citizens unless they have specific permits. Only the entrance area is accessible and bars and pubs were developed there. The area is mostly used by citizens in the afternoon and evening. Next to it, the silos were decorated by street artists awarding the area “greatest street art in Europe� and now attract citizens and tourists who visit the city. The city council is currently developing plans to make more areas of the harbour accessible to citizens. The harbour is also able to receive cruise ships, commercial ships and to provide aid to migrants travelling to Europe.

the main harbour

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The segments of the promenade: Il passeggio della marina In this area, the relationship between the city and the sea has great historic and cultural significance. But in the area around the central station one can still see what is left of the flues as a reminder that it was once an industrial area where sulphur was refined and then exported, making Catania an industrial and economical centre between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The cultural value of this area is expressed in its nickname “U passiatuni�. It was the area where in the 1950’s middle- and upper-class families used to go walking in the afternoon during the weekend. However, due to the railroad, the sea could not be seen and today the tradition of walking down this road is lost. Even the benches disappeared from the sides of the road, confirming not only that there is no policing in this area, but also the it has long been abandoned.

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passeggio marina

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The segments of the promenade: Porto Rossi Porto Rossi is a typical touristic area placed along the Catania golfo’s coast, in the city center, behind Piazza Europa. From an idea of cavaliere Pietro Rossi, today the port extends over an area of 55.000 square meters, with 280 boat moorings from 5 to 24 meters along the dock and others 300 inside for winter. But today Porto Rossi is not just a docking place but also a location for conferences and events of any kind. The society which manages Porto Rossi not only plays a role in docking boats but distributes also important nautical brands for all Sicily and Reggio Calabria. The vegetation around The dock contributes to creating the perfect setting with the sea making Porto Rossi an inviting place to walk to.

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porto rossi

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The segments of the promenade: San Giovanni li Cuti The beach of San Giovanni Li Cuti is famous in Catania for its black volcanic sand. It was formed during one of the many catastrophic eruptions of Mount Etna and today is one of the very few beaches that are free of charge in Catania. The beach is cleaned and maintained by local residents. Although it is a very peculiar place and despite the huge number of visitors during the summer, the beach is hidden from view and cannot be seen from the road. Urbanisation abuses meant that many 1-2 storey buildings were built around this beach hiding it from view. The beach can be accessed through a small road that is pedestrianised.

san giovanni li cuti

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The segments of the promenade: Piazza Nettuno Piazza Nettuno lies on the promenade at the intersection with Via del Rotolo, a thoroughfare that connects the coast with the neighbourhoods of Ognina and Picanello. Many people, however, complain about its current use. Residential buildings and hotels make way to food trucks and a funfair which attracts hundreds of children with their families every day, making a lot of noise until late at night in this residential area. Piazza Nettuno remains, however, a real attraction despite the very poor condition of its facilities, the lack of benches and lights as well as the lack of railings limiting access to the cliffs on the sea. The most important attraction of this area is the public basketball field which attracts everyday hundreds of children and which makes life in the area gravitate around the field itself.

piazza nettuno

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The segments of the promenade: Ognina The coastal neighbourhood of Ognina with its Porto Ulisse was developed at the end of the 19th century as a suburban area. From a small fishing harbour in the 1950’s it became a tourist port and it now offers services. The neighbourhood is very old, its population very homogeneous both socially and economically, and its appearance is very peculiar. All this makes the area a very important centre of tradition and memory in the history of the city. Today it is part of the city, but maintains its original feel of a fishermen’s area. It is an extremely important area from a historic, social and cultural point of view and although a big carriageway and a bridge isolate it from the rest of the city around it, it fuels a strong sense of identity not only within local residents, but all citizens in Catania.

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ognina

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waterfront

strategy 43


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In the light of the emerging data and needs we can conclude that is possible to intervene in some non-invasive way to re-establish the relation between citizens and their sea. The strategy aspires to locate easier space to access in order to create a promenade which could be contiguous

“palafitta”

to the coastline.

The pedestrian and bicycle track will be integrated into the cliff or playa sand. The selected place could be Piazza Nettuno, Piazza Europa, the commercial seaport and the sandy shore area. In order to facilitate the promenade use could be useful to realise bike sharing zones and create a track which will be not only non-invasive but also three different sections based on the different seaboards. The aim is to adapt the track to nature without carvel its morphology and structure.

-The first model is “a palafitta”. A light wood structure suspended on the sea which allows getting a privileged view that is impossible to get from the street. A special view overlooking the sea which gives people the chance to rediscover the sea and its coves.

“in between”

-The second model is the “in between” one: the track will be integrated into rocks of Catania cliff giving the idea of an access inside nature create the feeling of being part of it.

-The last model is to put te track directly on the rocks where they are naturally even giving the chance to get a 360 view of all the urban and coast area.

“on the rocks”

The realisation of this track allows also a proper access to the sea: in the bathing areas, platforms and terraced steps at sea level allows bathers to enjoy the sea during summers and hot seasons but also during winter time. These platforms and terraces, in fact, will be permanent throughout the year, not only during hot seasons.

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waterfront

p ro j e c t a re a 49


piazza nettuno

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existing context, scale 1:5000 52

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existing context, scale 1:2.500 54

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visibility 56

accessibility 57


degradation 58

g re e n s p o t s 59


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The activity and the users

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The main events

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piazza nettuno

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p ro j e c t 65


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concept 67


As most of the cliff in Catania, Piazza Nettuno has a volcanic origin. That means that all the waterfront is the result of the stratification of the lava of the eruptions during the years.

The volcano has always influenced the human lives in Catania and the citizens have a foolish affection for his volcano in such a way that they give to it the power of protection, even if a lot of eruptions threatened the small town close to its feet.

The lava, alter ego of the water, is a red fire river that weaves in the rock that shapes and dig the earth. A pedestrian and cycle path that goes inside the rock, that traces a way and a new point of view to the sea. We are talking about a route “in between”, a new promenade that Catania never had before, even though is a city built on the sea.

The contact between lava and water generates the famous “cuti lisci”. These words, that in sicilian means “smooth stone”, refer to the typical honed rocks that characterize the black sicilian beaches. Touching the water, the lava creates sinuous shapes accentuated by the action of the erosion. Cuti Lisci are the recognizable sign land mark of the meeting between fire and water. People used to use it as a natural bench taking advantage of the ergonomic shape.

A return to the primordial origin, and a tribute to the two most important souls of Catania: the volcano and the beach, red and blue. Also materiality participates in this idea: not only the vulcanic stones but also the withe Modica stone, the material that defined many sicilian squares and building making them recognizable all over the world.

And finally, the natural rocks, used as natural limits of the square, or as a furniture to seat or to lay in the sun.

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project plan, scale 1:2500 70

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panoramic view to volcano Etna

promontory overlooking the sea

direct access to the sea

plan, scale 1:1250 72

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project plan, scale 1:700 74

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section a-a’ - scale 1:500 d c’

a’ b’

d’

a c b

section c-c’ - scale 1:500

section b-b’ - scale 1:500

section d-d’ - scale 1:500

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furniture and materials 81


BASALTO BASALTO TILES 40X20 cm BASALTO BASALTO

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PIETRA DI MODICA MODICA STONE 40X20 cm PIETRA DI MODICA PIETRATILES DI MODICA

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meeting between the square and the bike lane 86

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lighting

system 93


lighting plan, scale 1:700 94

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scale 1:50 96

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Publications: - Governo locale e trasformazioni urbane, Franco Angelo editore, of Carlo Gelosi and Simonetta Totaforti - Cartografia tematica della città di catania tra xvi e xix secolo, tesi di dottorato di ricerca, of Giannantonio Scaglione - Storia di Catania, Atesa editrice, of Francesco Ferrera - Catania, città del Mediterraneo, Giuseppe Maimone Editore, of Andrea Camilleri and Antonino Recupero - C’era una volta Ognina, Monforte Editore, of Giuseppe Anfuso - PGTU, Piano Generale del Traffico Urbano, Comune di Catania, september 2012 Web sites: - Comune di Catania - Mobilità Catania Journalistic sources: -”La Sicilia” -”Il Fatto Quotidiano” -“Catania today”

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bibliography

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PIAZZA NETTUNO: regeneration of an urban square along the waterfront in the city of Catania  

Urban design project

PIAZZA NETTUNO: regeneration of an urban square along the waterfront in the city of Catania  

Urban design project

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