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Stop & go Il riuso delle aree industriali dismesse in Italia - Review

by Francesco Gastaldi

This work stands out among the essays which have been published over the last few years on the processes affecting vacant industrial areas since it investigates the topic in an exhaustive way, offering deep and critical kinds of analysis carried out by different authors according to different approaches, as well as offering starting points to discuss new and crucial topics about the "reuse" of vacant industrial areas, a phoenomenon which has been taking place for two decades.
All the documentation inherent to transformation and regeneration actions carried out on vacant industrial areas, which have been already accomplished, under way or simply planned, offers now a considerable amount of news and data. Except for a few cases in Europe, which have been already analysed in essays and monographies, it is not easy to find works comparing and analysing single cases, offering us a complete overview of the situation. Furthermore such documents seems often to be uncomplete and not easily accessible. This work aims at collecting and describing an overview of the general state of the art on this issue through the elaboration of a critical frame of reference applied to the Italian situation, in order to analyse issues, approaches and protagonists of the transformation processes recently carried out.

The volume consists of three parts. THE FIRST ONE focus on some aspects of this phoenomenon with four contributions: the "geography" of transformation, its relation with the traditional urban and architecture culture, the role of complex urban programmes as well as the debate on issues such as environmental susteinability. THE SECOND PART presents a selection of 30 projects to be implemented or recently accomplished, described in form of monographic reports in such a way to compare the various information and data on the sites' history, processes, town planning tools, morphology, type and quantity involved in such transfomation processes. The identification of such case studies, resulting from a targeted and empirical initiative, is based on the exemplariness for what concerns the quality and territory dimension for what concerns the quantity. THE THIRD PART collects, in an ideal round table, the different points of view of six protagonists in the public as well as private sector (planners, town planners, public administrators, entrepreneurs) directly involved in such operations as well as in the related debates.

Carlo Olmo, in the introduction, stresses the opportunity to carry out a critical recognition on such a crucial topic for the future of the cities. The phoenomenon of vacant industrial areas lead to socially as well as environmentally relevant consequences, linked to the "collective imaginary" and identity-forming processes: on the one hand, urban vacancy is perceived as a loss of meaning and uncertainity of objectives, thus in a negative interpretation, but on the other hand, the potential of the transformation emerges, identifying territory quantities as chances, as resources for the urban regeneration processes. In many sites, it is possible to draw up a first balance on the transformation projects that have been already accomplished or still under way, since they cannot be considered sporadic episodes any longer.
An issue such as regeneration on vacant industrial areas requires a deep investigation on the meaning and susteinability of such interventions. The current trend in this field is to intervene on and to regenerate those areas, that have been already built, rather than consumpting the areasc available with new buildings. Within this changing and dynamic context, the inactivity perceived by those operating in the field, revealed the inadequacy of the tools at their disposal. The elaboration of proper tools has raised rather from this need, thus enlarging the field of action of the planning and town planning science by introducing new subjects and branches, while another principle of the modernist planning has been questioned: the zoning principle has been repalced by a multi-function vision of the city, through the elaboration of complex urban programmes and new negotiation platforms among the actors involved. From this scenario some critical issues emerges, it is therefore necessary to analyse them with the tools offered by the architecture critical theory: the relation between the space available, considered as a resource, and the concept of territory heritage, that involves several enhancement strategies; the implementation of such operations, that have to deal with a material heritage to manage (conservation vs demolition) as well as immaterial goods' producers, among the beneficiaries of the transformation actions; the concept itself of urban landscape design and its links with the consolidated city. This work equally involves urban planning and industrial archaeology since the projects' contents, at a typology, morphology and building level, are only partially analysed.
Luca Gibello offers, with this contribution, an overview on the situation of vacant industrial sites and on the problems and chances related to this phoenomenon, offering a critical analysis starting from the Eighties, when this process began to be perceived, going on with a description of a wide range of projects' case studies, suggesting at the same time a rich bibliography in case a deeper investigation on this topic would be required.

The second part of the text, the densest one, concerns the analysis of 30 case studies, previously selected and analysed according to the same criteria, in order to make a balanced evaluation. Each technical report shows a summary of the history of the areas in hand, together with all the identifying data of the project (vacancy period, property, commissioning, planners, builders, total surface of the area and costs). Each project is then described by reporting its functions, building type, practical implementing toools, accessibility, not to mention the exhaustive as well as homogeneous iconographic system and the rich bibliography.

In the third part, some contributions given by the protagonists of the debate on vacant areas' regeneration are reported, thus offering, each one with its own peculiarities, an emblematic sample group: Carlo Alberto Barbieri, Silvano Bassetti, Andreas Kipar, Massimo Pica Ciamarra, Carlo Puri Negri, Dionisio Vianello compare, in a narrative style, different experiences and comeptences, thus completing the overview drawn by the analysis of the case studies.


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