Paolo De Martino & Matteo di Venosa
Source: Daniele Buccarella. URL: https://www.paesaggicostieri.org/coste-in-movimento-2022
"Coste in Movimento is a journey”, as stated by Michele Manigrasso and Matteo di Venosa at the opening of “Coste in Movimento”, the International Conference on Coastal Landscapes held in Pescara on 6-7 October 2022 and organised by a diverse group of stakeholders, including Legambiente, the Observatory of Italian Coastal Landscapes, the Department of Architecture of Pescara and the Degree Course in Sustainable Habitat Sciences of Pescara.
The conference brought together local communities, such as students, different professionals, and multidisciplinary scholars to engage with a bottom-up restructuring of Italian and European coasts, focusing on the following questions: How to rethink ports as new environmental infrastructures? How to build new forms of sustainable liveability along the coasts? What kinds of tools do we need to respond to change and better adapt coastal cities to the future?
The theme of planning between land and water was one of the key topics during the conference. According to Carola Hein from Delft University of Technology, the design of land territory should acknowledge the processes and practices that happen at sea (Hein 2019, 2020, 2021; Hein & Couling 2020). With sea level rise, the separation between land and water, maritime and land flows are diffused, despite modern approaches attempting clear spatial, institutional boundaries. Port infrastructure and its environmental impact are no longer confined within its perimeter. By providing as an example the pollution coming from the port of Rotterdam, Hein highlighted during the conference that the effects of its activities go beyond the urban and port perimeter. Effectively, the space between sea, port, city and land is seen as a porous one. This observation thus creates the need for new approaches and tools that connect sea and land as explored in the Special Issue Planning for Porosity at the coastline (Hein 2021). As a result, innovative ways could be adopted to understand and plan land and water spaces. The new publication Port City Atlas includes 100 port city territories on four European seas, developed by Hein, van Mil and Ažman-Momirski (2023), uses GIS-based spatial mapping to model the territory and provide a tool to understand the results of past developments and to create the foundations for the design of the future. Making such maps raises numerous questions on the availability of data, or the intersections between multiple flows, that require further discussion and can inspire future visions and strategies.
Aside from the mapping for different diffused boundaries, approaches for new spatial and cultural visions could engage with the current maritime mindset. These cultural perspectives will focus on recalibrating the relationship between land and water and to give space to the ecosystem. Maria Chiara Tosi from Iuav University of Venice, through the lens of Venice, warned the audience against the risks related to a technical approach to the city that over the years has altered the relationship with water. “Although Venice”, she argued, “is one of the most planned objects in Italy”, today the city is experiencing a profound crisis with water. She talked about the disappearance of sandbanks that worked in the past as porous sponges and water attenuators. Today these approaches are disappearing, and authorities prefer to intervene with objects, such as sea barriers, which in fact take away the possibility for the natural “breathing from the lagoon”, as a metaphor to argue the alteration of biodiversity. Tosi, lastly, elaborated on the potentials of working with (extreme) scenarios - such as lifting Venice by one metre to protect it from flooding - and the need to work between resilience and resistance.
This idea of “breathing” requires us to think of the coastline as a landscape in transition, where new equilibrium with nature needs to be restored. This theme was taken up by Michelangelo Russo from the University of Naples who, through the lens of the city of Naples, focused on the concept of movement itself. “Movement is a change of direction, a search for a new structure and balance”. This must put the ability to respond to challenges and think about lasting development at the centre of a debate. He elaborated about the need to define a new urban agenda that could focus on water and coastal landscapes since those are the spaces where most of the global challenges concentrate. East Naples is an emblematic example to show a disconnection between land and water, port and city. Today, the city hosts fragments of abandoned industries and heavy infrastructures between land and water. Here, the desire by citizens to reappropriate the sea coexists with heavy industries and port fences. This highlights that there is no regeneration project without a broad connection between port and territory. The port becomes a hinge and an opportunity to rethink transversal principles and themes such as energy, culture, innovation and history as underlined by the teaching experiences carried out at TU Delft in recent years (c.f. Castigliano et al. 2020; De Martino et al. 2019; Hein & De Martino 2018; Russo 2016).
The theme of history returned often during the conference. Speakers talked about the Adriatic Sea historically known as the sea of Venice, a space of coexistence first and then of conflicts. This was also underlined by Rosario Pavia. He argued that the Adriatic lost its centrality with the introduction of the Atlantic routes and then regained a leading role when the opening of the Suez Canal restored centrality to the Mediterranean. Knowing the history of the sea, its inertia, is essential to understand that there is no sea without territory. History, as repeated several times during the conference can be understood in its dynamism and not in its static nature.
The conference concluded by returning to the theme of movement, dynamism and water as an element in a constant state of mutation. It is in this dynamic condition that we, as planners, architects and scholars, try to find answers to build future scenarios that reflect on history, to generate more inclusive, connected and resilient coastal territories.
This blog has been written in the context of discussions in the LDE PortCityFutures research community. It reflects the evolving thoughts of the authors and expresses the discussions between researchers on the socio-economic, spatial and cultural questions surrounding port city relationships. Special thanks for comments and reviews to Carola Hein, Foteini Tsigoni and Vincent Baptist.
Castigliano, M., de Martino, P., Amenta, L., & Russo, M. (2020). Reinventing Wastescapes in Port Cities: A resilient and regenerative approach to plan Naples at the time of logistics. BDC - Bollettino del Centro Calza Bini - Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, 20(2), 261-276.
De Martino, P., Hein, C., & Russo, M. (2019). Naples Beyond Oil: New design approaches in the era of retiring landscapes. Portus plus, the online magazine of Rete (Special focus 37).
Hein, C. (2019). The Port Cityscape: Spatial and institutional approaches to port city relationships. Portus plus, the online magazine of Rete, 8. doi:https://portusplus.org/index.php/pp/article/view/190.
Hein, C. (2020). Adaptive Strategies for Water Heritage: Past, Present and Future. Switzerland: Springer.
Hein, C. (2021). Port City Porosity: Boundaries, Flows, and Territories. Urban Planning, 6(3), 1–9. doi:https://www.cogitatiopress.com/urbanplanning/article/view/4663.
Hein, C., & Couling, N. (2020). Viscosity: Historical geo-spatial mapping as a tool to understand the local development of port cities in a global context. In The Urbanisation of the Sea: From Concepts and Analysis to Design. Rotterdam: NAi010 Publishers.
Hein, C., & De Martino, P. (2018). Designing post-carbon Dunkirk with the students from TU Delft. The Beam, 5. Retrieved from https://medium.com/thebeammagazine/designing-post-carbon-dunkirk-with-the-students-from-tu-delft-28f44c40d761.
Hein, C., van Mil, I., & Ažman-Momirski, L. (2023). Port City Atlas: Nai010 Publishers.
Russo, M. (2016). Harbourscape: Between Specialization and Public Space. In M. a. R. Carta, D. (Ed.), The Fluid City Paradigm: Waterfront Regeneration as an Urban Renewal Strategy. Switzerland: Springer.