We analyse what ought to be the best approach to designing a marina concerning the environment and landscape
by Paolo Viola*
In Europe and Italy especially, the fierce yet admirable environmentalists tend to oppose any transformation of the land, particularly our precious coastline. I say “admirable”, because if it weren’t for these environmentalists, we would have seen coastal devastation similar to that which overwhelmed the Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria during the tourism/construction boom. However, I should add, using an old metaphor, that if we had listened to environmentalists over the past centuries, Venice would never have seen the light! I am therefore of the opinion that the problem is not abstaining from building or never changing anything, but instead building well and making changes for the better. If this is the right approach, I would start – Venice excluded – with a few provocative statements. Is Portofino a mess or a jewel? Have the marinas of Capo d’Orlando (“external”) and Porto Rose (“internal”) enhanced or impoverished Sicily’s western Tyrrhenian coast? And, on the contrary, does anyone appreciate the Adriatic marina of Fano? I could give many more examples to demonstrate the obvious, which is to say that there can be both positive and negative interventions and that, in any case, the real issue is to “do things well” and “make changes for the better”.
«The idea of landscape conservation cannot fail to be dynamic, that is to say, conservation within change. If protected, managed and planned correctly, the landscape constitutes a resource favourable to economic activity». Giulio Senes
Yes, but how? Where do we start? I believe that a good, perhaps somewhat abstract approach, is to imagine that the “right” marina, concerning both the environment and the landscape, should seem as though it has always been there, that it was born together with the stretch of coastline where it is located, almost completing it spontaneously and naturally. Is this possible? Of course! We have to be aware and have the right idea of what “the landscape” is.
A marina like Camogli engages with the town or city on the land, establishing a close relationship with it and benefitting from the services available within the urban fabric, but often struggles to find the necessary space on land for parking or the boatbuilding industry.
I asked for a definition from Professor Giulio Senes, lecturer in “Landscape Planning and Design” in the Department of “Agrarian and Environmental Sciences” at the University of Milan, who responded as follows: «It’s very difficult to say what we mean by ‘landscape’. It can certainly be useful to refer to a definition that is broadly shared, such as the one contained in the European Landscape Convention (2000), which defines it as ‘An area as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors’. It is, therefore, a physical place, but also one that interacts constantly with those who perceive it. Both parties in this relationship are continuously evolving: both the landscape and those who perceive it. As a result, the idea of landscape ‘conservation’ cannot fail to be ‘dynamic’, that is to say, conservation within change. The same convention reiterates that, if protected, managed and planned correctly it ‘constitutes a resource favourable to economic activity’. The landscape is ‘an important part of the quality of life for people … in degraded areas as well as in areas of high quality, in areas recognised as being of outstanding beauty as well as everyday areas’».
The architect Nicola Di Troia, from WiP, comments: «It’s not enough for the landscape to be ‘respected’, or for it to be modified or ‘built’ in an appropriate manner according to the definition we have just read. It is necessary for the integration of the new structure, in the broader context of the area in which it is situated, to respect a recognisable harmony on different scales, from the smallest (e.g., the urban scale) to the largest that interprets the characteristics of the region as a whole».
«It’s not enough for the landscape to be respected, or for it to be modified or built appropriately, the integration of the new structure must respect a recognisable harmony on different scales, from the urban one to a larger one that interprets the characteristics of the region as a whole».
Nicola Di Troia
A questo proposito merita di essere sottolineata la grande differenza che esiste fra un porto “urbano” (come, ad esempio, Santa Margherita Ligure o Camogli) ed uno “extraurbano” (come Alassio o Finale Ligure). Il primo si confronta con un borgo o una città retrostante, con cui stabilisce una stretta relazione, avvantaggiandosi dei servizi (commerciali, di ristorazione, ecc.) già disponibili nel tessuto urbano, ma spesso faticando a trovare i necessari spazi a terra (dai parcheggi alla cantieristica navale).
A marina like Alassio has to deal with its inevitable isolation and the need to create that urban effect from scratch to provide it with life and make it attractive.
In this regard, it is worth underscoring the major difference that exists between an “urban” marina (such as Santa Margherita Ligure or Camogli) and an “out-of-town” one (such as Alassio or Finale Ligure). The former engages with the town or city on the land, establishing a close relationship with it and benefitting from its services (commercial, catering, etc.) that are already available in the urban fabric, but often struggles to find the necessary space on land (from parking to spaces for the boatbuilding industry).
People’s participation in the planning and design process should be real and not just a “façade”.
The second has to deal with its inevitable isolation and the need to create that urban effect from scratch to provide it with life and make it attractive. In both cases, the marina layout will have to bridge any gaps and will end up being visibly affected by these differences, while the different ways of using the marina and its spaces will necessarily reverberate on the forms of the marina itself. Regarding the fundamental issue of residents being involved in the planning and design of a new marina, Professor Senes adds: «One of the themes linked to the European Landscape Convention regards the ‘active role’ of local people in its transformation. This is a general theme, but in some way, it also regards the creation of tourist marinas. So-called ‘participatory planning’ needs to become common practice: people’s participation in the planning and design process should be real and not just a ‘facade’. A second aspect, which is very interesting in my opinion and derives from the first, is that shared design (we could say ‘by everyone’) should lead to the development of a place ‘for everyone’. For example, the theme of accessibility is very interesting because the marina has to be ‘open’ to the community, it represents the meeting place with the water, a place that everyone should be able to experience. In terms of design, this translates into a focus on connections with the town centre, easy accessibility (not only motorised, of course) and the usability of the area by all, not just those who have a boat moored there. Lastly, a third aspect is linked to considering the environment. This consideration is not just aesthetic (creating beautiful places), but also regards processes: optimising resources, reducing pollution, using new technology, a circular type economic approach».
In conclusion, echoing the thoughts of Giulio Senes and Nicola Di Troia, I believe it must be stated that building a new marina or significantly transforming an existing one, is an extremely delicate operation, a decision that must be taken with the involvement of all stakeholders, in a framework of compatibility and feasibility that is not only technical, economic and financial, but also and above all environmental, social, political and – last but not least – cultural.