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Renzo Piano offers to design replacement Genoa bridge for free

Renzo piano web

Renzo Piano has offered to donate his time to help design a replacement bridge for the structure that collapsed in his home town of Genoa earlier this month

The Italian architect showed initial designs for a replacement structure this week during a meeting with the regional governor of Liguria, Giovanni Toti.

Speaking in The Observer at the weekend, Piano said that he felt it was his mission to be involved after the tragedy that killed 43 people.

‘It must be a place where people can recognise the tragedy in some way, while also providing a great entrance to the city,’ he said. ‘All this must be done without any sign of rhetoric – that would be the worst trap.

‘But I think we will stay away [from that] and instead try to express real pride and values. That is what Genoa deserves.’

In a follow-up statement posted on Facebook, Piano played down his role in the rebuilding process.

‘Further to the tragic collapse of the Morandi bridge, the Genoese institutions asked me to contribute,’ he said.

‘I will be happy to participate, but it is clear that this is a collective work, and I do not intend to take anyone’s place – neither the engineers, nor the architects that will participate in the competition to work on the urban context.

‘It is the very beginning, but I am sure that, for the city, it will be a moment of great energy and an opportunity for reparation.’

In a statement, Toti said that he hoped that ‘the city can quickly get back an indispensable, safe and marvellous work, which really honours those who have lost their lives’.

Meanwhile, leading engineers have expressed concerns about bridge operator Autostrade’s plan to rebuild the collapsed Polcevera viaduct within just eight months.

It is understood that highways operator Autostrade has set aside €500 million (£450 million) to quickly rebuild the bridge, known locally as the Morandi bridge. But leading bridge experts have questioned the plan’s feasibility. 

Speaking to the AJ’s sister title New Civil Engineer, Tony Gee & Partners group director Akram Malik and independent bridge consultant Simon Bourne agreed that £450 million would be a big enough budget to construct a new bridge with similar spans.

But both questioned how it could be built in such a short timeframe.

Malik said to build a new bridge would take at least 18 months on an extremely accelerated programme with no allowance for complications or logistical issues.

Jim O’Sullivan, head of Highways England, said that inspection procedures for road bridges in England would be reviewed as a precautionary measure. 


Readers' comments (5)


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  • Phil Parker

    Hear hear

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  • Good to hear Jim O'Sullivan's comment - but he'd be well advised to look at the whole lot, not just Highway England's bridges, and ask himself what, in the event that the government is providing inadequate finance to maintain England's trunk road system in a properly safe state, he should be doing about it?

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  • England and Britain’s road network has been examined rigourously in the last few decades, with Highways England and Local Autorities being given specific roles. The private as well as public sector has been tasked, and the TRRL has been privatised as the TRL. (Thus the quiet blacktop?!) It’s not perfect, and it’s a massive job, and there will be shortfalls. But hopefully we have avoided the corruption and cronyism of the Italian networks.

    Genova was once a city to rival Venice, if not as beautiful; the hometown of Chris Columbus, and others. Piano has already made important contributions to his city, and his generous offer should be welcomed, as it will have architectural as well as engineering heft? Obviously it will be of the latest materials, and not cheap steel encased in leaking concrete!

    Renzo Piano, il migglior fabro, from a nation of great artists and engineers?! Speed, quality, cost. Pick any 2?! Avanti!

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  • David Farmery is surely absolutely right in welcoming Piano's proffered input - and even, to save time, perhaps the Virlogeux design developed by Foster for the glorious Millau viaduct could be the basis for that of a new viaduct at Genoa.

    But, on the subject of Highways England, there does seem to be an acceptance of the sort of 'deferred maintenance' that could be life threatening - that might just, if applied to the care of your car, get you a jail sentence.

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