No U-Turns

From Line to Space

An auto tour with Lara Fraccadori

Bologna bypass – the project (now moving forward) will strengthen the urban stretch of the A14 highway through a 15 km expansion of the road system, while preserving the distinctive features of the urban/agrarian landscape and improving existing green areas or creating new ones.

First gear, accelerate, second gear, brake, stop. Start up again, brake again. Stop and go on the A14 highway bypass (Bologna-Bari-Taranto), a stretch of highway that runs from the A1 (Milan-Naples) across the northern periphery of Bologna to the junction of the A13 (Bologna-Padua). Stop and go. “It happens here a lot.” At the wheel, Lara casts a worried look at the stopped traffic, which fortunately soon begins to flow again. Alongside are fields, degraded grassy areas, bushes, a few trees, then industrial zones and urban dwellings, with the occasional ugly noise barriers. We pass under an elegant white railway bridge that runs to the airport. A little later we go by the almost dry Reno riverbed.

The highway: a line. The surrounding landscape: a space.

The project acquires value because LAND developed techniques for it in order to quantify the project’s impact based on natural capital accounting, an integrated accounting method that uses international standards to quantify project impact and the value of nature.

Sara Ferraro, Architect at LAND

From line to space: this was the point of departure when, six years ago, LAND was hired by the highway management company ASPI (Autostrade per l’Italia) to include landscape planning in the bypass expansion from two to three lanes. The line is the main focus of traditional territorial infrastructure planning. “Instead, we start with the space,” says Lara, shifting gears and heading towards an exit. “Our goal is to develop the mobility of the territories in which we operate, supporting the economic and social progress of local communities and promoting nature with innovative and sustainable solutions.”

Lara has been involved with the project team from the start, and it’s clearly not the first time she’s had this conversation. We follow our GPS directions, turning onto a dead end street, Via de La Birra (which means “Beer Street” – who knows where it got its name), with small residential buildings to the right and uncultivated fields to the left. We park the car, with highway traffic rumbling in the background. A small park will be built here. “The Via de La Birra garden” will be one of 22 parks planned closely with the municipalities and residents in the 15 km-long bypass planning area.

For safety reasons, the law requires that only low vegetation can be used along a narrow strip of land right next to the roadway. So the project includes medium-size bushes for initial noise and pollution reduction. Then tree planting will begin, using native species like linden, poplar, and ash, which reduce CO2 emissions and further mitigate pollution. Thereafter, public green spaces or parks can be developed, which will be connected to each other when possible. Casually, but not without pride, Lara ticks off the project figures: 22 parks (some already existing but to be upgraded), 15 km of pedestrian and bike paths, 30,000 new trees, with a total of 210 ha of green works: 80 ha of ASPI areas, 110 ha of municipal parks, 20 ha of river areas, and 6 ha of renaturalized areas.

In preparation for the tour with Lara, a few days earlier we were seated on the terrace of LAND’s Milan studio. Shirly Mantin, team director, showed us the project plan, calling it one of the company’s flagship projects. Spread out, the plan showed a mosaic of works. Shirly told us with satisfaction that the masterplan was the first and to date the only European infrastructure project to receive the top-level Platinum Award from the Envision sustainability framework and rating system. In the end, the various stakeholders, from ASPI to local representatives, began to consider this “their” project. “Our project became their project – isn’t that great?” “But even more importantly”, explains Sara Ferraro, sitting with Shirly, “the project acquires value because LAND developed techniques for it in order to quantify the project’s impact based on natural capital accounting, an integrated accounting method that uses international standards to quantify project impact and the value of nature. This interaction with development, research and planning, which in the end leads to positive results for communities and the local area, “is what thrills us,” say Sara and Shirly together.

From line to space – a change in paradigm that benefits residents, who will thus be able to utilize numerous new green areas.

In the meantime, we’re back on the highway with Lara. She points out many little stretches of land involved in the planning. She says they’re just as important for the project as the larger areas, because “together they’re going to create our green infrastructure.” Their job is to “stitch abandoned, peripheral production areas back together with houses, and everything with the highway.”

Aren’t you tired of six years of projects like this? On the contrary, Lara says with a big smile. She’s excited that after all the expected highs and lows during interactions with clients, politicians and populations, “We met our initial objectives to create a green network around the highway.” From line to space – a change in paradigm that benefits residents, who will thus be able to utilize numerous new green areas.Play00:0001:08Mute SettingsEnter fullscreen 00:00     Parco San DonninoWe get lost after we exit the highway and head to our next destination, this time without the GPS. After driving around a bit, we enter a tight, narrow little street. Ahead of us, across a field, we see the usual line of trucks on the highway, under which a tunnel is supposed to run. But the little street, which now skirts a canal, becomes even narrower. Where is this taking us? Finally, next to a dilapidated sluice, two houses appear, beyond which the road widens. But the exit from the street is blocked by a chain stretched between two poles with a lock. What to do? There’s no room to turn around. So go all the way back in reverse?

Fortunately, the chain and lock are easy to remove. Lara drives through, the chain is refastened, and on we go.

Text: Henning Klüver

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