The Trieste of the Future

City, Sea and Nature

Mina Fiore and Leonardo Zuccaro Marchi walk through a “forbidden city”

The masterplan for the open spaces of Porto Vecchio, Trieste’s old port area, returns it to the city again by mending and reinventing urban, natural and social spaces.

Here are the numbers: six hectares in the heart of the city of Trieste, a quarter of the total urban waterfront, five piers, and dozens of unused port hangars, all part of what was once a flourishing commercial port. For decades now, ever since port activities shifted to the “new port,” it has been completely inaccessible, both physically and psychologically cut off from city life. Beyond the walls and fences that once blocked and even now limit the view of the sea, the empty warehouses are nevertheless full of history; the kilometers of abandoned train tracks have become home to an abundance of spontaneous ecological biodiversity, and little by little, city residents are now able to approach, enter and reclaim fragments of this “forbidden city.”

The goal of the masterplan for the open spaces of Trieste’s Porto Vecchio is to offer a unified vision to orient this reclaiming, and thus to regenerate the port after a long era of abandonment, to make it a living, pulsing part of the urban fabric, re-establishing connections with people and nature and updating the city’s physical and social map.

The goal of the masterplan for the open spaces of Trieste’s Porto Vecchio is to offer a unified vision to orient this reclaiming, and thus to regenerate the port after a long era of abandonment, to make it a living, pulsing part of the urban fabric, re-establishing connections with people and nature and updating the city’s physical and social map.

During the project development phase, we explored the city and took a look at it from various perspectives, seeking to understand the relationship between Trieste, the sea, and the port. It’s an extremely fascinating relationship not only in morphological and historic-cultural terms, but also from the human standpoint: the distinctive way that the city’s inhabitants experience their daily contact with the sea.

Today we can take another walk that offers us views from a variety of angles and heights, from the sea to the karst and the karst to the sea, from the castle of San Giusto, the original heart of Trieste, and from atop the Opicina obelisk, for a complete reflection on our recent project experience.

Trieste is a city you come back to – they tell us, and they clearly don’t mean just passing through – we hope that someone who returns in 10 or 20 years might find some pleasant surprises.

Foto Paola Capon

Foto Paola Capon

Along the way, we ask each other questions, turning our meeting into something we could call a “walking dialogue.”

Leonardo: How do you feel returning to Trieste?

Mina: As you know, I’m lucky to be able to see Trieste from different perspectives: the perspective of someone who lived in the city for over 10 years, absorbing its customs and rhythms, and the perspective of someone who now sees it from the outside, aware of all its assets, but also its untapped potential. This is the awareness I tried to include in the project, trying to connect expectations and local views with the vision of the working group. I feel that we have a great opportunity to contribute to how these places are developed, but also a serious responsibility to the city.

Mina: What’s your relationship with Trieste and what was your initial view?

Leonardo: I knew a little about Trieste, through a few visits to Miramare Castle and the history of my family … grandparents born in Trieste and a great grandfather who was editor-in-chief of Il Piccolo in the early 1900s, when the cultural life of the city was at its peak.

With regard to the old port, I remember recent years when I’d arrive at the station and would want to get a look at the sea, and I couldn’t find an immediate way to do that. It’s a visual link that starts in the train, with open views of the sea alternating with what you see squeezed between the karst rocks as the train tracks cut through them. This need for a new relationship between the city and the sea may finally be achieved by redesigning the old port and creating a more porous urban area.

For the second stop along our walk, we climb the San Giusto hill to look out over the castle’s bastions, which offer a broad panorama of the entire historic city center, the Old Port and the entire Trieste coastline. In addition to a clear view of the old seaport in all its impressive size, here we see many of Trieste’s distinctive landmarks: Miramare, the Vittoria and Lanterna lighthouses, the Temple of Monte Grisa. These are powerful places, focal points that orient and guide inhabitants and visitors.

Mina: What do you think a redeveloped Porto Vecchio will add to the view we see from up here today?

Leonardo: From up here, you notice the human inventiveness that built this on the water, that filled the natural bay in the gulf with a rectilinear, functional network of piers and buildings that link the Borgo Teresiano district to the mouth of the Grand Canal.

The redevelopment will bring Nature back to the forefront, restoring a link between the karst and the sea. The waterfront will become a walkway that continues from the existing one, embracing the whole gulf.

We wanted to use the tram to reach Opicina, a district on the karst plateau that’s historically connected by this singular public transport system, but it’s closed for maintenance due to the complex technical challenges created by the steep hills the tram must cross.

So we go back across the city by car and stop in the obelisk area, from where we can see the gulf, this time from the north, towards the new port, Muggia and Istria. Here as well, the old port is what stands out at the waterfront and beyond.

Finally, we go back down to the city and stop at one of the cafes on the main square, accompanied by some local friends.

“Trieste is a city you come back to,” they tell us, and they clearly don’t mean just passing through.

We hope that someone who returns in 10 or 20 years might find some pleasant surprises: a city whose relationship with the sea and Nature has evolved and become richer, with new squares and public spaces that may be able to accommodate dynamics and functions that we can’t even imagine today, due simply to the fact that they were designed to be flexible, to offer people opportunities and encourage social harmony.

Text: Mina Fiore

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