Genoa, project to redevelop Prè involves tearing down buildings and risks clash with Unesco

In Genoa, the 'Prè_visioni' project involves the redevelopment of the Prè district but also the demolition of buildings and could cause clash with Unesco.

In Genoa, the operational phase of the Prè district redevelopment project , titled Prè_visioni(here is the presentation of the project), has started: the “urban regeneration” will intervene on the quadrant included between some important streets of the historic center of the Ligurian capital (Via Balbi, Via Gramsci, Piazza del Principe and Via delle Fontane). This is a significant portion of the historic center, in one of the most beautiful areas with the highest concentration of monuments in the city: in fact, in the quadrilateral circumscribed by the four streets are Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Balbi Senarega, the basilica of Santissima Annunziata del Vastato, the Commenda di San Giovanni di Prè, the church of Santi Vittore e Carlo, and the Porta dei Vacca. The municipality’s project, which involves the collaboration of Urban Lab and the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Genoa, intends to be based on three pillars: environmental, social and economic development.

The idea, explained last April Simonetta Cenci, city councilor for urban planning of the City of Genoa, is to start with micro interventions, “to then start a real overall project of redevelopment of the neighborhood.” “Actual examples of urban regeneration, such as that of Piazza Sarzano,” the alderman continued, “have shown that ’building site’ interventions are not the key to the rebirth of the city’s historic heart. The most effective impulse comes from making the areas ’live’ by varied users with activities, not only commercial and residential, but rather by those that can trigger virtuous, constant and continuous processes over time.” In recent days, in conjunction with the start of the operational phase, the alderman said that “the public administration, continuing the work in cooperation with the Polytechnic School, is considering how to transform the study developed so far into a feasibility project, with a timetable for the next three years and, of course, with a schedule of the indispensable funding (public and private) for the implementation of the regeneration project.” Renata Morbiducci, professor of technical architecture at the University of Genoa, added that the project will start with feasible and really achievable interventions that can breathe new life into a neighborhood that many in the city consider difficult, but which has great potential, and that can open it up to the sea and to the Maritime Station, that is, to one of the busiest and most tourist-attraction areas of Genoa. In fact, one of the goals is also to stimulate the opening of businesses in the area.

There are, however, at least two measures in the project that are causing discussion: the first is the demolition of two buildings in the initial part of Via Prè, which will be demolished in order to make two small squares, so as to “let daylight into one of the narrowest and darkest parts of the street” (so in a note), and the other is the relocation of the Statute Market, a wrought-iron and glass structure dating back to the early 20th century, which will be moved to a different area of the center, probably on Via Fanti d’Italia, near Genoa Piazza Principe station.

The demolitions and skyline change that would occur with the relocation of the Statute Market, however, risk triggering a clash with UNESCO. A large portion of Genoa’s historic center (latitudinally from Piazza delle Fontane Marose to the Royal Palace, passing through Strada Nuova, i.e., today’s Via Garibaldi, Via Cairoli, Largo della Zecca, Piazza della Nunziata, and a large section of Via Balbi, while in the longitudinal direction the axis via Lomellini - via di Fossatello - via San Luca) falls, since 2006, under the protection of UNESCO, which has inscribed “Le Strade Nuove and the System of the Palazzi dei Rolli of Genoa” in the World Heritage Site: however, this portion is surrounded by the so-called “buffer zone,” or a “buffer zone” or “zone of respect,” which in the case of Genoa includes practically the entire historic center, from the Maritime Station to the hill of Castello (only the Old Port except Piazza Caricamento, and the most modern area of the center, the one between the hill of Carignano, Piazza De Ferrari and Via Venti, remain excluded from the buffer zone). However, the entire area on which Prè_visioni intends to intervene is included in the buffer zone.

In UNESCO’s operational guidelines, buffer zones are defined in Articles 103, 104, 105, 106 and 107. It is “an area surrounding the property that has legal and/or customary restrictions about its use and development so as to ensure an additional level of protection for the property. The area includes the immediate surroundings of the property, important views or other areas and attributes that are functionally important as supporting the property and its protection.” Article 107 states that “even if buffer zones are not part of the property nominated [to the Unesco World Heritage Site], any changes to the buffer zone or the creation of buffer zones [...] must be approved by the World Heritage Committee,” and at 112 it is stated that “operational management [of a protected property] involves a cycle of actions over the short, medium, and long term to protect, conserve, and exhibit the property. An integrated approach to planning and management is essential to guide the evolution of the property over time and to ensure the maintenance of all aspects that give it Exceptional Universal Value [a condition for World Heritage listing, ed.] This approach also goes beyond the property and includes any buffer zone.”

It is therefore possible that the intervention plan will clash with the 14 threat factors indicated by UNESCO, which, in the various categories, include, for example, “changes to the skyline,” “changes to the identity of the place,” “changes in the local population and community,” and “inappropriate tourist interpretations.” The risk is thus raised that the project could decisively alter the layout of Prè causing friction with UNESCO guidelines. Prè_visioni is obviously a fundamental project for the redevelopment of the neighborhood, but it is also necessary to minimize the risk of actions that could clash with what Unesco provides for the proper maintenance of the property.

Pictured: map of Genoa (official Unesco document) with, in orange, the area of the center under direct Unesco protection, and in yellow, the buffer zone.

Genoa, project to redevelop Prè involves tearing down buildings and risks clash with Unesco
Genoa, project to redevelop Prè involves tearing down buildings and risks clash with Unesco

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