The Autostrada del Sole – the
Highway of the Sun – runs the length of Italy and
is a never-ending public works project. The
southern section is the A3 and runs 495 km (307
miles) from Naples down to Reggio Calabria. It is
patchy in parts but has stretches of spectacular
tunnel and bridge building in others. I say
'never-ending' because sections always need
repairs, just like skyscraper windows always need
to be washed. Along the way there are a number of
roads to nowhere – overpasses and flyovers that
stopped when the money stopped. You see them curve
off the main A3 and fly over on their way to
another destination and then just stop in mid-air
or maybe disappear into an alternate universe.
I've never tried to follow one.
There are, however, stranger
types of roads to nowhere; these are finished
tunnels and bridges of the kind termed "viaducts"
in Italian (image, right) that for some reason,
though of recent construction, have been taken out
of service. Maybe the planners decided that it was
a mistake to put them there in the first place,
maybe this or that other route was better –
whatever. The A-3 has a few of those down south as
it approaches the city of Reggio Calabria: the
road tunnels through a hill and then over a valley
on a high viaduct, then through another hill and
out and over another valley and viaduct – maybe
three or four times. It's all good solid
engineering and construction, except it is no
longer in use.
Enter a plan to do something with
these unused bits of the A3 other than just let
them rot. Administrators in Reggio Calabria threw
it open to architects, always an interesting thing
to do! Be clear that the winning entry will
probably not be built, any more than the plan to rebuild the
cable-car up the side of Vesuvius will ever
be built, but the winning entry is fascinating.
Will you open the envelope please.
Oxo Architectes, a French firm noted for
outlandishly modern concepts have proposed
“inverted high-rises” (alias “vertical villages”).
The support pylons of the viaducts become
independent hubs of “pile and deck” (image, left)
dwellings, stores, leisure centers —anything you
might find in a traditional big-city high-rise,
except that you don't go in at the bottom; you
come down from the top. The road surface of the
re-opened section of the viaduct would have
parking along the sides and a car lane. Thus, you
access your particular viaduct from the normal
network of roads, drive along and park above your
“stack” and ride down an elevator or maybe
web-sling your way down to your place. The plan
was drawn up so as to allow for the construction
of 1,500 units in the viaducts under
consideration. Geothermal and solar power. The
view of the Calabrian countryside and the
Tyrrhenian Sea is incredible. Cost: 22 million
euros; time: 15 years.