Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Sept. 2014        

inverted high-rises, vertical village
Roads to Nowhere

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.

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