Luca Zevi on the Collapse of Genoa's Morandi Bridge

Antonio La Gioia
23. October 2018
Morandi Bridge after the collapse (Photo: Salvatore Fabbrizio, © Creative Commons)

On August 14th, a section of the Morandi Bridge measuring more than 200 meters long collapsed, killing 43 people and causing several injuries. The bridge in Genoa was one of the 20th century's most exceptional works of Italian engineering. We talked about it with architect Luca Zevi, Vice President of IN/ARCH, the Italian National Institute of Architecture.

World-Architects: Two weeks after the collapse of the viaduct over the Polcevera, IN/ARCH formulated a proposal to restore the infrastructure through restoration and reintegration intervention. Can you give us more details about this hypothesis and about the reaction that it generated in the professional and institutional world?

Luca Zevi: This is a purely common sense proposal, which takes into account the requirement to meet dual needs: on the one hand, to restore the urban mobility system as soon as possible and, on the other hand, to develop an alternative route — the so-called Gronda or something similar — in order to transfer the through traffic quickly outside the urban fabric. In order to achieve the first result the only viable path is undoubtedly the restoration of the existing parts of the viaduct and the reintegration of the bridge over the Polcevera, with a clearly distinct and recognizable architectural project. In relation to the second aspect — if it is true, and it would appear to be so, that the construction of a new ring road outside the city center has already been planned — the idea of demolishing the current viaduct to build another one in exactly the same position appears to be truly remarkable. In the professional world, important and trustworthy voices have confirmed the viability of consolidating the viaduct, on the one hand, and the opportunity to advance in this direction in order to also preserve an extraordinary testimony to the "Italian industrial revolution," on the other hand. On the contrary, from the first day the institutional world has focused on the direction of demolition and reconstruction from scratch, with the usual objective of achieving an easy popular consensus through the "summary execution" of the project.

Morandi Bridge before the collapse (Photo: © Creative Commons)

After the tragedy, the viaduct over the Polcevera has become known to everyone as the "Ponte Morandi," from the name of the engineer Riccardo Morandi who designed it at the beginning of the 1960s and to whom it is dedicated. Do you see in this the desire to find a single guilty party capable of concealing the responsibilities of others?

I see this as the desire to confront the condition of a patient — the Ponte Morandi, sick due to lack of preventive care — not by urgently transferring it to the intensive care unit, as would be obvious, but rather ... by killing it in order to then state that it was "genetically incorrect." It is an operation of great cynicism, which we should decisively oppose above all in the interest of the Genoese community.

A few days after the collapse of the viaduct, the Genoese architect and senator for life Renzo Piano gave the Governor of the Liguria region a preliminary project, which he defined as "an idea of a bridge." Do you believe that Piano's offer defines the correct path toward the project, or is it in some way an anomaly?

I appreciate the enthusiasm of Renzo Piano wanting to contribute to his wounded city, responding in record time to the requests made by the Governor of Liguria and the Mayor of Genoa. However, these requests were mistaken and, therefore, I hope that Renzo Piano will be invited as soon as possible to act as guarantor of the correct operation: that is to say the restoration and re-establishment of the Morandi viaduct through an international project tender.

Renzo Piano presents the project to the Governor of Liguria, Giovanni Toti. (Photo: Giovanni Toti/Facebook)

The collapse of the Ponte Morandi is the most shocking and dramatic event of this type that Italy has experienced in recent years. It has highlighted the high-risk collapse conditions that many Italian buildings and pieces of infrastructure suffer from. What measures must be taken to prevent this attention from disappearing together with the media outrage?

A monitoring and scheduled maintenance plan is required for the Italian infrastructure system, similar to those of other advanced countries.

A little more than a month after the tragic event, how would you assess the reaction of the country and its institutions?

As always, at times of emergency the Italians give their best, recovering an old spirit of solidarity which, unfortunately, appears to have been lost in "normal" everyday life. On the other hand, in the institutions there has been a deplorable determination to proceed in the wrong direction, without even attempting to perform a comparative assessment of the different solutions possible and their relative convenience. In particular, the resounding silence of the MiBAC (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali / Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities) is astonishing. It has not uttered a single word on the possible demolition of an important cultural asset, the Morandi viaduct, which in actual fact has been taken for granted.

This interview originally appeared on Spanish-Architects as "Entrevista a Luca Zevi sobre el derrumbe del puente de Génova."

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