(CNN) – Far above the Polcevera valley, the last part of the magnificent new bridge was lifted into place this week, signifying the immediate completion of an extraordinary engineering project of seemingly impossible opportunities.
The bridge is a critical traffic artery for northern Italy. It connects the two sides of the city of Genoa and serves a busy trading port, while being part of the E80 European highway connecting Italy to France. It was also on the main route used by tourists heading to the Liguria Riviera from cities like Turin and Milan.
More importantly, it was built on the scene of a tragedy, replacing the previous structure, the Morandi bridge, which collapsed on August 14, 2018, killing 43 people.
The successor arrived less than two years after the disaster was an achievement.
It was built quickly, in a country rarely seen as an example of efficiency. Some of the most challenging work is done amid the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Europe.
However, here it is. More than one kilometer long and stands 45 meters above the valley. Viewed from below, it was designed to look like a ship floating in the sky.
“Genoa is a shipbuilding city, so it’s not strange to make the bottom of the bridge look like the hull of a ship,” Renzo Piano, who designed the new bridge, told CNN Travel. This adds to the portfolio which includes the Shard in London, the Whitney Museum in New York and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Originally from Genoa, Piano also worked on a bold redesign of the city’s waterfront in the 1990s.
“I want this bridge to tell you about Genoa,” Piano said. “The famous Genoa poet, Giorgio Caproni, wrote beautifully that Genoa is made of steel and wind. This bridge will be a portrait of the city. It is made of steel, but also tempting by the wind. It will fly over the valley. It will be strong and strong, but simple, like a beautiful song. “
Close the wound
The new bridge is designed to look like a floating ship from below.
Courtesy of the RPBW Architect
In a ceremony limited in scope by lockdown still being enforced throughout the country, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte said that the wound was being closed, even though one could never fully recover. He added that Genoa “shone brightly above Italy.”
From his home in Paris, Renzo Piano watched with “a mixture of pride, affection, sadness, and a bit of melancholy, because the great adventure part of the project was finished, the part when you took pieces of steel that weighed 2,000 tons and made them fly from the ground to heights. “
The collapsed Morandi Bridge, named after the engineer who designed it, Riccardo Morandi, was completed in 1967.
It had the same structure as the Brooklyn Bridge, which was somewhat similar, but was mostly made of concrete rather than steel, because Italy did not have the necessary metal supply at the time.
The fixed steel, or cable, which supports the deck is also covered in concrete, and the structure of the bridge has no redundancy that can prevent collapse if a failure occurs.
When one of the main pillars fell during morning traffic, it carried a 600-foot section of the road that fell on the rails and the building underneath, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of people.
The exact cause of the collapse is still being investigated, but corrosion, construction defects, improper maintenance and designs that are outside the load limit have all been identified as contributing factors.
The new piano design uses no wires at all. This is a slender steel beam supported by 18 reinforced concrete pillars, spaced 160 feet apart from three central ones, where the gap widens to 320 feet due to the river and the train. The design is intended to reflect the character of the city itself.
“Genoa is a quiet, quiet city, and this is what bridges do: Crossing the valley silently, putting your feet where you can, almost asking for permission. Maybe it’s part of inspiration, because when you have Tragedy, the first reaction must be silent.”
Work on the bridge has taken place 24/7 to complete the project in a year.
Courtesy of the RPBW Architect
The new bridge was built by Salini Impregilo, an Italian construction company, and Fincantieri, a state-owned shipbuilder. The project cost 200 million euros, about $ 220 million, not considering the cost of dismantling the Morandi bridge, which cost another 90 million euros, or about $ 98 million.
“Usually it takes three to three and a half years to design and build a bridge this big. This one takes more than a year,” said construction manager Stefano Mosconi, who added that up to 1,000 people worked on the project. at the same time.
To accelerate, construction took place less than 20 meters south of the fallen bridge, so that it could begin while the cleanup work was still in progress.
“This bridge is not just a stretch of highway. This bridge also connects the two parts of the city of Genoa, so it is very important to make it work as soon as possible,” added Mosconi. “We also want to respond to very negative events, major tragedies, with positive force, by building safer bridges faster than ever before.”
Piano said that the project attracted a high level of expertise, which made it less surprising that it could be achieved in a short time.
“This is not a miracle. It’s just what happens when competence wins over incompetence. Italy is a special country, with the capacity to do something – unfortunately that capacity only arises when there is a tragedy. I hope this bridge will teach people something.” “
Work on the site never stops, continues at night with tasks deemed compatible with noise regulations.
When Italy was locked in early March, strict safety measures were put in place and the project was allowed to continue because of its national and strategic interests.
Only one worker was tested positive at the site, at the end of March, and since then he has returned to work with his colleagues who have made contact with him and have been quarantined.
Opened in July
The last part is lifted at the end of April.
MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP through Getty Images
To ensure that the tragedy is never repeated, the bridge is equipped with its own monitoring system, as well as a fleet of robots that run along the hull to find signs of problems.
It was designed to last at least 100 years.
Despite the inauguration, however, it is not over yet. While the structure is complete, the asphalt road must still be laid and it will not be open for traffic until the earliest July.
For this reason, the bridge does not yet have a name, which will be decided later (Piano suggests calling it “Genova.”)
Even so, 620 days after the tragedy, the new bridge already represented a beacon of hope and pride for Italy, as the country prepared to ease locking steps after coronavirus claimed nearly 30,000 lives.
“The story of this bridge shows that competence is there, technology is there, even passion is there,” Piano said. The new development project “is a sign of optimism. I am not surprised that someone regards it as a sign of hope.”