An open international contest has been launched for ideas to boost accessibility within historic areas of Turin, Italy (Deadline: 31 August)
Open to students, designers and emerging architects, the competition seeks innovative concepts to enhance access for children, old people and disabled citizens within the ancient city which was founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago and its surrounding hinterland.
The call for ideas – organized by the Fondazione per l’architettura / Torino and supported by locally-based Italian car manufacturer Pininfarina – focuses on the collonaded Via Po shopping thoroughfare (pictured) and the Moncalieri castle just outside the city. Universal solutions for any urban context around the world are also required.
Via Po in Turin, Italy
According to the brief: ‘The aim is to enhance the use of urban spaces in the historic centres of the Turin metropolitan area. The core theme of the contest is accessibility and usability of historic city centres, heritage, places, streets and shops that make up the dynamic fabric of the urban space.
‘It applies to mobility processes and the use of public spaces and commercial businesses to develop a vision for innovative and simplified use, also through a new experiential approach for the children, the elderly and citizens with disabilities of all kinds. The assessment of concept proposals will take account of three elements: accessibility and universal fruition; vision for an innovative and simplified use; and sustainability.’
Located on the banks of the River Po in north-west Italy, Turin is a major cultural and business centre home to more than 2 million people in its wider metropolitan area. The settlement was briefly capital of Italy during the 19th century and contains a raft of historic landmarks.
Via Po is a dramatic collonaded boulevard stretching from Piazza Castello to Piazza Vittorio Veneto and containing a large number of popular shops, bars and restaurants. Recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site, the Moncalieri castle was first constructed more than 900 years ago and significantly remodelled in the mid-15th century.
Moncalieri castle, Turin
Source: Image by Marrabbio2
The call for concepts aims to identify new ways to boost accessibility within these two areas while also recognising potential solutions for other urban areas around the world. Submissions should include three A1-sized display boards and an A4-formatted written report.
Judges include the president of Pininfarina, Paolo Pininfarina; the secretary general of Turin’s chamber of commerce, Guido Bolatto; and Luisa Papotti, Turin architectural heritage superintendent.
The overall winner, to be announced between 12 and 22 October, will receive a €6,000 prize while a second prize of €3,000 and third prize of €1,000 will also be awarded along with a €2,000 special award and three honourable mentions.
How to apply
The deadline for applications is 31 August
Visit the competition website for more information
Brunel Museum case study: Q&A with Tate Harmer
The London practice discusses lessons learned upgrading the Brunel Museum
How did your project transform the Brunel Museum into a fully inclusive space?
The Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe is located within Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, at the Rotherhithe end, in the old Engine House and Sinking Shaft. The Thames Tunnel was Marc Brunel’s last structure and Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first structure; it is also the first tunnel under a river, and the first part of the first underground rail network in the world. This means it has amazing heritage status, and the Sinking Shaft and Engine House are Grade II* listed and a Scheduled Monument respectively.
Brunel Museum by Tate Harmer
Source: Image by Jack Hobhouse
Although the Thames Tunnel was accessible by pedestrians when it first opened in 1843, the site is not inclusive to modern standards. For example, there are six different public levels, ranging from the Sinking Shaft eight metres underground, to a garden three metres above grade. We developed a masterplan with Grimshaw architects for the site in 2014 which addressed these concerns, whilst seeking to enhance the visitor experience at this truly remarkable space. Essentially the masterplan was a combination of, sensitive grade enhancements improving the external circulation around the two main buildings to reduce the number of different levels, and the introduction of two lifts to cater for the larger level changes. We have now completed Phase 1 of this masterplan, which provides inclusive access to the sinking shaft via an external landscaped ramp and a new pre-fabricated staircase. The Sinking Shaft is now an integral part of the museum and provides facilities for the museum’s program of performances.
Brunel Museum by Tate Harmer
Source: Image by Jack Hobhouse
Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?
For Phase 1 we wanted to keep the existing raw power of the Sinking Shaft as a space, and therefore conceived of the new staircase as a ‘ship in a bottle’ component, which rests freestanding within the shaft to provide all the circulation, servicing and lighting needed to support the performance function. The pre-fabricated staircase was inserted into the shaft via a 1.5m x 2m doorway we cut through the 1.8m solid brick walls, accessible from a new landscaped ramp. Although budget constraints precluded a new lift in the shaft, we have created a large viewing platform at the high level and a ‘gate’ in the balustrade for a wall-climbing lift at a later stage. We wanted to maintain the underground atmosphere of the space, and as part of this keep the ambient light levels low. This was potentially difficult for inclusive circulation, particularly for those with limited vision. We therefore came up with the concept of a ‘magic thread’, essentially a brightly coloured and continuous handrail that runs from the top of the external ramp to the lowest level of the shaft; if you follow this thread all the way down you will arrive and the base of the Sinking Shaft and experience the patina of history written on the existing walls.
Brunel Museum by Tate Harmer
Source: Image by Raftery + Lowe
What advice would you have to contest participants on designing new ways to boost accessibility within historic Turin?
I think a key piece of advice would be to consider accessibility as inclusivity. It is about catering for the widest range of visitor types possible, and ensuring they all have a fantastic experience. We have done a lot of work with the Sensory Trust at the Eden Project in Cornwall, which is cited as one of the most inclusive visitor attractions in the UK. Eden regularly consults with user groups, disabled charities, parents with young children, the elderly etc. to ask what it can do to improve its experience. Key points we have learnt are:
• Narrative - consider the narrative of different visitor types from their viewpoint. They do not have to all have exactly the same experience, but should all have the same level of excitement.
• Small details matter – little ridges at the end of handrails so you can ‘feel’ the end of a flight of stairs, good lighting for lip reading, good acoustics to help audibility, hearing loops, etc…..these are really just thoughtful design ideas and should be integrated into all our schemes.
• Try it out – at Tate Harmer we have all tried on a special suit which shows you what it is like to experience limited mobility, eyesight and hearing. This is one of the best ways to understand a different point of view.
• Do not lose what is most important - inclusivity is not just about compliance, if you have lost the key atmosphere of the space then something is wrong. We often ask ourselves, what is the most important aspect of this space and how can everyone experience it, no matter what their physical or mental abilities?
Q&A with Alessandro Cimenti
The president of Fondazione per l’architettura / Torino discusses his ambitions for the contest
Why are your holding an ideas contest for new accessible design solutions for historic Turin?
The idea to work for accessible design solutions came from the necessity to integrate the historical tissue with the needs of ‘design for all’, something that should characterise every city in the 21st century. The competition is, in our opinion, the best way to promote quality transformations of the territory and this is the reason why the Fondazione per l’architettura support this procedure and especially the two steps competition: it helps to find the best solutions with the highest quality, giving the chance to new architects to emerge. The instrument of the competition helps also to find new approaches to a problem thanks to national and international contributions, it opens to new visions and it is something absolutely necessary for a city like Turin that is facing new challenges. The judges have a big responsibility because they can decide how to transform the territory.
What is your vision for the accessible solutions?
Accessibility is a prerequisite for architecture; it must be integrated. When we need to make an object to solve a problem, it means that the problem is there, while it is not possible anymore to accept difficulties in access. When we project a new architecture or when we recover an ancient one, accessibility is taken for granted; it is different when we have to interact with historical heritage, as the cases of the design competition: two streets, one in Turin (in the very downtown) and one in Moncalieri, a neighbouring municipality, where shops and offices overlook and that affect tens of millions of users. Operating on the historical context imposes considerable constraints and in this context sustainability cannot be forgotten.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
The competition is primarily addressed to a new generation of architects; talented young people who will have the opportunity to show off their skills and make their work known. The results will be disseminated through a widespread exhibition that will be set up in the areas at the centre of the competition. The authors will own the projects they present and will be awarded, as well as the visibility, with a cash prize and with the opportunity (reserved for under 25s) to take part in an internship at Pininfarina.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
We are expert in organising and managing architecture competitions and we always suggest the use of them to the public administration and to private clients because we think that there are no projects that could not be approached through an architecture competition. Since 2006 the Fondazione per l’architettura has planned 35 architectural competitions, seven in the last 12 months. Among these, it is still possible to apply for the competition proposed by the Agenzia del Demanio to transform the Amione barrack into a citadel of the public administration: Federal Building Torino.