The new people mover monorail connecting the Bologna airport to the rail station immediately seems like an innovative system both in technological and architectural terms, carefully studied for insertion in the urban and extraurban landscape.
The Marconi Express is the first people mover of its kind in Italy; a transport system on rubber wheels (to reduce acoustic impact), running on electricity and totally automatic, without a driver on board. In just seven minutes the three cars can each welcome up to 50 people, covering the distance between the airport and the station, across the urban fabric, the countryside and the highways, thanks to a bridge with a span of 900 meters, like a suspended metal ribbon with elegant, light lines.
The figure combines constructive and technological requirements with compositional values in a coherent way. The particular design of the pylons and the continuous metal ribbon of the monorail fit harmoniously into the landscape, using two separate materials. The 125 fair-face reinforced concrete pylons, a sculptural element with a height varying from 5.2 to 18 meters, open like chalices, echoing the arches of the city’s porticos.
The white painted steel of the ribbon also has a sculptural form, a sort of asymmetrical architectural container that displays its modular structural skeleton inside the facing of drawn sheet metal that produces an effect of transparency. While the expanded sheet metal rises vertically to reach the level of the trains, corresponding to the height of the central beam, on the opposite side the structure, before rising, extends outward to contain the continuous grille of the walkway providing a security platform along the entire trajectory, while incorporating – as constructive elements that are part of the design, not ‘added’ – a series of solar panels that produce 35% of the energy required for the functioning of the people mover.
This autonomous energy production generates a positive environmental impact equal to 300 fewer tons of CO2 and 14,000 more trees. The suspended ribbon designed by Iosa Ghini Associati forms a harmonious line with a curves dictated by the route and the optimization of solar radiation, which also underscore the sculptural and compositional value, and the careful landscape insertion. Between the two terminals a midway station is planned.
The Lazzaretto station is supported by a series of paired pilasters of the same size and form as the monorail supports, without introducing ulterior elements that might have seemed out of tune with the rest. In the station the track splits into two to permit the passage of two trains in opposite directions.
The double track and the stops are sheltered by an asymmetrical structure formed by a single steel beam, repeated in parallel series to form a canopy and lateral walls. The design of the roof responds to the need for maximum performance in the installation of the solar panels on the southwest side. In this case, the use of expanded sheet metal, besides immediately referencing the image of the viaduct, permits good air circulation and sunscreening, for savings in the area of ventilation.
“The project develops with the idea of integration with the countryside around the city of Bologna,” the designers say, “interpreting the traditional models of rural construction in a modern way. The architectural elements of the walkway, the bridge and the stops have been studied by taking the environmental factors of the context into account,” as in the case of the bridge that crosses the highway, where “the structural elements have simple, natural forms, suggesting the sloping towers of the city of Bologna.”
The entire project reflects a focus on the environment and the use of energy resources, evident in the overall architectural choices, from the selection of the materials and finishes to the final design of the structural members. It brings together architecture and design in a suspended sign in the landscape, never camouflaged, capable of underlining its own contemporary character and of establishing a relationship, in meaning and function, with the entire metropolitan area of Bologna and its vast regional system.
In a perspective of modernization of the territory and its public transport offerings, the project underscores the role of Bologna as a crucial node of national mobility.
Project Iosa Ghini Associati - Massimo Iosa Ghini, Davide Seu
Photos courtesy of Iosa Ghini Associati