URBAN POWER architecture & urbanism, MAST- Maritime Architecture Studio,
New York, USA, Copenhagen, Denmark,
There is certainly another aspect that made people dream: those dots scattered in the sea in total isolation, impossible to reach, represented an opportunity to manifest aspirations, dormant desires. But the magic of a landing in a different and unexplored dimension doesn’t end here, in the inebriating promise of the unknown and adventures: the condition of absolute solitude, far from a civilised life, obligations and restrictions, promises Eden of total freedom and absolute happiness, and for some untouched paradises, where to test or find themselves.
In this regard, a film was recently released that narrates a true, very unusual event, the incredible story of the ‘Rose Island’. About fifty years ago a young Bolognese engineer, Giorgio Rosa, had the idea to create, with the help of a fellow student, an artificial platform in front of the coast of Rimini, outside the Italian territorial waters, where to live according to his own rules. With a small group of supporters, who joined the adventure by chance, he assigned his micro-nation an official language, a government, a currency and a postal code, going personally to the United Nations’ headquarters in the hope to gain the recognition of independent state for his little isle. Although he received threats and attempts of corruption, he didn’t give up and, following the advice of his girlfriend, an expert in international law, decided to submit his case to Strasbourg. The Italian government, worried about the idea of creating a precedent, occupied and finally demolished the platform. The episode makes us reflect, even if in the film the protagonist appears not a revolutionary rebel, an anarchist eager to live far from institutional rules and obligations, but a young, hopelessly idealist inventor, who doesn’t want to renounce a dream that everyone believes to be a utopia, his desire to "see roses bloom on the sea".
Diller, contacted in 2012 to contribute financially to the reconstruction of Pier 54, seriously damaged by Hurricane Sandy, replied that he didn’t consider appropriate to help the redevelopment of the pier since it would probably no longer be usable for mooring boats, but instead he had an idea, that he had been nurturing for some time, that could become visually an icon on the New York waterfront. An international competition was launched, and in 2014 revealed the winning project that encountered a series of court battles prolonged for a long time, opposed by those who were concerned about environmental sustainability, protection of aquatic wildlife and those who were against such a high budget commitment for a long-term maintenance of the park. The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation at this point agreed to provide for the park for the next 20 years, until new sponsors were found, paying also for all the program of the recreational initiatives offered on the island. After more than seven years, last May, ‘Little Island’, as it is called, was officially inaugurated. Defined by some as "New York's latest landing strip for theater, music, art - and ambition", the large expanse of 2.4 acres of green meadows and hills, pathways and resting points among 350 different species of shrubs, flowers and trees, despite the ostentation of a series of wonders, continues to receive negative response from the specialized press and media that don’t recognize it as the ecological and inclusive public space promised, seeing it only as a spectacular extravaganza.
There are other projects concerning new artificial atolls that, despite having provoked protest movements by environmentalists, advocate forward valid and urgent proposal, such as the need to protect the coasts from the threat of rising water level or the need to provide alternative energy sources. Copenhagen, known as the green capital, a true pioneer of sustainability, has been surprising us for some time now with cutting-edge initiatives that stand out for combining sense of responsibility and environmental awareness, and it is with a great teamwork that it is planning the construction of an archipelago, composed by nine artificial islands. The vision conceived by URBAN POWER architecture & planning will start shortly, in 2022, with an expected duration of 18 years. Holmene, which in Danish means precisely 'islets', will connect an expansion of 3 million square meters to Avedøre Holme, an area reclaimed in the 1960s, and currently one of the largest and best-functioning commercial districts in the region. Restoring the original landscape configuration, consisting of small islands surrounded by water and lush nature, the project will extend for 17 kilometers along the shoreline, providing protective barrier against possible floods and 700,000 square meters of new natural scenery in an urban location.The future ultramodern district, which promises to be one of the most innovative in Northern Europe, will be embraced by a "green belt", that thanks to its diversified vegetation will attract wildlife, above creating an active coastline with jogging paths, cycle paths, water sports and marine observation platforms for everyone. Technological companies, wind turbines for the production of clean energy and research centers will arise in this attractive environment. The atolls as geographic clusters will see circular synergies enabling knowledge sharing and joint branding activities.
If this project appears very ambitious, there is one even greater, announced as the most challenging in the history of Denmark. Last year an agreement was signed on the creation of the first 'energy island' in the world, that will be followed by a later one: the first will arise in the Baltic Sea and the second in the North Sea. An area of 120 thousand square meters will be dedicated to 200 giant offshore wind turbines that, exploiting the wind in the open sea, will produce electricity destined not only for Denmark but also for the surrounding countries. The Danish industry has enjoyed a 'pioneering position' in the wind sector in the past and continues to maintain it thanks to these achievements. The initiative, that envisages one of the highest amounts in the history of the country, is part of the plan launched since many years to reduce polluting emissions and to achieve the so-called 'climate neutrality' by 2050. Given the complexity of implementation, the plant will probably not produce energy before 2033.
Alongside these mega programs, it is with great pleasure that we are currently witnessing many small, but interesting proposals from a new generation of young Danish designers, who never cease to amaze us with the delicacy and sensitivity of their interventions, constantly in harmony with both the urban and human context. They face difficult environmental and social challenges, approaching the dialogue with profound respect, revealing an ethically responsible consciousness, an authentic spontaneous inclination towards a healthier, greener, happier, more socially and culturally liveable city and environment, without neglecting the lightness of playfulness.
There are many ingredients that make these islets truly special, the freshness of a shape that evokes the design of a child, a sophisticated research that knows how to maintain the charm of ingenuity. It’s with natural spontaneity that they appear zigzagging and wandering along the current from one bank of the river to the other. Each tiny artificial oasis, in its apparent elementary aspect, hides an authentic dedication to the smallest details, an amazing passionate commitment that has followed every single phase of the construction process: the initial prototype, called Ø1, approximately 20sqm of surface, handmade with recycled material, using boat building techniques, is kept afloat thanks to 4,000 recycled plastic bottles with mussels and seaweed-growing beds in the lower part, in order not to interrupt the continuity of a suitable habitat for fish and marine creatures.
'Island of Holmene'
URBAN POWER architecture & urbanism
MAST (maritime architecture studio)
02: ‘Rose Island’- Wiki/Public Domain
03, 07: 'Little Island', New York, by Yoav Aziz/Unsplash
04-05: Little Island', New York, by Ben Michel/Unsplash
06: Little Island', New York, by Heber Galindo/Unsplash
07: Little Island', New York, by John Angel/Unsplash