Genova: the construction site sounds its last note

On 27 July, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia will play a concert at the Genoa Bridge worksite to mark the end of construction

One thousand people, and 330 companies (including contractors and sub-contractors) from all over Italy.  Their group effort has resulted in an important achievement: from pouring the first batch of concrete to the wrapping up the finishing touches, they have completed Genoa’s new bridge in just over a year.

The new bridge could not have been delivered in such a short time without expert project management, led by the Webuild Group and Fincantieri, resembling an orchestra where each instrument plays in harmony with the others. Therefore, it seems fitting to mark this incredible feat with a concert for the Genoa bridge on 27 July.

The event will be held inside the construction site, and will feature a performance by the Accademia Nazionale Santa Cecilia orchestra conducted by Maestro Antonio Pappano. This event will be attended by local authorities, construction workers, engineers, and representatives of the 330 companies that make up the supply chain, contractors, and subcontractors. A time for celebration, but also for reflection.

“This concert will have the honor of celebrating this bridge, built by Webuild and Fincantieri, in record time, but at the same time to pay tribute to the people who lost their lives with the collapse of Morandi,” said Maestro Pappano. “It will be a very emotional event. In the name of art, and Beethoven.”

The notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony will celebrate not only the bridge and work of all the people who have contributed to the construction, but also the local government’s commitment and the know-how of the Webuild Group and Fincantieri, which have collectively transformed the Genoa construction site into a national model for the future of Italian infrastructure. An important leap forward compared to the past. Let’s go back and look at the chain of events that lead to this last note.

Construction of Genoa bridge: when it all started

 It was 3:51 p.m. on 25 June 2019. Just over a year ago today. That’s the starting bell, the time when – after the dismantling of the old Morandi bridge – construction work really got started. That’s the hour when the siren sounded, and the concrete began to pour from the concrete mixers to the subsoil. This is when the foundations of the new bridge first started taking shape, the feet of the giant that will be supported by 18 piers and will cross the Polcevera valley.

On July 1, three days later, the sirens sounded again to announce the spectacular demolition of what remained of the Morandi (piers 10 and 11). But it is only a sad fireworks display, because the new construction site is up and running, and nothing can stop it.

The winter 2019-2020 will be remembered as one of the rainiest in Genoa, with harsh weather and violent winds. In this environment, construction work continued on the piers and on the first decks high up in the air. On February 18, the last pier was completed, one of 18 giants of reinforced concrete 90 metres (295 feet) high (50 meters, or 164 feet, of which are hidden underground). Here too an “orchestra” of about 600 people worked on the castings and the construction of the piers. The rhythm of work continues around the clock: three shifts of eight hours each, from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm, from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm, from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am. Time is circular, and so is the fatigue.

Once the piers are completed, there is just enough time to catch your breath before starting all over with the last decks. Once again, the siren sounds on the building site to mark decisive days and hours on the calendar. This time it was on the morning of 28 April, when the last deck closed the open wound from the collapse of Morandi. A new viaduct now connected the two ends of the valley.

Commenting on this achievement, Webuild Group CEO Pietro Salini said: “What we have done in recent months is a source of pride for all of us. Over 1,000 people have focused on a single objective. From the design to the preparation of the site, from the logistics of the materials to the installation, every step of this project is the result of shared work and detailed organization that we have modelled on our experience gained in some of the largest construction sites around the world.”

Webuild’s experience ranges from the Panama Canal to the Riyadh metro; from African dams to Italy’s high-speed trains; from a bridge over the Bosporus to Australian hydroelectric plants. This experience would soon be fundamental during the last phase of construction.

Concert for Genoa bridge: celebration of a choral opera

Watching the images of drones flying over the Genoa Bridge’s deck is like witnessing the manoeuvres of an army. Or perhaps an orchestra tuning the instruments before the stage lights come on. Once again, the orchestra is formed by Webuild’s workers, engineers and technicians who are finishing up the job high atop the bridge’s deck, alongside expert contractors from across Italy who have dedicated themselves to their work. Mounting the photovoltaic panels, asphalting the bridge, setting up the 28-metre-high (98-foot) “flagpoles” for the spectacular illumination of the bridge: all these things are going on at once. In Italian, this finishing process is called “dressing the bridge.”

To an inexperienced eye, it looks simply like a swarm of men and vehicles, floating 40 metres (131 feet) above the ground, but in reality, each team at work follows a precise schedule. Stefano Mosconi, the Webuild Group engineer who runs the site, said in a recent interview: “We still have a few more days left of holding our breath. If the construction of the new Genoa Bridge was a 100-metre race, we would now be in the final sprint.”

The final sprint is now in its last stretch. A few days after the concert for Genoa bridge celebrating the end of construction, the viaduct will be delivered to its city. Before that, however, there is still work to be done, at same frenetic rhythms that have marked this project since its very first days. Forty teams and over 150 people, including workers and technicians, working simultaneously.

These are the last notes of the orchestra. The finale of a collective effort that honors the memory of the 43 people who lost their lives under the rubble of the Morandi bridge. Then silence, accompanied only by the noise of the cars crossing high in the air.