«I heard a very loud noise. I didn't understand what it was, I thought it was a thunderstorm, and in the end, after a few minutes, it turned out that the bridge had fallen. My mother crossed it, and arrived at home just seven minutes before the bridge fell».
Edoardo is eleven years old, and attends the first grade in the Certosa Comprehensive School, the closest one to the old Morandi bridge. His story about August 14 one year ago, when the bridge near his house in Genoa collapsed sending 43 people to their deaths, is particularly dramatic. His mother could have been among the victims.
Almost a year later, Edoardo, along with 64 other school children from Genoa, told his story as he returned to the site of the collapse, where today the foundations of the new bridge are being built.
Like him, Alessio, from the first year of high school at the Gastaldi Abba Institute, struggles to find the right words.
«I'm not sure how to describe it…it was something difficult that hit everyone in some sort of way», he says.
Today Genoa and people all across Italy are commemorating that tragedy, where an entire nation’s confidence tumbled into the void along with the cars. The image of the Morandi Bridge – once a symbol of Italy’s economic boom -- is imprinted on the memory of Edoardo and Alessio, and on the entire nation.
The darkest day
At 11:46 AM on August 14, 2018, the section of the bridge that crosses over the industrial area of Sampierdarena collapsed together with the support pillar number 9.
The causes of the collapse will be clarified once and for all by the judicial investigation that began on the day of the tragedy, although what is known for certain so far is that some parts of the bridge failed for structural reasons.
In addition to the 43 victims, 566 people had to be evacuated from their homes, due to the risk of further collapses. On August 15, Italy called a cabinet meeting to declare a state of emergency in the city of Genoa for twelve months, appointing the president of the Liguria region, Giovanni Toti, as Special Commissioner to deal with the emergency.
Launching plans for the new bridge
Once the emergency was under control, the main issue for Genoa and the surrounding region was to rebuild. That’s why the government appointed the mayor of Genoa, Marco Bucci, as Special Commissioner in charge of constructing the replacement for the Morandi Bridge. The commissioner, along with the government and the Ministry of Transport, led the procurement procedure to pick the builder of the new bridge over the Polcevera River viaduct. On December 18, 2018, it was announced that the companies building the new bridge are Salini Impregilo, Fincantieri and Italferr, which joined forced in a consortium called PerGenova. The new bridge will be designed by architect Renzo Piano, a Genoa native, who imagined a keel-shaped structure of a ship, inspired by the Genoese love of the sea.«It is a great honor to give my contribution to the city of Genoa, my hometown», Piano said when the decision was announced. «A great team of engineers and builders was chosen, able to tackle this work quickly, competently and professionally».
Reuniting the city with a new bridge
Renzo Piano's design involves building a 1,067 metre-long (3,500) overpass, with 19 piers of reinforced concrete of elliptical section and 20 spans that will reconnect the two sides of the city. Overall, an imposing infrastructure that is both modern and sustainable.
The new bridge will be equipped with a system of photovoltaic panels that will guarantee its energy supply; air dehumidification plants will be built inside the deck to prevent corrosion of the materials. As far as safety and monitoring are concerned, all activities will be centrally managed by a technological building, with the support of robots to help carry out the structural inspections of the bridge and the ordinary maintenance of the solar and acoustic panels.
A technological and sustainable bridge. Renzo Piano called it «simple, thrifty, but not commonplace. It will look like a ship moored in the valley; a clear and bright steel bridge. During the day it will reflect sunlight and absorb solar energy and at night it will return it. It will be a sober bridge, reflecting the character of the Genoese», he said.
Genoa schools visit the construction site of the new bridge
It is no coincidence, but the first people to visit the construction site of the new bridge were Genoa’s school children. On May 28, 65 pupils from three of the schools closest to the bridge visited the site, the Certosa Comprehensive School, Sampierdarena Comprehensive School and the Gastaldi Abba Institute for Surveyors. Sixty-five kids in all, between 10 and 14 years, who were led by site manager Stefano Mosconi and other engineers and technicians working there. The children learned about the plans for the new bridge, saw some safety videos, and watched a simulation of an accident and help from rescue units.
«It was a very special visit, because entering a building site is already strange, but entering this site is exciting and engaging», said Roberta Silvestri, vice-principal of the Certosa Comprehensive School. «It's really impressive to see so many men and women working together on such a big project, especially on one that is so important for us who live in this area. We are seeing everyone working to bring together a Genoa that was divided into two».
The beginning of the reconstruction
After several months of setting up the building site and dismantling the old bridge, the official go-ahead was given on June 25 for the start construction of the "PerGenova" bridge. At 3:51 PM the construction site siren sounded and cement mixers started pouring concrete for the foundations of the new bridge.
Three days later, on July 1st, the sirens sounded again, this time to signal the demolition of what was left of the old Morandi Bridge, pillars 10 and 11.
«The start of the foundation of the new bridge is a milestone in a strategic project for Genoa and for the entire country», said Salini Impregilo Chief Executive Pietro Salini. «Not only does this project aim to bring a city closer to its surrounding area, but it also looks to the future of Italy by demonstrating that collaboration between the state and the country’s leading private companies can become a lever to unite and grow the nation».
Work on the construction site will move forward quickly, with the aim of meeting the ambitious deadline of finishing in 2021.
«The construction site has been up and running for months and if until yesterday the foundations were worked on and the plinths were reinforced, starting today the progress of construction will be clearly visible», said Nicola Meistro, managing director of PerGenova. «We have put together the best of our Italian know-how and all the experience gained in large infrastructure projects all over the world».
A city that wants to be reborn
A year after the collapse of the Morandi Bridge, Genoa is still a city broken in two. In a few months, the city will be reunited and strategic connections with the rest of the surrounding area restored.
Besides being the main road link between the center of Genoa, the container port, the airport and the area’s many industrial zones, the viaduct over the Polcevera River also linked northern Italy and southern France.
Its reconstruction is therefore strategic for the re-launch of an area that is a vital transport crossroads. For the same reason, another strategic infrastructure for Genoa is crucial -- namely the Terzo Valico dei Giovi, the high-speed railway that will connect Genoa with Turin and Milan, and from there on to Northern Europe.
This work, carried out by the Cociv consortium (led by Salini Impregilo), will connect the Genoese port system with the nearby area of Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto, where 50% of national goods are handled.
The Terzo Valico dei Giovi and the new bridge over the Polcevera: infrastructure that can give Genoa a new start. A new start that goes back to its ancient roots as a strategic junction for goods and people, something written in its DNA from the time of Cristoforo Colombo.