Litus Urbis_Urban Regeneration Strategies for the Redevelopment of San Cataldo Seaside Resort

Project

Abstract

Although the conquest of the littoral as a source of well-being and the idea of pleasant and habitable costal landscape are themes that can be traced back to the mid 19th century, the most significant phenomenon of settlement – on most of the Mediterranean coasts – only took place during the last 50 years, following extremely rapid pace of transformation.

The anthropization of the Salento’s littoral first appeared in the form of coastal gemmation of the hinterland villages, with the achievement of coast roads and the concentration of seasonal activities, in 300km of seashore of this peninsular territory.
At the end of the 19th century, in the wake of the North European balneotherapy trend, the city of Lecce established the Marina of San Cataldo, linked to the city-centre via an innovative electric tramway line. The seaside resort then underwent a progressive loss of interest: the new road networks made other places -proposing a wider tourist offer- easily attainable, while the coast’s natural obstacles weakened the link between Lecce and the sea, reducing the potential touristic frequentation it could have offered.

The thesis focuses on the study of the transformation process of the seaside resort and its relationship with the city of Lecce, by identifying the critical issues in the tourism and infrastructure system and setting the goal to revitalize the littoral and its reconnection with the environmental, architectural and cultural heritage of the hinterland. Through different mobility strategies, guidelines for the protection of the natural systems and propositions for the reconversion of the degraded areas, San Cataldo would take on the characteristics of a seaside resort of high environmental, touristic and social sustainability.

The enhancement of touristic and urban services – from the reactivation of the tramway track to the expansion of the touristic harbour, from the provision of sport and events facilities to the rearrangement of the square and of the waterfront – aims at rehabilitating the marina, no longer considered only as a vacation destination, but as a departure point for the enjoyment of the hinterland, conferring a new meaning to the antique city-sea pair, and returning to the seaside resort its lost identity.

Masterplan

Starting from the nothernmost part of the seaside resort, the project envisions a reconfiguration of the harbour – nowadays small and inadequate for the needs of the yachtsmen coming from Lecce and its surroundings- and the redesign of tourist and bathing facilities should guarantee the area a deseasonalized use and turn it into a polarity designed for the city of Lecce, as well as for the marina.

Going southwards, the so called Lungomare Marinai d’Italia asphalt road cuts the pine forest and causes several damages to the nature system. The removal of the asphalt road sections, as well as the downgrading of coastal roads at risk of flood erosion, their landscape requalification into routes equipped for the slow use of coastlines and the closure or limitation to vehicular traffic, should constitute a set of intervention which aim to recover the damgaged and fragile coastal system.

Other proposals for the solution to the coastal erosion are the introduction of underwater reef-balls, as well as the removal of the artificial breakwaters. Another economic and sustainable solution is the cultivation of the oceanic posidonia meadow, able to reconstruct the natural dune, wetlands and woodland system, in order to encourage ecological exchange between sea, coast and inland territories.

The lighthouse area is nowadays represented by a big driveway roundabout, oversized compared to the actual needs, by a big plot of parkings, a few meters away from the sea and by a barren, unequipped and little frequented square. The proposal envisions the upgrading of the promenade, the square in front of the lighthouse and the enhancement of the romans remains of the Hadrian’s harbour, by the reconfiguration of the vehicular traffic, the new tram line terminal and the ending pier of the promenade, proposing the requalification of the area and its use during all the months of the year.

In the southernmost seafront section, the pre-existing architecture, downgraded by the years and by abandonment, has been rethought. New types of ground-accessed two-storey houses are proposed, differing from the usual terraced houses by introducing roof gardens and patios. By repeating this type in a wide range of dwelling modes and with a controlled architectural variation, an animated street elevation should emerge. On a larger scale, a balanced relationship is foreseen between the repetition of the individual dwellings, the roofscape and the waterfront.

The Lighthouse Square

The lighthouse area is nowadays represented by a big driveway roundabout, oversized compared to the actual needs, by a big plot of parkings, a few meters away from the sea and by a barren, unequipped and little frequented square. The proposal envisions the upgrading of the promenade, the square in front of the lighthouse and the enhancement of the romans remains of the Hadrian’s harbour, by the reconfiguration of the vehicular traffic, the new tram line terminal and the ending pier of the promenade, proposing the requalification of the area and its use during all the months of the year.

The Harbour

The reconfiguration of the harbour – nowadays small and inadequate for the needs of the yachtsmen coming from Lecce and its surroundings- and the redesign of tourist and bathing facilities should guarantee the area a deseasonalized use and turn it into a polarity designed for the city of Lecce, as well as for the marina. Essential equipments and services have been provided under a three-arm pier: commercial activities to be assigned under concession to private individuals to ensure the management and maintenance of the pertinent spaces throughout the year.

The Waterfront Promenade

In this seafront section, the pre-existing architecture, downgraded by the years and by abandonment, has been rethought, taking into account the fact that the 1989 PRG referred to this area (intended for residential and tourist uses) as a zoning plan variant which had never been carried out, and that nowadays the PUG is currently being reworked after the administrative rejection. Therefore, in the regeneration of this section for tourist-residential use, a series of terraced houses is planned, in compliance with the PPTR of the Puglia Region, composed of elementary volumetric aggregations with a relatively low buildabuility index (1.5 cubic metres per square metre and a maximum height of 6 metres), deduced from the pre-existing architecture, in a permeable system that enhances the integration of the forest area behind. New types of ground-accessed two-storey houses are proposed, differing from the usual terraced houses by introducing roof gardens and patios. By repeating this type in a wide range of dwelling modes and with a controlled architectural variation, an animated street elevation should emerge. On a larger scale, a balanced relationship is foreseen between the repetition of the individual dwellings, the roofscape and the waterfront.

The Rooms represent a different way to organize the green system along the promenade and to arrange urban furnitures and little devices, aiming to confer entertaining features to the waterfront, as well as an unusual rhythm. The rooms are conceived to provide punctual microclimates, points of relief and places of interaction.

Interview

What prompted the project?

I was born and grew up in the Salento peninsula but I’ve been in San Cataldo for the first time only two years ago during a winter walk. San Cataldo, formally the seaside resort of Lecce, caught my interest with its decadent bathhouses dating back to the ’50s, a former headquarter of “Gioventù Italiana del Littorio”, some modernist villas, but also with its ineffective infrastructure, inadequate equipment, non-existent public spaces. When I learnt about the existence of a tramway line – connecting the resort town to the centre of Lecce – discontinued in the ’30s, I definitely decided to go deeper into the subject and develop my master thesis project on it.

How important was the timeline as medium through which to define and understand the transformation process of the littoral?

The timeline represents a very consistent part of my research and helped me extricate and retrace the history of the resort town, shown together with the Italian Adriatic coast seaside tourism development. The littoral underwent almost the same transformations characterizing all the rest of the coast, even though its ‘finibus terrae’ condition reduced the potential touristic frequentation it could have offered.

What sources did you use to start and create a data and map archive for the project?

I had some trouble finding proper GIS data and significant maps on the Apulian carthography portal, so I ended up using Open Street Map data and creating a personal mapping process willing to show only what I considered meaningful for the comprehension of the analyzed area. Some old IGM maps (Istituto Geografico Militare) helped me to retrace the evolution of the road axis connecting Lecce to the sea and to develop the mobility project. I eventually spent some time in the local libraries, obtaining all the historical informations I couldn’t find on the web and I collected plenty of postcards, pictures, drawings from private archives and my aunt’s photo albums.

When investigating the site, what were for you the most significant aspects you recorded?

The current situation in San Cataldo ranges from a low or non-existent number of visitors in winter to an excessively high number in summer, almost exclusively by local inhabitants with cars. Here, the latter find obsolete services dedicated to bathing activities and no public space or recreation except beaches, which are therefore crowded throughout the day, with obvious consequences on the micro environmental system. The main focus of my survey was reporting the state of abandonment of places, particularly along the coast, documenting the current situation of degradation in which the lighthouse square, the bathing resorts dating back to the 1950s, the harbour, the waterfront promenade and the few spaces for public use nowadays appear.

How important was the sketch as means through which to record and speculate on the various aspects of the proposal?

In the first phases of elaboration of a project, drawings should be exclusively manual. I find sketching extremely useful to show – on purpose – some of the infinite possibilities that a project could offer. In this case it was a way to highlight some spots on the area, showing my impressions on how I imagined theses spaces, choosing not to impose a render of how it should be, but presenting them in a more delicate, ephemeral way.

What is the effect and purpose for using the plan & axonometric as main orthogonal projections? What dictated the various scales used?

The decision to use the plan as the main method of representation was dictated by the fact that the project starts from a much larger territorial scale than the portions of the master plan that I decided to represent in detail. The choice was therefore mandatory for mapping of territorial analysis and for the representation of a masterplan that frames about three kilometers of coastline. Then I also chose to deal with the design zooms in plan, as I wanted to put an emphasis on the study of soils and flooring, trying to make a leisure atmosphere, which has characterized these places for a long time.

What role does the model play? How was this constructed?To what extent did the final images photographic stage set, define the construction of it?

The model has been conceived as a sort of diorama, a representation animated by characters in scale, which can give a realistic impression of the potential that the new promenade could represent for San Cataldo. The choice of framing the portion of the waterfront in which stands one of the first bathhouses, built directly on the beach in the 70s, focuses attention on the relationship that the new promenade establishes with the existing heritage. The model was made of cardboard and inlays of other recycled materials.

Could you expand on the image manifesto? How does this summarise and address the project as one image?

I designed it as a real manifesto, referring to the old Enit (Agenzia Nazionale del Turismo) posters, but with a critical look at the premises of the project: the reading starts from the bottom: a natural landscape, represented by prickly pears and the expanse of sand and flamingos, which are part of the habitat of the places, then a progressive anthropization of the coastline, which led first to more conventional use of the coast – a bathhouse with two levels of beach huts-, and then reach the height of illegal, represented by the concrete fences present almost everywhere in the marina, which limit the view and access to the sea. The blue sky beyond the fence represents the possibilities that the project embodies.

If you were to summarise the project into one image, what would this be? (manifesto?)

I would probably choose the view on the waterfront promenade. I think that makes real the vacation atmosphere and the colours of my place.

What is for you the architect’s most important tool?

I think that sketching is the most powerful mean to focus on the main and determinant characters of the idea in the generative phase.
Sketching is the only way to explain, clarify, hold the large amount of data transmitted by the brain and transferred to paper by hand, still the most natural, effective and fast tool we know.

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