The Sinuous Curve: Mobility Solution by MoDus at Bressanone
In a unique feat of engineering with a keen sense of design, MoDus Architects composed a series of connected, largely underground roads that reduce traffic volume and provided an alternate route to the centre of Bressanone (Italy), a small city in South Tyrol, the latest addition to the Bressanone-Varna Ring Road.
Navigating noise emission solutions, investigating new environmentally friendly and low-energy impact materials for road construction, MoDus Architects has tried to tackle the design brief that called for a series of interventions (tunnel portals, retaining walls, acoustic barriers, service substations, mechanical structures, ventilation chimneys, and various signage elements) along its entire length, to provide a solution that is also a visual marvel.
Travelling from the ring road, motorists navigate a round about and pass through a short U-shaped tunnel along with its two, respective exposed concrete portals to arrive at a shifted axis with Via Roma – the main road leading directly into town. The sculptural mouth of the new portal facing east takes a sinuous form that contributes to the lexicon of curvilinear elements that characterize many of the design interventions of the original project, steering away from the strictly technical or functional vocabulary typically offered by infrastructural projects.
“Civil engineering projects provide a unique opportunity to bring together the different scales – and at times jarring specificities – of infrastructure, landscape, architecture and urban decorum. The Ring Road project underlines the reciprocity of these disciplines as a singular design challenge, not just given the environmental and economic impact of these projects, but also as a model for small cities grappling with questions of mobility, heritage and placemaking” – affirms architect Sandy Attia, co-founder of MoDus Architects. The other half of the founding duo, Matteo Scagnol continues: “The role architects play in large infrastructural projects has been increasingly marginalized over the past few decades in Italy: the country’s remarkable density and stratification of historical and natural contexts present unique and pressing challenges that the public administration needs to address. The Ring Road in South Tyrol is borne of deliberate, decision-making processes that comprehend the importance of design at every scale and as such created the conditions necessary for a cross-disciplinary collaboration to occur.”
First inaugurated in 2012, the 5km-long ring road that bypasses the historic city centre of Bressanone, to reach the north of Varna, was planned in an effort to avoid congestion, to reduce pollution, and to facilitate access from the north to the southern light industrial of the town.
The architects sought to minimize the environmental impact of the elements above ground in order to express both an architectural and technical quality. The elements and those below ground were conceptualized into a unified, consequential design approach, and were calibrated to accommodate the particularities of the immediate site conditions. Lastly, the Bressanone and Varna tracts were pulled together into one continuum whereby the two townships are no longer conceived as distinct contexts but as two parts of a greater whole.
The concrete work of the new addition is made of aggregates and excavation materials drawn from the ongoing construction site of the 64km Brenner Base Tunnel traversing below the Alps from Innsbruck (Austria) to Fortezza (Italy). Together with exposed concrete, larch wooden acoustic barrier walls and cor-ten steel ventilation chimneys, the portals constitute important sites of architectural design: they lie at the intersection of landscape, infrastructure and mobility. These interventions mark the threshold between below ground and above ground, becoming part of the urban landscape of Bressanone, and also defining the fleeting, motorist experience.
MoDusArchitects paid particular attention to noise emissions and many of the interventions, such as the Leca-beton walls, grappled with sound absorption solutions. Research into the reconfiguration of commonly used materials in the road-building industry unearthed solutions to better address these environmental concerns while exploring new ways to combine simple, low-cost materials that could bridge the gap in scale and overcome the difficulties inherent to building in close proximity to the smallscale buildings of Bressanone.
Project name: Central Juncture of Bressanone-Varna Ring Road
Location: Bressanone (Bolzano, Italy)
Client: Department of Infrastructure and Mobility of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano
Design phase: 2015—2017
Construction phase: 2017—2020
Completion: end of June 2020
Length: 500m (central juncture tunnel); 5km (completed ring road); 8km (full length of the ring road)
Materials: exposed concrete, Leca-beton (structural light concrete with Leca expanded clay aggregates), cor-ten steel, larch wood