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Genoa demolishes prominent buildings due to social decay

Genoa demolishes prominent buildings due to social decay

Sometimes even eye-catching architectural decisions fail to earn heritage status

On Monday, 19 April, demolition works began on the so-called Begato dam wall buildings, located on via Maritano in the hills of the northern periphery of Genoa. Rising 22 floors into the air, the two buildings, known as the White and Red Dam Walls, will make way for new residential social housing based on modern sustainability principles.

The Genova municipal website reported that this is part of one of the largest urban recovery initiatives currently underway in Italy, having started in 2020 under the name of ‘Restart Begato’.

These towering monoliths truly deserved their name

The two apartment towers were built in the 1980s and also served the purpose of providing social housing for the community. Given their particular location, as if trying to close off a valley just like the wall of a water dam, it can be said that they really deserved their names. Despite their particular and unique architecture, however, they became a landmark of social decay, poverty and exclusion so it was decided that their imposing silhouettes were to be removed from the city’s skyline.

"This is one of the largest urban regeneration projects of social housing at the moment in Italy,” stated the President of the Liguria Region Giovanni Toti on the occasion. “An intervention to completely change the face of a deeply degraded reality. Our region had needed for too long to abandon an old urban concept that had produced the isolation of a large number of people, without anyone ever intervening to change this situation before. A reality that had settled over the years that had become very complicated from a social and daily life point of view.”

This event is sort of a reminder of last year’s demolition of the Vele di Scampia buildings in Naples, which while similarly iconic (they even featured prominently in the Gomorrah TV series) unfortunately also became a symbol of social decay and crime. The parallel, it turns out, is more than symbolic since the same excavator crane that was used in the dismantling of Vele di Scampia is now also used in the Begato Dam Wall buildings.

Reportedly, it is the largest of its kind in the country, being 60 metres high and weighing 220 tons. The way the demolition proceeds is from top to bottom floors in a technique that experts call ‘strip-out’. The whole process will take some time and is expected to be completed in November, by which time 170,000 cubic metres of material will accumulate.

What is next in the regeneration plan?

Still, a small part of the White Dam Wall will be saved (containing 37 apartments) and it will serve as the core of the new reconstructed facilities. The new buildings are promised to be designed according to a system that is a mixture of social and public housing, without land consumption and inspired by ‘green city’ criteria.

The residential units in the new buildings will have an average area of 60 square metres and will feature completely renovated heating systems, together with roofs and coating that will ensure high energy efficiency. Concurrently two new six-storey buildings will be erected nearby as part of the residential complex. The redevelopment also previews the creation of public spaces for social gathering.

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