Mar-Apr 2013 | Issue n.50


The half-sunken hull of a cruise ship becomes a seaside public space in this unusual competition.

On the night of 13 January 2012, the MS Costa Concordia, a cruise ship operated by Costa Crociere, wrecked just off the coastline of Giglio Island, in the Tyrrhenian Sea west of Tuscany. Many people lost their lives in the tragedy. After one year, the search for survivors and the process of cleaning up spilled fuel has been concluded. The final plan for the removal of the shipwreck is expected to be completed at the end of 2013; the shipwreck, in fact, is still exactly in the same position as it was after its collision with the rocky Giglio coast.

In June, the ICSplat – a research platform focused on landscape and new forms of architecture – launched the New Concordia Island competition in order to find creative ideas for the Costa Concordia wreck, and to imagine and propose a different future. This is because the tragedy lead to consideration of the shipwreck as a part of a new landscape, a new memory. Participants were required to answer the following questions: How can we rethink the future of these places? What could the shipwreck become if it remains aground for a period longer than a year? How can we work with the shipwreck to build a form of memory? And is there any way to reconsider Giglio Island with this new outcrop that has changed the coastline?

At the end of 2012, a jury comprised of an international group of experts – among them Joseph Grima (editor-in-chief of Domus), the Italian architect Italo Rota, and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow Wow – selected four winners and seven honourable men- tions. First place goes to Alexander Laing and Francesco Matteo Belfiore (London) for their proposal exploring the dichotomy between removal and storage. The project consists of sectioning the wreck along the water, leav- ing the immersed portion and removing the rest. The underwater fragment thus becomes the container for new activities – paths, surfaces and trees form a new habitat connected to Giglio Island via two routes. Second place goes to Vulmaro Zoffi (Milan) and third place, ex aequo, goes to Francesco Tonnarelli and Andrea Cippitelli (Macerata), and to Wynn Chandra (London).

Apart from its utopic dimension, the New Concordia Island competition aims to empha- size a pragmatic topic: Can architecture give new life and identity to the symbol of a trage- dy? Or is the only way to move beyond the dis- aster to erase it materially? The three winning proposals give their own interpretations. More or less sensitive, it is clear that they follow a common thread – starting anew by reinvent- ing, revitalizing and giving a novel, strong and positive identity to the negative icon.