by John Echlin, ISOCARP expert on coastal planning
Image author: Ellen Fetzer
Dynamic vulcanism and rich cultural heritage are the two most prominent forces shaping the coastal landscape of the Phlegraean Fields. This dramatic setting provided the location for the COLAND Inclusive Coastal Landscapes Intensive Study Programme held at Pozzuoli, Italy the 8th - 17th of September 2019.
As the 3rd ISP during the 3-year ERASMUS programme, 40 students and 20 tutors representing the nine partner institutions gathered for ten days to study this complex coastal landscape, discuss important local issues in a real-world situation and visualize recommendations for the area.
The Phlegrean Fields, still an active volcanic caldera, is a large and now urbanized 78 km2 area lying just to the west of Naples. The locale has seen rapid growth during the last century, with a contemporary population of around 400,000 people and seven municipalities now absorbed into the larger Naples metropolitan conurbation. The area has one of the largest concentrations of cultural heritage sites in Italy dating back to the period of Greek colonization (500 bc). It is home to diverse land and sea habitats, many of which are recognized by Natura 2000 for their high-value ecological importance.
For centuries, the population concentrated in compact coastal villages such as Pozzuoli and Baia with a close relationship to the sea. However, in the 20th century, an explosion of human settlement, much of it unplanned and informal, began to overlay this dramatic landscape. The advent of new technical infrastructure, such as a railway linking the coastal villages and later the automobile, provided increased access for settlement and tourism. The Phlegrean Fields have remained highly desirable for residence and seaside recreation despite the underlaying volcanic risks.
Post-WWII coastal industries grew the local economy and provided a basis for increased employment. More recent times saw the factories abandoned and many of the historical sites and natural features have become threatened by the growing urban sprawl. The underlying ecosystem has become increasingly fragmented and degraded.
Over the eight days of the ISP, the students tackled these challenges working in groups with their assigned tutors, within six adjacent coastal geographic areas. The goal of the workshop was for each group to apply a holistic landscape assessment framework, identifying key issues and potentials considering social, economic, environmental and cultural concerns. Then to discuss the needs of the local community and propose green/blue infrastructure strategies to improve connectivity and the multifunctionality of the fragmented landscape.
During the first day, two representatives from the cities of Pozzuoli and Bacoli provided the group with an overview and discussion on the area’s current spatial planning issues and a local coastal geologist presented on aspects of volcanism and coastal erosion in the Phlegrean Fields. These lectures were followed in the afternoon by site visits to the Rione Terra underground museum and the Roman Flavio Amphitheatre. At the close of the day, walking tours of the IP project areas allowed the individual groups to gain their initial firsthand observations and impressions.
Day two, held at the Baia Archeological Museum, began with two lectures presented by professors of architecture from the University Federico II of Naples. One about the cultural heritage of the Phlegrean Fields and the other on the use of emerging digital technologies for enhancing our knowledge and experience of archaeological heritage. A guided tour of the museum and additional visits by the groups in the afternoon to the ISP project areas further advanced the understanding and perceptions of the students.
Following an early morning presentation on the proposed “Campi Flegrei Bike Path” by a representative of the Percorsi Cumani Bicycle Association, day three focused on turning the initial site impressions into analysis with the six groups identifying critical issues and conflicts, assets and opportunities within their assigned geographic areas. Each group began with an overriding topic such as “focus on green-blue infrastructure” or “focus on volcanism and naturalistic tourism”, that they could freely interpret. They were also to be aware of linkages and cross-connections with the other group areas and themes. Students were encouraged to express their ideas and analysis graphically through sketches, images, keywords and phrases.
To augment the third day, representatives from local stakeholder groups circulated to each group table to highlight relevant issues and address questions in a lively round of discussions. These groups included two teachers from a local high school, three members of the Percorsi Cumani Bicycle Association promoting cycle mobility, a member of the Free Bacoli Association promoting sustainable life in Bacoli, a university professor of architectural restoration and citizen of Pozzuoli, a farmer and owner of a large wellness spa close to Averno Lake, and two research experts on coastal development from the CNR National Research Council.
Day four continued with group work and tutor consultation, focused on initial goal-setting ideas and first visioning for each project area. In the late afternoon, the student groups presented their analysis and ideas in short 15 min. slide presentations to the entire COLAND assembly. In-depth discussion followed each presentation with feedback, questions and comments providing further reflection.
Day five and six saw intense teamwork collaboration as each group translated their initial site analysis, goals and visions into spatial concepts and visualizations. A template for the final presentation provided a common framework for each group to advance their analysis, vision, goals and strategies. Groups were also asked to consider their proposed ideas for stakeholder involvement, implementation and phasing.
Two final presentations, one internally to the COLAND group on day seven and the other to the stakeholders and public on day eight, provided a culmination to the workshop. The positive comments and appreciative feedback from these presentations confirmed the importance and value of the COLAND ISP workshop in helping to provide a vision for a more sustainable and inclusive coastal landscape within the Phlegrean Fields.