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Renouveler la ville-port

The Historical Naples’ Waterfront and the Reconversion of the Military Locations: The Acton Dock, the Bourbon Dockyard and the San Vincenzo Pier

Le front de mer historique de Naples et la reconversion des emplacements militaires
Teresa Colletta
p. 121-128

Abstracts

The refurbishment of Naples’ historical harbour zone provides an opportunity to replace the Military establishments that are situated there in the citadel zone around the Acton Dock. The latter was built in the second half of the 17th century and a number of additions, such as the basin and the dry dock were added in the neighbouring area throughout the 19th century, when the San Vincenzo Pier was built and which the Navy continued to use. All the military buildings are currently in situ, but are not being used to their advantage. This highlights their potential for civil and touristic purposes, considering their proximity to the town centre. The objective of this article is to evaluate the historical Neapolitan waterfront reconstruction project based on the agreement between the Port Authority and the Architectural and Environmental Surintendence of Naples. This project, based on a historical survey and a thorough analysis of the built-up sea-front and coastal environment, was an appropriate starting point for a completely new reorganization of the citadel and a new connection between the town and the port in the years 2000.

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Index terms

Geographical index :

Italie, Naples
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Full text

1Naples, the largest and most preserved historical city in the Mediterranean area, still shows today the ancient street‑pattern of its Greek origin (476 BC.) with the platheai‑decumanus and stenopoi-cardines, although the city has lost all the Medieval areas and trading places that were built along the sea front between the 8th and 16th century, due to the continuous advance of the coast line. Consequently, it was much more difficult to distinguish the different phases of this development because there was a lot of demolition work which took place throughout the 19th century. Public building projects that imitated Haussmann’s style in Paris, constructed the new two-kilometre-long straight street named “Rettifilo” over the urban infrastructure of the area built throughout the centuries along the seafront. This coastal area originated in the late middle ages and continued to extend due to the many docking points, markets and piers that were added in subsequent phases, throughout the middle-ages. Today, it is being reconstructed graphically in its true dimensions and ancient orographical situation (T. Colletta, 2006).

2The città bassa was built outside the most ancient Neapolitan urban nucleus, located on the south side of the of Neapolis settlement, which in turn, was located outside the ancient southern walls up until the middle 14th century. We analyzed the diverse planning measures, maritime trading considerations, the development related to the landings along the coast and consequently, new port infrastructures.

3Hence, it is the first time in the urban history of Naples that it has become possible to know, in its true dimensions, the subsequent phases of the settlements near the seafront: the increase in the urban infrastructure, the mercantile buildings, the different maritime city walls, the different areas where foreigners settled, as well as the “genuine image” of the urban area on the seafront that characterizes every port-city. Today, this face of Naples has strongly changed, but with historical reconstruction, the present can be reacquainted with the past, in order for it to be appreciated. These considerations were the basis on which an appropriate refurbishment of the Neapolitan historical waterfront enabled its acceptance in the Naples World Heritage Centre (1995) and assisted urban conservation and planning in the future of the rebuilding of the Neapolitan historical waterfront.

1 - The construction of Naples’ historical waterfront between the Medieval and Modern Age

4During my research, I investigated the construction of the “città bassa” in order to demonstrate that Naples had begun developing living areas and quarters near the port from the post-classic phases, becoming not only a Medieval city-port metropolis, but also the capital of the Southern Kingdom in 1282 (P. Rietbergen, 1988). In the Angevin period the conformation and configuration of Naples was modified when the city became an important site of cultural exchange after both the creation of the new harbour, the Angevin Molo grande, built near the royal towered-residence, the Chateau neuf and the new public open-space in 1310 during the reign of Charles the Second. Thus, in the middle of the 14th century a coastal strip exceeding two kilometers, was urbanized. The historiographical work outlining the construction of Naples up until the late 15th century was portrayed by the drawing of the urban development of a city overlooking the sea. The prominent Aragonese mercantile city-port of Naples, its walled configuration, long waterfront, new-towered royal castle and its dislocation from the mercantile infrastructures was compared to Barcelona, whose port area, dockyard and public market also underwent a large reorganization in the same years as the southern capital (Colletta, 2006).

5The construction of the medieval historical waterfront between Castelnuovo and the Carmine monastery coincided with the development of a new commercial town, the “città bassa”, which was the core of Naples’ city-port. It was possible to see this magnificent walled maritime configuration, along with the new towered royal castle and the large “L” shaped pier in the first painted view of Naples: the famous Tavola Strozzi, painted between 1472-73, and given as a gift from the Florentine merchant Filippo Strozzi to the Aragonese King Alfonso II. (fig.1).

Fig.1 - Anonymous, View of Naples. The Tavola Strozzi, 1473

Fig.1 - Anonymous, View of Naples. The Tavola Strozzi, 1473

Naples, San Martino Museum

6To have a deeper knowledge of the ‘true’ città bassa on a real scale dimension, the continuous advance of the coast line during this period is compared with that of today, from which we reconstructed the Renaissance situation. (T.Colletta, 2006, Table III) (fig.2).

Fig.2 – E. Duperac, A. Lafrery, The sea-front of Naples in the perspective map of the 1566

Fig.2 – E. Duperac, A. Lafrery, The sea-front of Naples in the perspective map of the 1566

Naples, San Martino Museum

7At the end of the 15th century, the surface area of the city-port of Naples was 230 hectares with a population of between 70.000-100.000. It is a complex Mediterranean city-port inserted in a context of Mediterranean routes and traffics. A study was made of the the urban Renaissance “renovation” of the town, with its new regular squares and streets and different perimeters of maritime city walls and urban gates in order to take into account the new military propositions and transformations of the mercantile spaces in the Modern Age. The transformations that followed during the Spanish vice-royal period, when Naples increased its urban dimension by about 400 hectares and its inhabitants by about 300.000, constructed a military dockyard, but not a new mercantile harbour. At this time, the vice-royal capital could be considered a large city with port, but not yet a city-port.

2 - The widening of the waterfront and military organisation during the Spanish vice-royal period. The city with a port in the modern age

8With Naples’ entry into the Spanish empire in the early 16th century, the city experienced radical changes, the causes of which can be retraced to the new policy dictated from Madrid. On the one hand, Naples underwent an evolution similar to that of other large European capitals, reflecting the political and cultural ideas that characterized 16th century Europe, whilst on the other, the general cultural changes in the Neapolitan Spanish vice-royalty resulted in every urban intervention being necessary to defend the territory of the kingdom and its strategic position in the Mediterranean basin (Colletta, 1981).

9The renewal of Naples, activated by Toledo between 1532 and 1553, – on which a vast literature exists – was programmed for reasons of defence but did not tackle the structural and functional problems of the maritime city. For the longshore strip and the Neapolitan port basin, he developed a fortified plan containing a bastioned defensive system for the whole sea-front: the Angevin-Aragonese port-front was further extended towards the new coast-line in 1547 from the refortified Castel dell’Ovo in the west to the Chiaia-front and the Mergellina harbour. The Spanish vice-royal government realized the military transformations of the Neapolitan seafront from Castel dell’Ovo in the west to the Carmine fort in the east, the transfer of the port maritime infrastructures–first the dockyard (1577) near the vice-royal palace, the new maritime fortifications, the fortified citadel around Castelnuovo and the renewed Angevin pier. Consequently and according to the first idea of the royal architect Domenico Fontana at the end of the 16th century, it was thought necessary to realize a new port larger than the existing one to distinguish the mercantile port from the new military port. As I had already pointed out in a previous article (Colletta, 1987), this was the re-utilization in a new key of existing elements and the design of the new port-infrastructures was an overview - or a new forma mentis- of the vice-royal capital refurbishment after the plan by Domenico Fontana. The debate about a new port for Naples vice-royal capital continued throughout the next century, with long discussions with engineers, architects, and maritime experts, as demonstrated by the military cartographies preserved in the Neapolitan and European archives (Paris, Madrid, Valladolid-Simancas, London). (Colletta,2006).

10The volume of commercial traffic went on decreasing from the second half of the 16th century and continued to do so through the 17th century due to the isolation of the Neapolitan vice-royalty from the European mercantile routes now directed towards the Atlantic. With conspicuous military and urban transformations, the large Spanish vice-royal capital, although a very big city, always had the same Medieval port. The sea-front extended from the Fort of Carmine in the east to the rebuilt fortress of Castel dell’Ovo in the west, with a fortified water-front of about 3 kilometers in length. The “reconstruction plans” that I have used from the eighteenth century detailed plan of the città bassa, whose scale is 1:200 are the core of this historical urban research. In these four “reconstruction” plans it is possible to read the phases of the development of the areas built near the sea and the winding street networks related to the continuous advance of the coast line from the Medieval age till today. This reconstruction provides the possibility of comparing Naples city-port to other city-ports in Europe and the Mediterranean area during the Medieval period from the 8th to the 14th century and in the Spanish period, the 15th to the 17th century (E. Poleggi, 1985). Naples, the capital, underwent an exceptional population increase of some 220.000 inhabitants in 1546, and following the urban renewal, according to the most recent assessments, reached as many as 300.000 by 1595.

11As Braudel records at the end of the 16th century, Naples, one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean area, housed twice the population of Venice, three times that of Rome and four times that of Florence (Braudel, 1949)

3 - The present waterfront of a seventeenth century military dockyard is still today a property of the Naval Armed Forces

12Throughout the 16th century, the harbour sea-front was used by the Spanish monarchy as a safe and protected place to moor its fleet rather than improving it and using it to expand commercial traffic. To satisfy the Crown’s immediate need the construction of a new dockyard began in 1577‑78 and its transfer to the west of Castelnuovo was undertaken. This very impressive military dockyard, compared to analogous structures of contemporary city-ports and represented in the historical cartography and military plans was destroyed after the second world war. It is now known as Molosiglio Gardens. The process of decentralizing all the military infrastructures, like the anchorage basin and restoring the Spanish galleons necessitated the strengthening of the harbour. This was to be concluded in 1668 with the construction of the new large military dock under the bastions of Castelnuovo in 1666. The latter was to be built near the vice-royal military dockyard, designed by the “Cartesian” architect, Bonaventura Presti (Colletta, 1981). The westward extension of the city and the transfer of the major port-infrastructures near the Fontana vice-royal Palace, testified by numerous military maps and drawings kept stored in the Neapolitan and European archives, constitutes the realization of the “citadel of power”, which lasted for a long period on the west coast.

13The 17th century dock was transformed and the urban space was increased in the south and on the eastern fronts, as one can observe by looking at the analysis and the comparison of the historical cartographies. New stores and a large shipyard were built connected by a long passage with high arches in piperno stone, today in situ on the Beverello quay. (fig. 3).

Fig.3 - Naples. The restored wharehouses as maritime station along the new wharf Calata porta di Massa.

Fig.3 - Naples. The restored wharehouses as maritime station along the new wharf Calata porta di Massa.

© Coletta2008.

14It has been confirmed that throughout the 17th century, the rebuilding activity of the port-area was limited to military development projects that were concentrated in the west near the new maritime infrastructures. Even though the new harbour for Naples remained an unsolved problem, the vice-royal capital was nevertheless a city on the sea, while the sea-front afforded a strong point of reference and a constant presence. Naples continued to have a magnificent sea-front, confirmed by the well known illustrative cartography and representative iconography, exceptional for its abundance of images, from the 16th to the 19th century.

4 - The regeneration of the new harbour at the San Vincenzo military point and the new road system along the waterfront of the Bourbon Kingdom

15The original 17th century waterfront existed up until the middle of the 19th century. The increase of the built-up military zone near the dock began when the large circular tower of San Vincenzo at the port entrance was demolished in 1752. The main evidence of this increase in naval bases, and the Acton Dock and basin are today recognizable in the comparative study between the military cartographies, and the contemporary maps. In 1836, under the Bourbon kingdom of Ferdinando II, this area was transformed into a new military port and the restructuring of the long San Vincenzo Pier was started. We will not dwell on the long planning process as it is well known and already published (B. Gravagnuolo, 1995). In 1860 the work was completed and the pier, measuring 550 metres, was built on a sequence of large arches in tuffaceous stones. Between 1880 and 1885, 660 metres were further added, bringing its total length to about 1,2 km (fig. 4).

Fig.4 - Naples. Subdivision of the today waterfront.

Fig.4 - Naples. Subdivision of the today waterfront.

16In the middle of the pier, the King also built the “Bacino di carenaggio” in 1852, a careening basin to restore large boats. At the same time the town expanded reaching the eastern Vesuvian coast, while the port was improved and enriched with new infrastructures built along a new coastal band brought forward to link the recovered land in front of the historical waterfront. This marked the final separation of the port from the town; the two entities would develop separately after 1860.

17Naples city-port in the 12th-16th centuries was strictly linked to the maritime infrastructures, although from the middle of the 18th century the town was definitively separated from the port in the west by the new east - west maritime roads, conceived by the Bourbon engineers. The transformation of the urban road system and the separate port reconstruction in the 19th and 20th centuries defined a new long sea-front, based on two separate entities; the city and the port. The industrial port lengthened its piers, continuously moving towards the east with new plans and different functions after 1860 (fig.4), while the Beverello and the San Vincenzo Piers preserved their historical configuration. This situation constitutes today’s specific character of the preserved Neapolitan waterfront in the core of the historical town, despite this area still being military property (fig.5-6-7).

Fig.5 - Naples. Acton docks from Acton street.

Fig.5 - Naples. Acton docks from Acton street.

© Coletta2008.

Fig.6 - Palazzo reale.

Fig.6 - Palazzo reale.

© Coletta2008.

Fig.7 - Castel nuovo.

Fig.7 - Castel nuovo.

© Coletta2008.

5 - The active preservation of the historical Neapolitan waterfront

18After in-depth analysis of the urban environment and historical values, general guidelines for new restoration plans and changes to the Naples’ water-front will enable the harmonization of new additions with the existing environment, which could be a useful tool for future planning development and new proposals. Knowledge and understanding of the complexity of the long Neapolitan historical water-front stratification is the first step in the process for the future conservation of the urban W.H.L Naples site. The research enhances the necessity of conserving and restoring the existing city-port of Naples along the ancient sea-front. The urban infrastructure held old collective memories, but today’s inhabitants are carriers of new stories. When people’s attention is focussed on the meaning of heritage, these stories are woven together and the historical context is widened. New ideas, related to the need of today’s society, emerge. Since 1980, the relevant city-ports have experienced an urban crisis and the relationship between the port and the city has become more complex in all activities. The late 80’s saw the birth of a refurbishment and regeneration programme, aiming at transforming cruise passenger tourism into an abundance of economic opportunities for the town. The entrance of Naples’ harbour has contributed to the increase of its naval traffic, especially cruise passenger traffic; consequently, it was necessary to examine how the functions could be distributed along the modern 15-kilometer waterfront compared to the 3‑kilometre-long historical waterfront. A good example of this initial stage of refurbishment is the strategic separation between the hydrofoil terminal on the Beverello historical pier and the boat terminal on the Calata Porta di Massa Pier, after the restoration of two ancient large warehouses (fig. 3).

19A reorganization and a revalorisation programme of the long waterfront has been in progress since 2000, with the highlight being the 2004-2005 competition. The idea of a « filtering line » by the winning project, was seen as a «promenade paysagiste », that is to say, a pedestrian scenic route on two different roof levels with broad vistas and gardens. The project, designed for urban-port renaissance will involve both the historical Neapolitan waterfront and the future of the city-port interface. It is this location near both the town-centre and the ancient water-front of the historical Beverello pier, at present used for boarding, that has created this opportunity and abundance of heritage treasures, local traditions and natural environmental resources, yielding a precious cultural value to be preserved and exhibited. With this train of thought, it is certainly relevant to consider the major project, which is currently being realized in Naples: the new regional rail system (1998-2010) which includes the new underground system and in particular, the construction of the « Piazza Municipio » station, designed by architect Alvaro Siza, in front of the Maritime Square. A future pedestrian underpass will connect the latter to the Maritime station, which has now been restored for touristic and congress purposes, in the centre of the Beverello Pier.

6 - The rehabilitation of the San Vincenzo Pier (1999-2006)

20In 1998, the port of Naples was declared “vincolato”, which meant that all buildings over 50 years old had to be preserved. The “Protocollo d’Intesa”, between the Port Authority of Naples and the Surintendence Government Office of Architecture and Environment of Naples, was signed on October 12th 1999. Its objective was to start restoring and rehabilitating the San Vincenzo Pier, which had been built between the 18th and the 19th century on two levels, and to create cultural and panoramic walks to the lighthouse at the end of the pier for inhabitants and tourists. Between 1999 and 2007, 16 thousand million euros was spent. Today, naval structures have renovated the areas in the interior of the sequence of the restored tuffaceous arches on the first level near the sea (fig.9-10).

Fig.9 - Naples. The San Vincenzo pier: arches before the restoration.

Fig.9 - Naples. The San Vincenzo pier: arches before the restoration.

Fig.10 - Naples. The restored arches of the long San Vincenzo pier.

Fig.10 - Naples. The restored arches of the long San Vincenzo pier.

21The length of this pier has also allowed for the creation of three streets: one on the east side towards Vesuvius, the second towards the Castle dell’Ovo and the Pizzofalcone hill on the west side, and the third, the new promenade over the series of arches, on which is found the restored 19th century Palazzina Meteo (in 2007) converted into the Port Museum, also connected to the town by boat (fig.11).

22All the streets run alongside the seafront up to the lighthouse and the San Gennaro Statue at the top (). This restoration work has been very relevant for Naples and especially for this historical part of the waterfront, such as the Royal Palace, the Piazza Plebiscito, The Molosiglio Gardens, Castelnuovo, Acton Dock etc.

23The height of the San Vincenzo Pier enabled the re-building, by anastilosi, of the Triumphal Arch around the San Gennaro historical statue naming it “The Urban Gate” from the sea (cf cover picture). The Naples port is an important lever in the city and Southern Italy’s economic and social progress. In recent years the objective of the project and the work in progress has been to allow the Neapolitan port to have influence and play an important role in the Mediterranean. The completed restoration and valorisation of the areas in the Maritime Station are a strong point and a further stimulus to revitalizing the historical port. The plan by the Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza connects the large square in front of the Maritime Station to the restored Municipio public square by new underground lines (n.1) and a complex public transport railway network system. The restoration of the historical area of the port will be a major advantage along with the delocalization of the state property today in the Acton Dock military citadel. The natural line of the water basin is perfect to accommodate high quality leisure activities, such as different water sports and sailing, the latter already having been started by The Brokerage Agency, for large sailing boats. Not only is development focussing on re-using historical buildings and turning them into hotels and museums, but it is also looking at a new collaboration between urban and port management. The first consideration being the decentralization of the Capitanerio di Porto and transforming the 18th century building, Immacolatella, into The Emigration Museum.Secondly, acquiring a lot of areas facing the sea that are currently not used or badly used, and transforming them into recreational areas for inhabitants, tourists and cruising passengers, and thirdly to use parts of the historical dockyard that run adjacent to Acton Street not only for the Brokerage Agency, but also as a scenic pedestrian walkway. In our opinion, the problems connected to the refurbishment of the city-port do not only consist of an increase in tourism and cruise traffic, but also in the transformation of the new infrastructure and activities into producing wealth for the town and its inhabitants. One possibility is the acquisition of the Naval base for public use to be positioned near the Molosiglio Gardens and to open these spaces to create sea views, which currently do not exist.

Conclusion

24The regeneration of the military zone should aim at improving the public infrastructure rather than building new hotels, thereby fulfilling the aspirations of the inhabitants and establishing a better quality of life by promoting relaxation and entertainment, where leisure time can be spent in maritime museums and aquariums, at boat shows and practising nautical sports. The existent historical military buildings should be used for both citizens and tourists alike.

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Bibliography

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List of illustrations

Title Fig.1 - Anonymous, View of Naples. The Tavola Strozzi, 1473
Credits Naples, San Martino Museum
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/2848/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 212k
Title Fig.2 – E. Duperac, A. Lafrery, The sea-front of Naples in the perspective map of the 1566
Credits Naples, San Martino Museum
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/2848/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 388k
Title Fig.3 - Naples. The restored wharehouses as maritime station along the new wharf Calata porta di Massa.
Credits © Coletta2008.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/2848/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 140k
Title Fig.4 - Naples. Subdivision of the today waterfront.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/2848/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 620k
Title Fig.5 - Naples. Acton docks from Acton street.
Credits © Coletta2008.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/2848/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 140k
Title Fig.6 - Palazzo reale.
Credits © Coletta2008.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/2848/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 100k
Title Fig.7 - Castel nuovo.
Credits © Coletta2008.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/2848/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 116k
Title Fig.9 - Naples. The San Vincenzo pier: arches before the restoration.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/2848/img-8.jpg
File image/jpeg, 124k
Title Fig.10 - Naples. The restored arches of the long San Vincenzo pier.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/2848/img-9.jpg
File image/jpeg, 111k
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References

Electronic reference

Teresa Colletta, « The Historical Naples’ Waterfront and the Reconversion of the Military Locations: The Acton Dock, the Bourbon Dockyard and the San Vincenzo Pier », Méditerranée [Online], 111 | 2008, Online since 01 June 2010, connection on 30 April 2017. URL : http://mediterranee.revues.org/2848 ; DOI : 10.4000/mediterranee.2848

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About the author

Teresa Colletta

Prof.arch., Expert member of ICOMOS-CIVVIH, Department of Conservation of Architectural and Environment Assets, University of Naples “Federico II” - Via Toledo 402, 80134 Naples

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Copyright

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