“International competition to save Genoa Power Station”

Genova - The Futur-E project is an initiative that began two years ago,and involves the 23 ENEL plants across Italy that are no longer operational. The goal is to re-appropriate these facilities: there is no particular restriction on the final use, but rather criteria to be followed

di Alberto Quarati

Genova - The Futur-E project is an initiative that began two years ago, and involves the 23 ENEL plants across Italy that are no longer operational. The goal is to re-appropriate these facilities: there is no particular restriction on the final use, but rather criteria to be followed, the most important of which are the economic and social sustainability of the projects (which means it must generate revenue and jobs), besides respect for the principles of the circular economy (the plants’ facilities must be preserved and exploited for new purposes, in synergy with the context that surrounds them).


ENEL holds meetings in the territories around the plants to listen to people’s needs, then researches possible investors, and exchanges information with the local communities to build the project in collaboration with them. On paper, the ENEL coal plant in the port of Genoa is part of the Futur-E project: the plant, which opened in 1929, hasn’t been active since March 2017.

As President Sara De Maestri announced to Il Secolo XIX earlier this month, on 30 September, Italia Nostra and the Italian Association for the Heritage of Industrial Architecture (AIPAI) submitted a request for a lien on the building, to protect not only the original building, but also the machinery stored therein. So, up until now there has been a possible plan and a possible use but the final solution of the matter is more complex than that: “The facility and the area where it is located do not in fact belong to ENEL,” explains Davide Olivieri, who is a professor of design at the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Seville. Like De Maestri, who is an instructor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Genoa’s Ateneo, Olivieri has also been working on the theme of the power plant in the context of an international research project conducted by the architecture schools of Genoa and Seville, led by professors Carmen Andriani and Antonio Tejedor Cabrera. “The land belongs to the Port System Authority, to which ENEL must currently restore the reclaimed facility, i.e. stripped of all its installations, starting in 2020.”

As a consequence, it will not be ENEL that will decide the future of the plant, but rather the entity that governs the port. However, the facility is located in a state-owned concession inside Genoa’s Bacino della Lanterna, where the post-Terzo Valico industrial interests of the port of Genoa will converge: the alliance between the entrepreneur Aldo Spinelli and the second largest shipowner in the world in the container sector, Gianluigi Aponte, aims to build a new port terminal around the plant, which will be inserted between another terminal that is under construction (the Calata Bettolo terminal, in which Aponte is the majority shareholder, to the East) and the already existing one owned by Spinelli (the Genoa Port Terminal, to the west).

And that’s not all, Superba, a company in the Ravenna-based PIR Group, is asking for its own space on the ENEL land to transfer the chemical storage facilities that are currently in Multedo, because that is the farthest point in the port from residential areas.

The City and the Region are looking for an alternative solution (otherwise the company could close after waiting for 30 years) but as of now, progress has ground to a halt. Studies have shown that the power plant, stripped of its external superstructures (the red and white filters on the roof, the bands around the building) preserves a vast heritage of industrial archaeology, and its renovation could imitate similar projects that have succeeded elsewhere in Europe: the Tate Modern and Battersea Power Station in London, the large public space at the Meiderich Ironworks in Duisburg, plus the previously cited Meomartini power plants in Rome and Lisbon. Less involved solutions could also be found: for the Alessandria turbo gas plant, Futur-E has selected the development of a park focused on extreme sports. But in 2020, the ENEL power plant in Genoa will return to the ownership of the Port Authority, which has the task of granting it as a concession for new industrial purposes.

If no lien is put on it, the building can be demolished: “It would be a pity,” Olivieri says, “ Especially having the possibility of making the most of the Futur-E project, and with the opportunity given by the plant’s proximity to Genoa’s symbolic monument, the Lanterna, which was recently made accessible to visitors and is now complimented by a museum is. My suggestion would be to hold an ideas competition on the future of the power plant. Of course, everything is in the Port Authority’s hands.” What would the purpose of that be? The city is full of large unused spaces, we must not forget that on the sea front alone there is the Nouvel building at the Fiera and the Hennebique building which have got bogged down in a bureaucratic quagmire: “An international ideas competition would serve precisely this purpose: to start selecting the best ideas, which the Port Authority could then bring to ENEL’s attention. But any plan to reorganise the facility should be in the hands of the Port Authority, as the plant’s owner. An industrial museum (editor’s note: as suggested by the Ansaldo Foundation) is certainly one idea, but it is my opinion that it should not be the only one: an ideas competition would really help to find the best solutions for these areas”.