With so much conflict erupting around us, it’s hard to imagine a peaceful future, but Erdem Architects does a good job of it. The Turkish firm recently won an international design competition with their proposal to turn an area of the Italian city La Spezia, historically used to host the city’s war arsenal, into a series of serene peace islands.
The La Spezia Arsenale 2062 competition was open to architects and designers around the world; they were asked to conceive a more peaceful reality for the host of destructive weapons and reintegrate the area to become a vibrant part of the city. La Spezia lies between Genoa and Pisa in the north.
Günay Erdem and Sunay Erdem took an unusual approach to their design – starting with playful hand drawn renders (versus computer-generated images.) These, which I love for being so human and natural, unsurprisingly have a softening affect on the master plan for the three peace islands.
Like water colors, the diagrams clearly outline the duo’s sweet vision for La Spezia, the diagrams evoke a sense of peacefulness – which is exactly what the brief called for. They trust that the locals will evolve away from the spirit of war and combat, the very antithesis of peace, in search of something more gentle.
Each of their islands has a different theme. Peace Island #1 is a place for socializing – an airy, pedestrian-friendly space for indoor and outdoor eats – that will resonate with vestiges of cultural and historical heritage – without the arsenal part! This is 2062 – remember? Anything is possible.
And perhaps that is what I like most about this design – the sense that anything is possible. My least favorite part is the second island, which is supposed to be for a zoo.
This is an honest thing that probably wouldn’t even transpire. There won’t be enough animals alive to go in zoos by 2062, unless – tragically – we won’t find them anywhere else thanks to climate change and rampant habitat destruction (I shudder at the thought.)
Here’s the important thing: the sentiment is there – the idea that animals are peace-loving and therefore being around them makes our life better comes with good intentions, but in my opinion, as an environmentalist and supporter of wild rights for all creatures, the zoo is not a great idea.
Peace Island #3, on the other hand, is going to be spectacular if this plan comes to pass! This is where a smorgasbord of flowers and other plants will be raised to create a densely vegetated, beautiful space in the heart of the city.
“The arsenal harbor gets a new lease of life after being transformed into three peace islands: The first island is a place of agoras, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, pubs and bookstores where people socialize, not make war,” “Günay Erdem tells World Architecture.
“The second island is a zoo island with animals representing peace. And the third island is a place where plants, the most representative of a peaceful life, grow.”
While other projects captured this essence as well, the judges favored Erdem’s design for its “compliance to program, original details and design creativity, long view and possibilities on the gulf landscape development, composition and look.”