Canadian architectural firm Ja Studio submitted a fascinating proposal to the Solar Park South International Competition in Calabria, Italy. The intention of the contest was to re-use the decommissioned highway between Salerno and Reggio Calabria. Ja Studio’s proposal seems to have been inspired by the famous Ponte Vecchio in Florence as an inhabitable bridge. While the famous bridge is home for few families, this new proposal takes the concept to a larger level. The idea was to create a suspended informal city in relationship with the highway and the landscape. It is comprised of a series of random volumes that self-organize to create a large urban network of well defined private and communal areas.

Ja Studio’s Statement:

Modern infrastructures are extra large. They facilitate the connection between major urban nodes and allow cities to expand. They are designed to maintain the large and their existence signals the dissolution of the small. They cross the deep valleys, bypass the difficult roads and shortcut the peaks; thus dissolve the small, distant and hard to reach nodes and communities.

The project emerges at the critical time when the demise of one of these giants appears on the horizon. A highway is about to be decommissioned as a new highway would create an even faster connection in its place. Our proposal is a gentle ramping platform that connects the top of the by-passing highway to the bottom of the valley. This connecting platform through time would allow a new form of life to appear. The mono-functional body that once cast shadow on its immediate surroundings would start to get populated with life and through time would turn into a unique mix of habitat and infrastructure. The gradual re-appearance of the small would both safeguard the extra-large and also introduces new possibilities for the co-existence of the two.

The proposal is not a solar park that generates energy for another fast method of commute, It is an eco-park, but not because it generates more energy, because it questions the very idea of fast by-passing connections. The proposal is fundamentally skeptical about clean, fast and advance engineering solutions and it stakes out its territory on the very spot of one of these failed engineering solutions. The proposed project does not compromise the slow to the fast or the fast to the very fast, it is not about compromise. It is a project that embraces life with all its weight, dirt and inefficacies.

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