We spoke with Luca Ballarini and Romina Pastorelli from Torino Stratosferica to find out about their Precollinear Park project, and the new age of urban reclaim in the city of Turin.
The Precollinear Park can be found on a 700-metre section of disused tram line, atop a bridge that lies over Turin’s largest river, the River Po. The park was made possible thanks to a series of unfortunate planning mishaps, which left the tramline unusable, and — in no small part — thanks to city imaging project Torino Stratosferica. Torino Stratosferica envisioned a way to bring the disused track back to life, as part of their project to realise a lively and vibrant future for the city of Turin.
The City of Turin has a long and colourful history; throughout the years it has fallen in and out of influence over and over. The city’s claims to fame include: being the very first Italian capital in 1861; the birthplace of Fiat and the capital of Italy’s automotive industry throughout its industrial period; hosting the winter Olympics in 2006; and famous for its contemporary art scene, scenic castles and baroque architecture. Romina talks of Turin in the 90s as a vibrant city, with an abundance of culture and a lively music scene. A city where everyone would mix and mingle by the waterside in the early hours, after a night on the town. However, in the post-financial crisis era, Turin has suffered, lost much of its influence and fallen somewhat off the radar amongst Italians and the rest of Europe. Luca told us that Torino Stratosferica started as a counter-movement against the prevailing narrative that this great Italian city was in decline.
Luca and Romina noted that it has certainly not been easy to talk about Turin’s potentiality when all the mainstream narratives are telling quite a different story. But at least by swimming against the current, Torino Stratosferica is able to stand out amongst all the noise — perhaps people are compelled to listen when you have something counterintuitive or contradictory to say. Luca said, “it has given us some kind of specific positioning in terms of being the ones who are always trying to push forward despite everything.” Torino Stratosferica offers an alternative — an ambitious and optimistic narrative — but a narrative, they emphasise, that is also very reasonable.
Luca and Romina told us that tackling the dominant narratives of decline begins with rethinking and reimagining the aims and purposes of space within the city. How can they use the existing spatial assets of the city to create better places for Turin’s people? Torino Stratosferica seeks to leverage and glue together all of the potentialities that they see in the city: the people, the places, the culture and the arts. They are striving to build relationships with the makers, doers and creative go-getters of the city — those who are not afraid to dream up solutions to Turin’s problems and envision an ideal future for their city. Torino Stratosferica has many ideas for the future of Turin, but they really wanted to get started with concrete initiatives in the city: to create something that had a real positive impact on Turin’s people.
The idea for Precollinear Park arose from a session that was held with active residents and creative industry professionals. The discussion consisted of a collective brainstorming session in which ideas for revitalising the city were discussed. “The idea of the brief was: let’s think about something that can be turned into something more meaningful without spending a large amount of money,” Luca told us that the Precolinnear Park plan was selected as it could be put into action most quickly and easily. “And so we looked each other in the eyes and said, ‘okay, let’s try and do this’, and that’s how it came to life.” The park opened in June 2020. Obtaining the right to develop this linear park was not a straightforward process. When proposing the project to the local authority, Luca said it was important not to ask for any help with the project and “not a single €”. They financed the initiative themselves through crowdfunding.
It wasn’t hard to get the local people involved and using the park — it is in a highly visible location and you can’t drive or walk by without noticing it. There are now 60 volunteers helping with the functioning and upkeep of the park. Precollinear Park also came at a welcome time. Officially parks were closed during the lockdown period in Italy, but as the reclaimed tramway did not count formally as a park, it was open for a well-needed green stroll. Last summer Precollinear Park hosted book presentations, yoga classes and strolls through the park with writers and thinkers. This Spring, after restrictions are lifted, the Precollinear Park team hopes to continue these activities, as well as becoming an outdoor classroom for local school children.
“Precollinear Park is a great experiment that shows what we can achieve, even in times of crisis“Romina Pastorelli, Torino Stratosferica
Being a post-industrial city, Turin is not new to urban reclaim. Many of the city’s industrial leftovers have been repurposed to host new fits and functions. But in the past few years — since the 2008 economic crisis — redevelopment has stagnated. Luca and Romina hope that this will be the start of a positive domino effect in the city of Turin. “Precollinear Park is the start of a new age of reclaim in the city.”