The ‘People Mover’ transit system’s twin portals welcome travellers to Bologna, Italy

Set against the urban fabric and the surrounding countryside of Bologna, the mass rapid transit system creates an ‘ecological ribbon’ with a modern aesthetic for its tracks and terminals.

by STIRworldPublished on : Mar 25, 2021

The Marconi Express mass rapid transit system - dubbed the 'People Mover' - is a 5084m long above-ground monorail designed by Iosa Ghini Associati for the city of Bologna in Northern Italy. Conceived as a means of linking the Guglielmo Marconi Airport to the city centre and nearby Bologna Centrale railway station, the project aims to facilitate comfortable and convenient transit experiences for locals and tourists in the area, while also easing transfer between means of rail and air terminals. Operating in tandem with technological innovations in the field of automotive design and industrial design, the transport system's infrastructure is designed to connect with nearby urban areas expected to go through significant redevelopment, but also integrate into stretches of the rural countryside. 

  • The terminals blend into the surrounding urban fabric | Iosa Ghini Associati | Italy | STIRworld
    The terminals blend into the surrounding urban fabric Image: Nicola Schiaffino
  • Perforated steel envelopes the angular forms of the terminals |Iosa Ghini Associati|Italy| STIRworld
    Perforated steel envelopes the angular forms of the terminals Image: Nicola Schiaffino

In addition to the monorail, the People Mover development also comprises a bridge, two terminals (at the airport and train station), and an intermediate stop at Lazzaretto near a major vehicular crossing. The Lazzaretto stop also houses the system's depot, workshop, and a centralised control station. The terminals and route, designed with an eye for sustainability in a fluid, contemporary style, exude lightness, convey a sense of motion, and harmoniously blend with the vastly different contexts into which they settle. 

  • The line uses automated electric trains|Iosa Ghini Associati|Italy| STIRworld
    The line uses automated electric trains Image: Courtesy of Iosa Ghini Associati
  • The terminals are built with provisions to expand the monorail |Iosa Ghini Associati|Italy| STIRworld
    The terminals are built with provisions to expand the monorail Image: Courtesy of Iosa Ghini Associati

Taking inspiration from the organic profiles of Bologna's rolling plains as well as its rural architecture, the perforated steel envelope of the People Mover's stations possesses a translucency that affords viewers a peek at their support structures, composed of custom-made metal ribs. The gradients of the terminals' roofs are pitched towards the southwest to allow for the installation of photovoltaic panels, most notably at the Lazzaretto station. Current terminals have also been sized with provisions to double the line in the future.

  • The architecture exhibits lightness and conveys the idea of motion | Iosa Ghini Associati | Italy | STIRworld
    The architecture exhibits lightness and conveys the idea of motion Image: Nicola Schiaffino
  • Photovoltaic panels are installed on the line’s southwestern side|Iosa Ghini Associati|Italy| STIRworld
    Photovoltaic panels are installed on the line’s southwestern side Image: Nicola Schiaffino

The connecting track develops along a route with a walkway underneath, underscored and supported by a series of piers that mark a passage through the scenery between the train station and airport. Formalising in varying heights with uniform architectural sections up to seven metres, the supporting piers widen to integrate the walkway. Taller piers with heights that reach 25 metres utilise variable sections that bloom outward like slender tree trunks rooted firmly in the earth. 

  • The line blends into the surrounding countryside|Iosa Ghini Associati|Italy| STIRworld
    The line blends into the surrounding countryside Image: Francesco Bosi
  • Custom made metal ribs outline the terminal’s structure |Iosa Ghini Associati|Italy| STIRworld
    Custom made metal ribs outline the terminal’s structure Image: Nicola Schiaffino

Drawing from the forms of Bologna's prominent porticos, the line emulates the route connecting the city to the sanctuary of San Luca but modernises its aesthetics and structural concepts while honouring its traditional architecture. Staircases placed at regular intervals of 500m along the route's walkway serve as emergency evacuation routes to ensure passenger safety. 

The design follows a fluid contemporary aesthetic |Iosa Ghini Associati|Italy| STIRworld
The design follows a fluid contemporary aesthetic Image: Nicola Schiaffino

Manifesting as an opportunity to develop a holistic environmentally friendly 'belt', the system designed by Iosa Ghini Associati undertakes installation of photovoltaic panels on the southwestern side of the tracks as well, for maximised energy performance. Accordingly, glass-panelled balustrades on its northern side introduce transparency and lightness to the concrete and steel structures. This arrangement allows for the generation of 35 per cent of the system's operational energy, equivalent to a positive environmental impact stemming from 14,000 trees, making it ecologically friendly and sustainable. 

A 100 metre long bridge known as the 'Link' stretches over a major motorway, the city’s ring road, relying on natural, unembellished architectural forms marking the entrance to the city of Bologna, its design tackling a set of perceptual and technical requirements. Visually, the bridge is to act as an architectural reference point within the landscape to convey the notion of movement for travellers. 

Twin portals indicate the entrance to Bologna |Iosa Ghini Associati|Italy| STIRworld
Twin portals indicate the entrance to Bologna Image: Rhodri Jones

Since the bridge holds two beams to allow for the system's expansion in the future, an elegant technical solution for the height difference compared to the rest of the route was arrived at. For this purpose, the Italian firm designed two ‘portal’ like piers, whose fluid profiles conceal the height difference at the link between the double-track bridge and monorail. Furthermore, the line has been given a distinctive visual identity, evident from a distance, indicating one's arrival in Bologna, similar to the city gates near its medieval centre. The People Mover succeeds in creating an 'ecological ribbon' that weaves its way towards the heart of Bologna, paying homage to its vibrant traditional architecture. 

Project Details

Name: People Mover
Location: Bologna, Italy
Architect: Iosa Ghini Associati
General Project Coordination: MATE Soc.Coop.va-STS SpA
Station Structures And Viaduct Understructures: Studio Bruni- Gandolfi
Metal Structures: Studio Matildi + Partners
Transport: Intamin E Inautec
Traffic Study: Steer
General Contractor: Consorzio INTEGRA
Execution: People Mover Bologna S.C.A.R.L. with Coops: Cmsa, Clea, Tm, Unifica
Metal Works Execution: Lmv

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