Modern and inclusive, romantic and traditional
With 2 million plus inhabitants in the metropolitan area, Turin is one of Italy’s long-standing urban landmarks. Modern, inclusive and open, it has always been synonymous with productivity, especially but not exclusively because the FIAT automobile company was born and developed here, becoming a prime mover in the city’s physical and cultural development. In fact, over and above its close historical ties with its surrounding area, Turin was for years the symbol of the industrious city, taking in thousands of immigrants from all over Italy, providing them with work and especially with housing. Like Dubai, the city examined in the previous issue, we look at Turin with the aid of six maps. As well as the population density map, a new worker distribution map has now been added, an important feature in cities structured around industrial activities. Comparison of these two maps with the other four - showing the natural gradients, service provision, public transport and natural vegetation - gives a clear picture of Turin and how it functions. The population map shows how the river Po and the hills to the east form a natural boundary. As a result, the city has expanded in hub-and-spoke fashion towards the north, south and west, in this latter direction along the slopes and valleys leading into the Alps. Immediately apparent is Corso Francia, an 11.5 km axis built in 1711 to connect the royal Rivoli castle with Piazza Statuto in the heart of the city. This avenue is the only exception to a prevalently orthogonal city layout that follows the course of the Po. Also evidenced by the population map is how the residential areas are largely contained between the outer ring road and the river. Lastly, the historic city center is characterized - like many other mature western cities - by low population density. The worker density map, in contrast, shows highest concentrations in the downtown area, highlighting the tertiary nature of the city center. Other worker concentrations are seen in the outlying districts where industrial companies are located. The map of the natural contours shows the city to be enclosed by a chain of hills to the east and the Alpine system to the west that comes right up to the city. Over the years the city has encroached onto these gentle slopes. In contrast, the hills across the Po to the east form a clear-cut barrier to urban expansion. As well as the Po, Turin is crossed by other watercourses: the Stura di Lanza to the north, the Dora passing through the center and, more to the south, the river Sangone. The service density map shows most amenities to be concentrated in the city center. The public transport map shows high-density service provision inside the ring-road. Of particular note is the extensive tramway network that links in with the underground/subway system serving the whole city. The public transport system is further strengthened by rail interchange nodes within the metropolitan area. One problem might be the location of the high-speed railway stations in the urban fabric. High-speed trains have nonetheless made the journey between Milan and Turin extremely quick and efficient, enhancing in-out mobility and triggering new urban regeneration processes. The vegetation map evidences first and foremost the extensively wooded hills to the east of the city. To the south, we see the enormous stretch of the Stupinigi park. In addition, as is often the case in mainly grid-shape cities, natural greenery and parks are also very prevalent despite high building densities. Turin today is increasingly recognized internationally especially thanks to the growing importance of its artistic and cultural activities, driven by a far-sighted public policy to enhance the city’s museums and cultural offering. This vibrant internationalism contrasts with the city’s somewhat melancholic romantic feel, a characteristic born of a strong attachment to its history and traditions - a contrast that is, however, energizing and constructive.