Florence's new airport terminal will have a rooftop vineyard

The architectural marvel of Florence's vineyard-adorned terminal


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Florence, a city revered for its contributions to art, architecture, and culture, is poised to blend its rich heritage with modern innovation in a manner that underscores the region's deep-rooted connection to viticulture. The Amerigo Vespucci Airport, named after the famous Florentine explorer, is embarking on an ambitious project that reimagines the functionality of airport spaces while honoring Tuscany's storied wine-making tradition. The addition of a vineyard atop the new international terminal stands as a testament to the innovative spirit that drives Italy into the future, without losing sight of its historical and cultural foundations.

The project, conceptualized by the renowned New York-based Rafael Viñoly Architects, introduces an almost-8-hectare vineyard on the roof of the airport's new terminal. This venture is not just an architectural marvel but a bold step towards integrating sustainable and traditional practices within contemporary structures. The terminal itself, sprawling over 50,000 square meters, will be a modern gateway to the city, connected seamlessly to the airport's existing structures via a light railway system.

The vineyard, with its 38 rows of vines, is an homage to the rich tapestry of Tuscan viticulture. While the specific varieties to be planted remain undecided, it is anticipated that traditional Tuscan grapes such as Sangiovese and Trebbiano Toscano will be selected, ensuring the wine produced is emblematic of the region's viticultural identity. The design of the vineyard incorporates linear structures of precast concrete for soil and irrigation support, elevated by a network of branching columns. This innovative design not only facilitates vine growth but also maintains the terminal's internal layout flexibility.

Illumination of the terminal below will be achieved through strategically placed skylights amidst the vines, ensuring that natural light enhances the ambiance within. The cultivation and harvesting of the vines will be overseen by one of the region's premier vintners, with the wine crafted and aged in specialized cellars located beneath the terminal's ascending roofline. This cellar, positioned at the point where the ground slopes upwards to meet the roof, promises an intriguing fusion of modern architectural design and traditional wine-making techniques.

The decision to cultivate a vineyard atop the airport terminal is a bold declaration of Florence's commitment to sustainability and cultural preservation. It represents a physical and symbolic elevation of viticulture, integrating it into the fabric of urban and architectural design. The project, expected to reach completion by 2035, has sparked discussions and debates regarding its feasibility and environmental implications. Critics, such as The Guardian's architecture correspondent Rowan Moore, have raised concerns about potential pollution impacts from jet fumes and the practicality of managing vineyard operations within the bustling environment of an international airport.

However, proponents argue that the presence of vineyards alongside busy roads and under flight paths elsewhere demonstrates the resilience of viticulture in the face of environmental challenges. Moreover, the strategic design of the vineyard and the cellaring facilities aims to mitigate potential conflicts between agricultural and airport operations, particularly during the critical harvest months of September and October.

This visionary project, viewed against the backdrop of Florence's historic skyline, signifies a bold leap towards a sustainable future, where tradition and innovation coalesce. The Amerigo Vespucci Airport's rooftop vineyard is not merely an architectural endeavor but a cultural statement, reflecting the enduring legacy and forward-looking aspirations of Tuscany and Italy at large.

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