The Campo Boario complex is located in the Testaccio area close to the Aurelian walls between Monte dei Cocci (known as Mons Testaceum in antiquity), and the Tiber. It includes a food processing industrial facility that was built in just three years between 1888 and 1891, designed by Joachim Ersoch, architect emeritus of the City of Rome and former student of Valadier.
The facility takes up a total area of 105,000 square meters, of which 43,000 are covered. The complex reflects the transition from classical to modern style, and is characterized by large pavilions and light shelters, which feature traditional brick curtains, travertine elements and stucco details, as well as innovative structures in steel and cast iron – in a refined balance between monumentality and industrial rationality.
Thanks to its modern organization and smart architectural solutions, for many years it was the most advanced food processing facility in Europe. After its activities stopped in 1975, in 1988 Rome’s Superintendence for Architectural Heritage took over its protection. In the series of studies, projects and more or less successful recovery efforts that followed, the complex has been used in various ways: as the location of municipal facilities and offices, as storage of archaeological finds and monuments, as a venue for exhibitions, festivals and concerts. Finally, it is now a cultural outpost for the architects of Roma Tre University and the MACRO.
Restoration and new signs
The project experiments with the extreme modification of existing assets, summarizing all the possible innovation in relation to the historical context and to the specificity of the site and artifacts. With an organic and fair trade market, ethical finance banks, responsible tourism and open communication services, a documentation center and an organic food bar and restaurant, the project created an entirely new space.
Ersoch’s long portico on cast iron columns, the 1920s projecting roofs, the interstitial space and the adjacent Weight Station Building have become the target and material of the renovation design. The solution to the challenge of over 3,000 square meters of specialized-but-flexible room was covering the gap between the portico and the projecting roofs with a new steel structure that turns the latter, and the preexisting voids into an original covered area, bound by a predominantly glass perimeter.
While over 200-meters-long, the new shell is divided into various “modules”, thus alternating open, covered and enclosed spaces, to highlight the original parts of the complex and those where new signs and elements have been added. The project involved the restoration of the Weight Station Building and adjacent portico, with a new access from the Tiber waterfront. The steel and cast iron structures of the portico and shelters were rehabilitated by replacing the degraded beams and iron elements with new parts of the same shape and size. For cast iron, the British Metalock patent was used for metal stitching and to strengthen the most deteriorated portions. The foundations were consolidated, nails were tested, all bolts were replaced and a number of measures were taken to improve the seismic performance of the old structures. The roof tiles that were missing or had been placed during previous maintenance efforts were replaced with new elements that look identical to the original ones.
The new structure that covers the gap between the old roofs was designed to be earthquake-proof; it is entirely made of pre-fabricated steel, and was partially assembled right in the workshop for ease of installation in relation to existing structures. The new structures are statically independent of the old ones, and are technically reversible.
Campo Boario Today
The City of Alternative Economics in Testaccio, at Campo Boario.
The City of Alternative Economics (“Città dell’Altra Economia”) is at the heart of Rome, in the renovated spaces of Testaccio’s Campo Boario, and offers 3,500 square meters for exhibitions, trade, events and meetings to promote alternative market economy: organic and social agriculture, fair trade, renewable energies and green building, reuse and recycling, sustainable mobility – but also a library and a game room, an organic bar and restaurant.
A place to promote civic awareness.
The City of Alternative Economics is one of the first areas in Europe to be entirely dedicated to business practices characterized by the use of low-environmental-impact processes and fair distribution of wealth, companies that do not pursue profit and growth at all costs, and give “people” and “planet” the priority over “profit”. The City was founded as a place to promote all of Rome’s alternative businesses by offering them exhibition spaces, meeting places, training, research and development.
Product showcase and sale.
The City is divided into spaces dedicated to the exhibition and sale of products that are organic, fair trade, and made with recycled or reused materials. Information and services regarding renewable energy and green building are available on site directly from people who work in the field. There are a restaurant and a bar offering food and drinks made with organic farming and fair trade products. Finally, there is a library dedicated to children and their parents.
Dissemination of culture and knowledge sharing.
The City offers spaces for conferences, seminars and training courses. The large square is used for fairs, markets, shows and exhibitions.
Participatory design and management.
The management of the City of Alternative Economics Consortium is inclusive and open. A Steering Committee made up of a wide network of partners provides guidance for the management and is involved in activity planning.
Industrial archeology and bio-architecture.
The headquarters of the City of Alternative Economics is located within a 3,500-square-meter complex, recovered from the Weight Station Building and the projecting roofs and portico of Campo Boario. The conservation efforts, in line with the ethical goals of the City of Alternative Economics, were implemented according to the principles of bio-architecture and with innovative solutions that are respectful of the historical context. The project is part of a wider rehabilitation of the industrial facility for food processing that was shut down in the 1970s and will be transformed in a City of Arts.