Designing systems: The Motorway of Art


An example of a system is the “Motorway of Art. A museum 100 kilometres along”.
This a project produced by the Department of Design Culture at the Second University of Naples [9] on behalf of the Board for the Architectural Heritage of Salerno. It could be called a territorial marketing project for the A3, an Italian motorway, well-known all over Europe for the problems it has had since its beginning in the 1960s. Its layout, extremely tortuous in the Calabrian part, was designed by the Ministers and MPs of the time, which entailed very high costs due to the presence of several structurally complex viaducts. For several years, this important infrastructure of Southern Italy has been undergoing major works to be brought up to European standards, with motorists – and the tourists who want to reach seaside resorts in the summer – being stuck in endless queues. These works are about to be completed. However, some still believe that this motorway will remain an inter-regional infrastructure to link the regions and towns it runs through, rather than provide a fast connection between the North and South of Italy.

The crucial point along this motorway, the place where to start to put in place a major project, is Padula, with its Charter House (one of the most important in Europe) – with its perfect conditions, its recently-acquired ability to attract international art and culture experts and quality tourism. For several years, the Soprintendenza has been promoting Contemporary Art (Exhibitions and Days) and Landscape Architecture (Hortus Artis) events curated by the art critic Achille Bonito Oliva. In these events, artists and architects have tried to give a new meaning to the monks’ homes and gardens, turning the Padula Charterhouse into a Contemporary Art Centre. However, Padula, which is very far from the main city – Salerno, is not important enough to survive over time and become a real tourist attractor, due to it not having a living soul. At the same time, the areas through which the motorway runs cannot benefit from this prestigious presence. The idea, therefore, is to re-think this infrastructure as a motorway of art: a 100km long museum, a prestigious tourist itinerary to rediscover historical places and cultures, art, landscape, food and wine and handicraft, exploiting the benefits produced by these Contemporary Art events in the tourist-cultural sector. The project may also support any future contemporary art events at the Charter House, which will gradually lose its isolated nature of “cathedral in the desert”.

The project has involved 12 exits along the A3, and has also filed the small villages which can be reached from those exits for a total of 26 municipalities. The Petina exit has been selected because of the former Sant’Onofrio Convent, a standard-type container which is particularly suitable to house temporary exhibitions, with a bookshop and a design café. The product, which at the moment is only a ruin, is located in the area of Petina, two kilometres from the exit, but away from the town, which is further up. The ex-convent has become the subject of an exhibition design project to serve as a sort of “demo” version, or prototype, to re-propose other historical containers along the motorway within 5 kilometres of any of the 12 exits considered.
In addition, imagining the motorway of art as a company, whose legal nature will be determined in due time, a Corporate Identity project has been set up including signs, posters, banners, stationery and museum merchandising products which will reinforce the idea of a single system and increase its visibility. A Communication project along the motorway and the Municipalities that are part of the “System” (not only those located nearest to the exits) with the setting up of information totems in museums (one has already been designed), public buildings, refreshment stands and restaurants, info points, stores and productive companies characterising the various places, etc.

To give significance to the project, I am continuing to explore the specific issues relating to the various motorway exits. In particular, until now, there have been two theses in Interior Architecture which have dealt with a very interesting aspect: the recovery of a number of farms, located at the exit of Battipaglia, understood as a subsystem of the so-called “Highway of Art”. They are very unique farms, from the point of view of architecture and construction, which are almost all in ruins. Their decline, of course, began with the decline of the agricultural economy, in part also caused by the creation of the motorway itself. How can these farms be recovered? What direction should be taken? How can this project to recover the farms be linked to a more general “Highway of Art” project? The Battipaglia exit is of great tourist value, especially for anyone coming from Central and Northern Italy and going to the seaside resorts of the Calabrian coast or further south, to Sicily. It may therefore be a viable alternative to the nearby motorway service station in Pontecagnano, offering more services, including the “non-global” restaurant, as well as a place to stop to rest as well as stop over-night. It is for this reason that we have thought of a real “community of farms” with multiple functions that can represent one of the major nodes of the “Highway of Art”. Tourists, for example, can visit the “museum of the motorway”, tasting wines and local products, listening to the “audiobooks”, borrow the books, as you do with cars or bikes rented in many European cities, returning them to other centres of the “Highway of Art”.

At the same time, the Battipaglia exit is strategic because it leads to the prestigious archaeological site of Paestum and, further on, the seaside resorts of the Cileto, almost all awarded the “blue flag””. For this reason, the subsystem of the farms, thanks to its geographical location and its architectural features, may attract Italian and foreign investors working in the food industry (think, for example, the activities promoted by Carlo Petrini Slow Food), or publishing, such as Feltrinelli. At the same time, it becomes of strategic interest for those who want to promote the productive activities of the dairy and agricultural sectors, with there being businesses many along the road that leads to Battipaglia, Paestum and the Cilento. All the resorts located at the A3 Motorway exits, from Salerno to Padula, have their own specific characteristic building, and through the reuse of this historic patrimony, currently disused, create parts of a great museum spread over one hundred kilometres. A museum that, like its contemporaries, is constituted not only by exhibition rooms, but also spaces for the so-called additional services.

It is clear then that the presence of a motorway, even when it is a poor infrastructure such as the A3, may be an indispensable factor for the creation of the system – in this case, the museum – which by its very survival. In fact, the entire structure of a motorway and state provincial, municipal roads, becomes the circulatory system. In other thesis, it is not a motorway, the backbone of the system, but a railway line that is underutilized or completely abandoned. In particular, the thesis by Gaetano Auricchio, “Live Platform”, the stretch of the railway line between the towns of Nocera Inferiore and Mercato San Severino, due to the freight and passenger traffic has declined over the years reduced to a few hours within a week, brings out an area that can easily be destined to a rural park in the service of the people who gravitate around the stations involved in the project. In the thesis (in preparation) by Fabio Carbone, more specifically related to the issues of business museology [8], “Irpino Wine System Museum” will have in the future the company museum of Feudi di San Gregorio as its main driver.

In this case, the railway line Avellino-Rocchetta Sant’Antonio, now abandoned, is the necessary factor that can encourage the emergence of the system with 28 stations, linking a selected number of wineries in Irpinia, according to a sustainable model. With a section in Avellino of the Department of Agriculture of the University of Naples “Federico II”, where there is a degree course in Enology and Viticulture, the business system of some of the best producers of wine from Campania can be treated as a Smart Community, crossing university education, tourism, gastronomy and production activities. A renewed railway line, in fact, in addition to returning an important service to the inhabitants of the area, can be an effective non-polluting infrastructure within the system.


GAMBARDELLA C, SIEGEMUND J (2013). Smart communities and local company museums: two new concepts for the Mediterranean Museum System of Design and Applied Arts. In: HERITAGE ARCHITECTURE LANDESIGN focus on CONSERVATION REGENERATION INNOVATION Le vie dei Mercanti _ XI Forum Internazionale di Studi. p. 988-998, Napoli:La scuola di Pitagora editrice, ISBN: 978-88-6542-290-8, Aversa – Capri, 13/15 Giugno).