Fleeting Moments in Time

Mobility on sea fronts

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Claude Monet is considered a master painter of water landscapes and ports whose scenic atmospheres are capable of reflecting their fleeting moments in time.

In Impression, Sunrise, a work of art painted approximately in 1872, we can see the port of Le Havre, the city where Monet lived for most of his life, behind the mists covering the sunrise. A scene where the shapes of the port disappear almost entirely and the colors of the sky and sea reflections explain the place from the perspective of Impressionist aesthetics.

This reference to Monet suggests the idea that every journey along a maritime border is an inspirational experience, where the traces of different times, changing activities, various movements, and diverse experiences occur and remain there, promoting other modes of contemplation and, as such, of interpretation.

Throughout history, and beyond its transcendence, the territories with maritime fronts developed port areas in limited spaces, creating the foundational site of the city as the start of successive transformations over time, from a space of arrival for conquests to prosperous commercial areas, to a great royal arsenal, to the spectacular growth in maritime transport from the 18th century onwards.

Maritime front and port of Naples, Italy.
Port of Naples, Italy. Photo © Rinio Bruttomesso

Today, because of their receptiveness to innovative continental and global dynamics ports are being redefined in their own territories. At the same time, they’re expanding their influence of urban centrality by adding places for culture, housing, business, or tourism and fundamentally being home to qualified public spaces that form part of them, favoring the use, mobility, and appreciation of the citizens.

They might expand or move from the city towards new logistical spaces, relocating large tonnage or industrial activities towards larger areas, allowing the integration of various functions and technologies or creating an extended system between various ports, generating sustainable metropolises based on a seafront planned as a tool for unlimited programming.

For this reason, mobility in the city/sea interface areas should not only be understood by the movements occurring on a road system but by the inevitable walking within a scenic route, with different, vital, and changing landscapes throughout history.

A unique and continuous space capable of adding what is different. Its natural features, provided by the proximity of the sea, unifies this territory of mobility, which needs to be preserved and whose attractiveness and functional diversity must be enhanced.

Area near the port of Cadiz (Spain).
Area near the port of Cádiz, Spain. Photo © Rinio Bruttomesso

It must always be understood as a space of complex beauty, observed from the movement of large-scale commercial water and land transport or cruise ships, or through the flow of citizens in family vehicles, bicycles, skateboards and pedestrians.

They’re not urban parks but dynamic, extensive, and intense places, bound together and influenced by intermodality, large-scale infrastructures, and new information technologies.

And it’s in this context that another mobile value is integrated into this sum of connections, the urban networks and their nodes of local relations and international insertion, all of which contribute to the multidynamic global system in terms of the quality and quantity of links and nodes that interconnect cities.

Thus, the maritime network that links ports has also been progressively transformed into an operational metasystem of commercial and financial nodes, with geopolitical intervention and participation as well as influence on scientific, technical, climatic  and environmental knowledge. They’re integrated with cultural hubs, generating altogether offers of high-tech services related to the interchange of knowledge.

Port of Sydney (Australia).
Port of Sydney, Australia. Photo © Rinio Bruttomesso

A true revolution with respect to the concept of centrality that expands the routes from the real to the virtual field, a space of intelligence sown with data that brings a new reference and existence to the maritime city according to the particular quality of the multiple mobility flows that occur in an assembled manner between the citizen corridors of various types and dynamics, the size of the port headquarters and the urban interface created on a local and global level.

In this way, the linearity of the natural and artificial landscape of the maritime edge converges with the port centrality, establishing an intense relationship with its externalities in an increasingly strategic way, understanding the articulation of the territory based on an overlapping order of places and flows.

Even so, as in Monet’s paintings, fleeting moments in time must never be left out, since the maritime landscape is a space of magnetic contemplation, where even the most vertiginous movement will provide the time to stop and observe the colors of the reflections of the sea and the sky.

Main image: Maritime front of the city of Ushuaia, Province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and South Atlantic Islands, Argentina. Photo © Rinio Bruttomesso

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