Like most airports around the world, the Reggio Emilia Airport outside of Bologna, Italy, has a huge footprint, measuring hundreds of acres. Much of that land is an unused buffer zone—space between and around runways whose main purpose is to simply stand in between planes and people. But through a creative reuse project, that buffer zone is no longer sitting idle. About 50 acres of the airport’s land is now home to a massive outdoor concert arena.

RCF Arena is the largest open-air concert venue in Europe. It’s able to accommodate more than 100,000 people during summertime concerts. (Pop star Harry Styles is on the schedule for next summer.) It’s also a model for how other airports can creatively rethink the vast acreage on which they sit.

Designed by Reggio Emilia-based Iotti + Pavarani Architects, with Tassoni & Partners and Studio LSA, the project is a large-scale adaptive reuse of land that often goes ignored. With all their security and safety concerns, as well as the howl of airplanes taking off and landing, airports are not the most hospitable sites for people. But during off-hours, these spaces may not be so unpleasant. Some people may actually find themselves drawn to taking a behind-the-gates look at a place that’s usually off-limits.

Parks made from decommissioned airports, like Berlin’s Tempelhofer Feld, or hotels in active airports, like New York’s TWA Hotel, suggest that the airport landscape is one people don’t automatically want to avoid. And for massive international airports—John F. Kennedy International covers nearly 5,000 acres—peripheral space is abundant.

Architect Paolo Iotti explains via email that this project shows how underused spaces can be reimagined. “Airports, like other large infrastructures or urban voids, often entail the availability of extremely large spaces, proximity to road infrastructure, distance from population centers, a hybrid and surreal character of uninhabited space but ready to come alive at events,” he says.

The 50-acre space at Reggio Emilia Airport had occasionally been used for after-hours events like political rallies and concerts, but it was mostly an open expanse of asphalt. The new design formalizes and humanizes the experience, with clear walkways, mounded grass areas, and hardscaped spaces for vendors.

Asphalt roads were removed and processed for reuse on the site, and soil excavated below the stage and backstage area was used to help build up the artificial hill that surrounds the arena. Outside the arena gates, part of this former buffer zone is now a public park connecting to a network of open spaces and nature parks on the fringe of the airport.

As a regional site, Reggio Emilia sees much less air traffic than a larger hub or international airport. Because planes aren’t landing late into the evening, there’s no concern about the noise of jets interrupting performances. And the fact that the arena is located at an airport means it’s particularly transit accessible. The site has close connections to both local and regional trains and buses as well as highways. When spectators arrive, they travel along a former roadway that’s been converted into a pedestrian boulevard marked with a rainbow of colored lines leading into each seating zone.

The arena is ringed by what architect Guido Tassoni calls a light, permeable crown of thousands of fabric flags. “They generate an inclusive and recognizable atmosphere that is at the same time extremely dynamic, sensitive to wind currents, and in ideal resonance with the movement of the audience and the music,” he says. For a piece of land more typically abandoned over to asphalt and the logistics of air travel, it’s a humanizing design alternative that other airports have ample space to try.

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This small airport in Italy is now a major concert venue

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24.10.2022

Like most airports around the world, the Reggio Emilia Airport outside of Bologna, Italy, has a huge footprint, measuring hundreds of acres. Much of that land is an unused buffer zone—space between and around runways whose main purpose is to simply stand in between planes and people. But through a creative reuse project, that buffer zone is no longer sitting idle. About 50 acres of the airport’s land is now home to a massive outdoor concert arena.

RCF Arena is the largest open-air concert venue in Europe. It’s able to accommodate more than 100,000 people during summertime concerts. (Pop star Harry Styles is on the schedule for next summer.) It’s also a model for how other airports can creatively rethink the vast acreage on which they sit.

Designed by Reggio Emilia-based Iotti Pavarani Architects, with Tassoni & Partners and Studio LSA, the project is a large-scale adaptive reuse of land that often goes ignored.........

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