28 July 2023

New cultural hub and bike station opens in Bologna city centre

For a decade, ICLEI Member Bologna (Italy) has been on a mission to connect and integrate its cultural heritage assets with growing ambitions around sustainability. In a new strategic vision launched by the local administration, Bologna highlights a central and crucial role of the cultural sector in the achievement of climate targets and enhanced resilience. But the vision document also includes the concept of “cultural welfare,” which underscores the importance of gathering places and cultural activities across the city. These priorities, alongside Bologna’s involvement as one of the 112 Mission Cities in the EU Mission: Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities, have strengthened the role of sustainability in the city’s development strategy.

This has translated into flagship projects that integrate culture as a main driver for Bologna's sustainable regeneration on three different levels:

  • the re-use of abandoned buildings and urban areas;
  • the organisation of cultural activities with a low environmental impact and adherence to a 15-min city approach; and
  • the application of culture as a means for broadcasting sustainability messages.

All of these efforts can be seen through the lens of one exciting transformation: The renovation and regeneration of the spaces around Bologna's main train and bus station has kicked off this linkage between culture and sustainability. In 2015, a City Council grant dedicated to cultural and creative industries made room for experimentation with and temporary reuse of the space, making it a well-known hangout for bike lovers. Through the grant, members of the local association “Salvaciclisti,” made significant forward movement on planning out the space to be more comfortable and inviting. Temporary interventions enhanced bike parking, created a zone for rental and repair, as well as for hosting events.

These temporary placemaking activities paved the way for more permanent features: The space will include bicycle parking lots, bike rentals and maintenance alongside a creative hub of 1.300 square meters. There, locals will be able to access spaces for cultural programming, office areas and a small coffee shop, which will often play host to activities in the field of sustainability, circular economy, and urban regeneration through the arts. This major renovation of the building will re-open to a large community of families, students, creative workers and bicyclists within the year.

In making room for these sorts of placemaking efforts, Bologna recognises the need for spaces dedicated to cultural, creative and social activities, all while maintaining a focus on sustainability.