Turin debuted its first-ever linear park in June 2020, but it wasn’t expected to stay open long. A 700 meter (2,300 foot) stretch of former tramway handed over by the city to cultural association Torino Stratosferica for temporary conversion, the green strip straddling a bridge on the River Po in Italy’s fourth-largest city was approved as public space for just a few summer months, to give pandemic-beleaguered residents a bit of extra space for outdoor, socially distanced recreation.
The park, punningly named Precollinear Park after the Precollina neighborhood in which it is sited, now seems set, however, for a longer life. It proved so successful with the public that it is now approved until at least September 2021 — and may even become permanent. Local schools are preparing to migrate some spring classes to the strip, and a season of public events is being planned. Like a miniature version of New York City’s celebrated High Line, the park emerges as an example of how abandoned rail infrastructure can be cleverly brought back to life, and how an emergency pandemic adaptation can ultimately become a much-valued community fixture.
The fact that this strip through the heart of Turin exists in the first place, it must be admitted, is due to previous planning mishaps. A light rail line constructed in the 1980s, this final section of a longer line was closed after the city upgraded its rolling stock to heavier 7000 series trams in 2013. But the new vehicles proved too long for existing platforms and were prone to struggling on the line’s gradients. These trams were ultimately replaced across the network, but never made it back to the final stretch on the other side of the river now occupied by the park, because the terminus across the Po didn’t have enough space for the replacements to turn around without blocking the street. Thus this strip lay unused, referred to by some locals as “the trench” because the barriers around it rendered it an inaccessible chasm.