Monaco off-shore extension back on track (1)
It may be one of the world's smallest countries, but Monaco has big ideas. For nearly six years there have been discussions on how to extend the living space for the Principality's 36000 residents by building out into the sea. In that time, a raft of proposals have been put forward which have since ebbed and flowed according to the economic tide.
It's been done before. Between 1966 and 1981, Fontvieille - home to Monaco's second harbour, the Princess Grace rose garden, Louis II stadium, Columbus Hotel and heliport - was similarly developed; and at least one of the plans was to further extend that area.
The harbour of Fontvieille
In December 2009 - one year after putting on hold another, more grandiose plan to build an offshore island adjoining Monaco's best-known beach at Larvotto - Prince Albert II breathed new life into the Fontvieille project by announcing that he would like to have a comprehensive dossier for the timeframe 2013-14 in order to know how next to proceed. At the time he made clear that he wished any future development to be 'reasonable and sober, taking into account the new international economic context, and remembering our responsibilities to the environment'.
Daniel Libeskind's earlier proposal for a Larvotto extension
Now, the project seems to have come full circle, with the focus having shifted once more back to Larvotto. 'This would be a project more modest in scope, but still with its focus on the environmental impact', confirmed the prince at a press conference this week. The sea currents would have to be taken into consideration, he added, and any build would have about half the land area envisaged in the previous proposal. Asked to put a figure on that, he replied that the total area would not be more than 5 hectares. This is substantially smaller than the proposed 15 hectare solution proposed in two separate projects by architects Daniel Libeskind (Monte-Carlo Sea Land) and Norman Foster (Monte-Carlo Development Company) in 2008.
Sir Norman Foster's earlier concept for Larvotto
However, as His Serene Highness made clear, Monaco desperately needs to grow. 'We have a need' he said, 'of an additional 300,000 to 350,000 m2 each decade to respond to the demand for space.'
Exactly how that is achieved remains to be seen. For the environmentalist Prince, as for the public at large, the way in which any future project juggles that demand with the equally significant requirements of marine life and the protection of the ecosystem will be of paramount importance.
Larvotto itself was created in 1963 as a new 54,000m2 extension to the existing shoreline, as shown in the video-clip below: