The Ave Maria is a river ship barge that launches from the mouth of the Po River, along the South Veneto waterway region along the Adriatic Sea. Connecting Mantua with Venice, this route crosses cities like Ferrara and Adria, and islands and sites like Chioggia and Albarella. The barge is part of a bigger regional enhancement project that began with the Fissero and Bianco canals restoration, proposing a new tourism model that respects local landscape dynamics and promotes the rediscovery of the South Veneto region, offering a special vantage on a beautiful and uncontaminated piece of rural landscape.
The sustainability of the project took shape at two different scales: one on a territorial dimension employing local factories along the route between Mantua and Venice. These areas are traditionally employed in ship production and they benefit from traditional and well-established skills, starting with the SOGEMI shipyard, one of the few remaining in the Mantua lake district. On a smaller scale, a series of technical solutions lends the project a sustainability profile: excellent insulation, the exclusive use of LED illumination, and a heat recovery ventilation system all contribute to minimize energy expenditure. Ave Maria is the first river ship in Italy built following the new European safety prescriptions certified by Bureau Veritas.
A structural renovation project, the Ave Maria was born from the hull of a disused river-boat used to dredge the canals constructed in 1972. The first phase in the barge's renewal began with reshaping and restoring the hull and assembling a new internal iron plate structure designed to accommodate the functional parts of the project. The final result is a 41 meter-long and 7.5-meter wide ship. The embarcation deck, which also serve as cycle parking, leads to the interior of the boat: one side leads to the first cabin block, and on the other side to the kitchen and the hall, a large common space which, using a dynamic interior system, reconfigures according to the room's activities from mess hall to lounge space.
All the cabins below decks have also been designed to modify their features: the beds, specifically conceived for these spaces, can all be converted into bunks; each single bed can be matched with an other to make a double one, and every single cabin can turn in a double. The upper deck also turns into a panoramic point using a flexible railing, tables and sunshade.
If the boat structure is divided between old hull and new hotel, its character is also dual: one side designed according to technical needs required by a ship, and on the other side conceived to create a highly comfortable space that balances tight zones with the need to create enjoyable and usable ambience. The choice of materials and finish achieve practical spaces that at the same time optimize a prefabrication phase: all the furniture and internal surfaces are in marine plywood. The boiseries have been anchored with studs for easier assembly and replacement.
All these characteristics are possible thanks to precise detailing for all of the prefabrication; cabins and bathrooms have been assembled off-site to be structurally independent and to be easily insert into the boat framework. Prefabrication phases have made possible to separate production in different steps so as to optimize the assembly timing.
Ave Maria, river ship 2011
Shipowner: VITAPUGNA srl
Giovanni Traverso, Paola Vighy with Giulio Dalla Gassa, Sheerja Iyer, Elena Panza, Valentina Rossetto
Structural Engeneering: Ing. Luciano Disperdi, Ing. Stefano Signori
Certification: Bureau Veritas
Shipyard: SOGEMI srl
Electrical Plant: Marco Sabbatini