TECHNE 19 (2020): The public space

Cities and public spaces: Un Dialogo di/A Dialogue of Isotta Cortesi con/with Cino

Maria Pilar Vettori
Politecnico di Milano, Dipartimento ABC

Published 2020-04-24

How to Cite

Vettori, M. P. (2020). Cities and public spaces: Un Dialogo di/A Dialogue of Isotta Cortesi con/with Cino . TECHNE - Journal of Technology for Architecture and Environment, (19), 398–312.


Isotta Cortesi. In the history of European cities, public spaces have often been a manifestation of civil and religious munificence revealed through architecture. Today’s public spaces reflect a political dimension which may be considered to represent citizens, to germinate community relations. In effect, today’s cities and communities are defined through the magnifying glass of open space projects.

Cino Zucchi. This is a complex issue because in discussing the relationship between the physical element of a city and the fluid life of its people we risk reaching a foregone conclusion. Historical eras are recounted through the architecture of the times – the Colosseum for Ancient Rome, the Cathedral of Chartres for the Middle Ages – as if civilization had petrified its values in architecture. We believe that monuments and even urban spaces are the crystallisation of a general philosophical thought; an idea of identity poised between a vision of the world – what the Germans call Weltanschauung, a concept that transcends the individual and draws on the collective – and its forms. On this topic much exhaustive literature has been written, for example on the linear urban system of Rome, with its imposing thoroughfares linking the basilicas, at the time of Pope Sixtus V1, or Adele Buratti’s2 studies on urban spaces in Milan at the time of Charles Borromeo. Think also of Baron Haussmann who, transforming the medieval city into its bourgeois counterpart, moulded the tangle of barricades of the Paris Commune into new boulevards. The long history of civilization as an expression of social and religious covenants reveals how the history of architecture encompasses the history of the world. With the phrase «Ceci tuera cela»3, the Archdeacon Frollo records the transformation between the spoken word and the written word: human thought, petrified in the encyclopaedia of narrative sculptures of the Parisian Cathedral, vanishes with Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. «The book of stone, so solid and so enduring, was to give way to the book of paper, more solid and more enduring still. In other words, “Printing will destroy Architecture”». This has not been the case, however, and by analogy, I wonder about the rapid transformations occurring in our time in terms of interpersonal relations and of communications, since incessant successions of images prevail over the written word – which is why today, as in the past, “architecture is so important” as a definite permanence of values.

One of the latest films by Spielberg, Ready Player One, shows us a degraded, polluted world in which humanity is dispersed in a landscape of containers; it is a catastrophic vision of a not so distant dystopia in which each man has a virtual Avatar, heroic, beautiful, different, whose transfigured identity makes reality more acceptable – a situation that is more real than ever before in the isolation we are currently facing. This parody is far more realistic than we might think; it provides a means of alleviating the boredom of our suburban life by impersonating heroic characters and adopting disguises.


I.C. The Milan school responded to and interpreted the theories and hopes of the post-war New Architecture Movement. These ideas are clearly evident in the city’s public spaces: Milano Verde (1938) designed by Pagano, Albini, Gardella and Minoletti; QT8 designed by Bottoni (1945-70); the districts of Feltre (1957-60), designed by Baldessari, De Carlo, Gardella and Mangiarotti, and coordinated by Pollini, and Cesate (1949-56), designed by Albini, BBPR and Gardella. Here, public spaces have become progressively more than a mere question of relations – which, by favouring typological variation, sees buildings as part of a unitary system – but the key element underlying urban design, determining the rationale behind Italian cities, particularly in the experimentations of the late 20th century.

C.Z. The problem lies in the nature of the open space, in its essence between structure and form. Today there is much talk, in newspapers and blogs, of the city, in its broadest sense, as a social place, as the coexistence of people (residents, city users, etc.) and cultures. In short, cities are a sort of mosaic. In nineteenth century cities, the same district could be inhabited by people from different ranks; they were structured around an idea of total accessibility; they were the cities depicted by Pisarro, such as the turn-of-the century Paris that still promoted the idea of one city for all. Satellite neighbourhoods, the settlement model of post-war Milan, were instead based on the idea of giving shape and content to villages, often isolated in the countryside, and offered new settlers, mostly former farmers, some of the forms of social solidarity provided in their place of origin. These neighbourhoods included community centres such as churches and schools, the difference being that the only reason for going to districts such as Gallarate or Gratosoglio was to go home, thus making away with the concept of total accessibility that underlay the historical city. While central to Milan’s great districts, public spaces in this city only partially meet Le Courbusier’s idea of extended, widespread greenery, therefore making a less original contribution to the metropolis in terms of form and structure. 

In the QT8 district, Piero Bottoni introduced two important themes of centrality which gave life to the specific nature of the great districts of Italy, and Milan in particular. The first is the concept of “the vital street”, expressed in one of Bottoni’s sketches of Gallarate, which confirms Italy’s original contribution to the theme of “the street” lined by skyscrapers and moves away from the city forest of Le Corbusier, who believed that «il faut tuer la rue corridor». The reintroduction by Piero Bottoni of the concept of “vital street” proved central to the future history of Italian cities.

The second concept is visible in the layout of the districts of Feltre and S. Ambrogio4. While many European residential models upheld the repetitive supremacy of bands running along a heliothermic axis and separated by greenery, in some districts of Milan buildings seven or eight stories high form a large garden court that embraces and shapes the public space. The residences are not simply set inside a widespread forest, without structure or form. Instead, they reinforce the value of internal and external spaces. These, however, cannot be considered mere courtyards or equated to historical layouts as they express a vaster scale compared to consolidated models and redefine the idea of enclosure though a reinvented concept of space and form.

Working on the theme of public space gives rise to different considerations, depending on whether you are dealing with consolidated, semi-central urban areas or with urban structures shaped around the main street model, such as that of the early 20th century. With regard to Milan, especially noteworthy is the Beruto5 plan, later known as the Pavia Masera Bertini plan, which extended the city’s street maze indefinitely, sometimes including a more open form of construction. There are some interesting cases where the urban plan is structured around the street/housing block matrix of the late 19th century. For example, in Albini’s district, the housing block, although traced out in the 1930s plan, is shaped by residential units, laid out diagonally, that do not create an urban front but generate an open construction where a continuous curtain would be expected. A strange hybrid: open construction set in a pre-designed layout.

In my experience, the design of open spaces in the suburbs or in semi-urban conditions requires significantly different design tools to those required for historical city centres. The monument to Sandro Pertini6 which gives onto Via Monte Napoleone, tracing out a symmetrical square edged by mulberry trees and benches, was not conceived in anthropological terms of sociality, but yet has revealed its unexpected potential as a public space accommodating citizen as on a stage set. However, if the same space, with the same figures, were set in a peri-urban district, it would have a different function, not least because of the lower building density. Consequently, issues such as density, trade and the multiple presence of users make the shapes of spaces function differently, which is why the historicist model of the Italian square has not worked in the suburbs – and why Charles Moore’s Piazza Italiana in New Orleans is essentially a caricature.

What is a happy city? There are spaces we love, and these have specific atmospheres. In Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander7 tries to list these by decoding existing models, resulting in a dictionary of almost universal states of well-being. In actual fact, there is a universal state of well-being that for me means “being protected, living in a space that envelops you, while yet affording a long vista”, the ever-present enjoyment of an open, wide-sweeping perspective. An architect must give shape to an almost ancestral idea of space. There is no doubt that in designing a public space using elements as subtle as light and shadow, it is possible to create proximity through the choice of a stone that warms in the sun. Indeed, in designing part of Portello’s public space, we designed a bench that effectively performed the double role of spatial element and social catalyst.

Superkilen8 in Copenhagen and MadridRio9 in Madrid are two major present day attempts at converting a public space. Superkilen is a remarkably interesting project moulded both by the graphic designs on the ground and by the dispersion of monuments, objects of our modern world. Superkilen is not a De Chirico-style square staging open air spaces enclosed by architecture, but is rather the combined presence of objects, surfaces and a program. However, it is now clear that creating themes using multi-ethnic symbols does not generate inclusion; instead, the ethnic appropriate of places generates exclusion. What was supposed to engender integration has become an exclusive search for identity, generating territorial conflict.

I consider myself a socially engaged architect who sees projects in relation to the life, quality and welfare of inhabitants. The open space project involving the Lavazza neighbourhood in Turin – a private space yet open to the city for civic uses – is used by Lavazza office employees for their lunch break but is also a part of the city. In particular, I designed a fountain, a very thin layer of water, that invites users to wade through it barefoot, but also to sit nearby, lie down or work at the computer. «I intentionally designed a fountain with no deterministic intention: this is a welcoming, suitably sized place, enriched by the sound of water that allows for different modes of behaviour but does not set out to determine them. The fountain is an expression of anthropological culture linked to what may happen and is not program-based». Cities and public space projects designed for inhabitants should respond to precise characteristics, but yet accommodate variations and differences.


I.C. In order to imagine how a public space should integrate with the unexpected, I always think of an extraordinary paradigm, the Tanner Fountain10 by Peter Walker, which modifies space through the arrangement of gigantic boulders, and has triggered unexpected behaviour in people, thereby giving the public space a new and playful dimension, playfulness acting as a dynamic and essential element towards improving the suburbs. In this way, Walker introduced in the public space of contemporary cities the concept of the unexpected, a sort of indeterminacy.

C.Z. The architect’s job is to create a good project, endowed with the features necessary for a public space to be viewed by the population as an added value. I do not wish to support the autonomy of architecture, but Florence’s extraordinary Renaissance palazzos were woven into the fabric of the city through the seating for public use lining their base. Italy’s Renaissance cities and even its medieval ones always had a hospitable dimension, and this illustrates the concept of democratic architecture. All good architecture must be public.

To return to the importance of the playful dimension of a project, I do not believe this to be a prerogative solely of contemporary architecture. Piazza di Spagna, for example, is much more hospitable, dynamic and playful than many other recent squares; the scene depicting Anita Ekgberg bathing in the Trevi Fountain brings the baroque back into our daily lives.

An extraordinary example of an architect who took great care of his city is Ljubljana’s Jože Plečnik. His triple bridge is a masterpiece of urban design because it is both a bridge and a square; from afar it connects two parts of the city, but close up it becomes an element of the landscape and an intrinsic part of the river.

Returning to contemporaneity, we should ask ourselves what are those parts of our profession that are perhaps not quite universal, but that, in some respects, transcend eras and places; those constant elements that may be found in Alexander’s almost cosmic book. These states of well-being are almost pre-cultural; they have to do with an ethology of space, that is, the coexistence of security and freedom of movement which lies at the basis of our double need to be protected and at the same time to be curious; the coexistence of the instinct for protection and discovery. The sense of the unexpected connected with the desire for exploration is one of the fundamental components of the public space project. The other important theme of public spaces is that of bringing together. Today, the metropolis is a space for the multitudes and for extemporary meetings. Piazza del Duomo, for example, is no longer a piazza for the Milanese but rather the place where new waves of migrants go to meet and get to know other people.

“The needle and thread” instalment in Piazza Cadorna is an example of the trend common to many European cities of creating an urban landscape that has moved away from the paintings of Pisarro. Times Square is an extreme case; here, architecture no longer exists, hidden as it is by moving images. The European City as we know it has two layers, a deeper one that we identify with the late 19th century city and another, superimposed with amusing sculptures. This multiform or hybrid character of European capitals is interesting because the project tools are no longer merely traditional: think, for example, of the transformations achieved by lighting public spaces or of the temporary images projected onto building facades, turning them into screens for increasingly sophisticated virtual projections. This is a new aspect of the European city, of the nature of objects and events, which is not necessarily contained in books on the history of architecture.


I.C. Cities, as we know them, have historical and contemporary centres, but also landscaped areas and residual rural spaces. Today it is these same natural fragments which, absorbed into the whole, act as the basic starting point towards a re-definition of a new unity. The presence of water basins (lakes, rivers, lagoons, etc.), orographic elements (mountains, hills, etc.), and both spontaneous and cultivated vegetation (woods, forests, meadows, agricultural fields, etc.) provide ample reasons for adopting the name “Landscape-City”. The Landscape-City not only encompasses every open space where nature is present, even when degraded or abandoned, but connects them so as to construct a comprehensive whole in which environmental systems trigger processes necessary to re-appropriate places sometimes quite inaccessible, thus returning them to the life of the city and of its citizens. The Landscape-City is intended as a new settlement model, based no longer only on well-established anthropocentric dimensions but rather open and capable of sustaining a biocentric dimension. In such a scenario, man is no longer the only object/subject of the designed space, which instead welcomes a multiplicity of living beings, elements of ecosystems, with man as the judicious, conscious figure. What do you think? Can we talk about some of your projects in these terms? Certainly, the Tirana project seems central to this issue11, with the river serving as the connective element for rethinking the city, or again the Sette Bellissimi Broli12 project in Milan. Today, the concept of Landscape-City can be seen, for example, in Strasbourg, Toulouse and Bordeaux, and even in Milan with the Darsena project, which was long awaited but has set in motion such a process of side effects as to trigger the reopening of the Navigli. This issue of the landscape city revitalizes an essential relationship: that of the constructive dimension of architecture and its ethical dimension in terms of the resources that make life possible.

C.Z. The Landscape-City is the main issue of this millennium, and to this end I wonder whether, given a city’s mutation and even its inertia, it is possible to generate environments that preserve all its serendipity13 – the quality, the emotion, the richness of the unexpected in the urban experience – and at the same time embody all our ideal environmental values. This is certainly a very profound and complex issue, deeply studied also during the last century, through the “garden city” and “green city” paradigms, such as that of Broadacre City. The key, in its current formulation, is to combine, substantially, population density with environmental quality, inventing exemplary interventions such as those already applied for decades in Lyon, and again in Madrid with the re-appropriation of the Manzanares River. The Landscape-City reconnects with its natural borders and undergoes complete reinvention. Another example is Bordeaux, where the great Mirroir d’Eau14 provides a sense of the nature of the places through an interpretive scaling of the river, of the monument and of individuals.

There exist certain images which I consider representative of the unique nature of the European city, which encloses in its “genetic code” – that is to say, in outstanding works – both the formal structure of tree-lined spaces and the urban quality of architectonic spaces, and these are the Place des Vosges, the Crescent in Bath and the Cours Mirabeau in Aix en Provence. Michel Desvigne’s project, the Sette Bellissimi Broli for Milan’s railway yards, was planned on a natural, tree-oriented system intended to design urban fabrics, and not only represent an ecological resource. The project is site-specific, each individual place being seen as part of a whole in which vegetation generates spaces, and a relevant reference is decidedly that of Alphand’s Promenade des Paris, with its urban use of vegetation. Stefano Boeri’s project was perhaps more visionary, its general strategic dimension being able to project on a large scale a jungle-type idea of nature, a city of skyscrapers, sheep and woods. Though I do not see myself as a conservative, my own vision is more in line with the 19th century tradition, where it is vegetation that traces urban forms. I oppose the conception of vegetation as a complement of construction, but also as an antidote to the city. Without doubt, Stefano was brilliant in fusing two contrasting concepts, the skyscraper and large scale vegetation. The world fame awarded to Milan’s Vertical Forest was first of all due to its name, but also to the blending of two traditionally opposing views. A loss of historical memory, however, must be mentioned, and particularly indicative is the introvert Ford Foundation, Emilio Ambasz’s experimentations and even the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the more recent 2007 Huerta Sociopolis tower by MVRDV in Valencia. What was exceptional in Milan was that the Vertical Forest was constructed, engineered, and diffused.

For my generation, Plaça dels Paisos Catalans in front of the Sants Train Station by Piñón and Viaplana15 in Barcelona, epitomizing the overturning of all concepts of the traditional square, became at once the reference model for designing new public spaces. It was composed, not by a row of urban facades, but of surfaces, of fine sculptural elements and roof shelters casting shadows on the ground. As a result of this project, we started taking ground into renewed consideration, abandoning the iconic element for a phenomenal one made of light and shadow, where the fragments became meridians. Aldo Rossi’s Frontiveggie square in Perugia was conceived during these same years but repeated the historical type of square, its architecture lining it like an auto-representative monument, an expression of metaphysical desolation. I am all for clarity in urban forms, which must, however, be invented and not nostalgic.

Berlin was another interesting case, as the war had severely damaged its urban structure and reduced it to rubble. This situation gave rise to IBA, and the rediscovery of the street and of urban form. The Sanierung IBA favoured also spontaneous interventions from below, such as, for example, Tempelhof Park16, its precise expression showing a vitality missing in the monumental work. The attraction of the city lies in the complementary nature existing between activities and spaces on the one hand and the representative and the monumental on the other, as is also the case at Porta Genova in Milan. There are parts of cities, such as railway yards, requiring a new urban layout (as at Porta Nuova), but a city also needs small-scale retouches to its traditional structure.


I.C. In our present day, when architects are specialists, your work seems to go against this trend. Your projects embrace time (past, present and future), the various levels of the city, and then, by means of projects involving the ground, reach the architectural details. In fact, one of the main prerogatives of the open space project is the sudden drops in levels, while the architectonic project shows them as gradual, successive sequences.

The projects show a clear understanding of the changes public spaces require. In fact, our modes of behaviour, our relationships and our expectations have greatly changed over the last few decades, and the value of a city’s historical approach to the square, street and park is coexistent with the modern idea of public space. This consists in the mingling of themes, ground projects, the playful dimension, identification of form, and the dynamic, fluid nature of the public space. Your design for the S. Donà di Piave Park17 answers present day necessities: active dynamic relationships and fluid movement.

Your work, with its architectonic and landscaping projecting, blends North American, North European and Milanese cultures, and sees the city against its landscape in the wake of a Milanese culture on a par with this tradition.

The Villette18 park, an expression of future innovation, stands as the last great universal exposition, a summation of pavilions. Villette is a pelouse with objects, a program of activities for people as they wander from pavilion to pavilion. It is the last great park intended as a summation of beautiful, original figures. From then on, unlike in the built-up Parisian model, public space began no longer to be seen as a summation of architectonic figures but rather, through a dynamic dimension embracing consideration of people’s lives, as a ground construction.

C.Z. Throughout the history of architecture, the complementary nature between the pleasure pavilion and greenery, between architecture and the park runs through both the Italian and French geometric garden and the English naturalistic model.

I am particularly drawn to Sharawaggi19 (used in literature for the first time in 1685 by Sir William Temple in his Upon the gardens of Epicurus) and its principle of spontaneity in projects. It represents an idea of beauty only seemingly casual, counterpoised to the regular, linear geometries of symmetry, an artistic irregularity. In other words, that unexpectedness stemming from the Oriental tradition of exotic garden is carried over to the forms of architectonic projects. The term Sharawaggi underwent various ups and downs in its history, alternately appearing and disappearing. Appertaining mainly to Anglo-Saxon culture, it pops up again in 1764 in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. It indicates that a thing is beautiful if it possesses a sense of the natural, and it became both theory and practice in English landscaping. Pevsner20 discussed it in his picturesque townscape theories.

To revert to the question of the link between the pavilion, that isolated architectonic figure, and the open space project, Villette is both a good and a bad example of a very architectonic model, and it is most definitely inadequate towards fulfilling the aspirations set out in the 1982 competition for choosing the “21st century park”. It is an ordered summation of spectacular architectonic figures, and is intended for entertainment, for spectacularization of the Ville Lumiere, where people only want entertainment. Nowadays, one goes to the park to relax but also to be stimulated; the new style city user wants to be galvanized and the city becomes a vast entertainment space. A historic model in this sense is the Tivoli Garden in Copenhagen, a philanthropically themed park of culture and an attractive social environment.

Today in Milan an interesting case is that of Petra Blaisse’s Biblioteca degli Alberi21, where path structures express incisive geometry but where, at the same time, landscape project and artistic expression meet in a sort of “Public Art”, recalling Mary Miss’s interventions at Battery Park22, or Martha Schwartz’s figurative pop.


I.C. Your open space projects, such as the Lugano tunnel and the public spaces in Cerea and Gratosoglio, restore a synthesis of knowledge tending towards the recognition of form with an innovative uniqueness involving the place, the time and the city. How is it possible to interpret the relationship between the need for a recognizable form and the aspect of unexpectedness, the variety of use of the public space by citizens?

C.Z. Landscape Design, with its great success and excellent projects, is one of the most exciting phenomena today. It was certainly the Barcellona Olímpica in the 1990s that started it all in Europe. Remembered for the design and the quality of its open space projects, it has come to the fore more recently as an idea of combining urban structure with pure invention, as seen, for example, in Madrid Rio.


I.C. Perhaps you would like to mention a present day or past Milanese maestro whose reflections regarding public space are original both in research and in projecting?

C.Z. I would like to speak of Maurice Münir Cerasi23, a Milanese Turk, who wished to work with Mies van der Rohe. Having studied in Florence and worked with Giovanni Michelucci, he began teaching in Milan and was of great importance for my generation, though held aloof by the School establishment. Cerasi was absolutely seminal for students, although he later transferred to Genoa without much success. He wrote various books, among which “Lo spazio collettivo della città” is really pertinent to the theme. Its content, original for its time, overturned the autobiographic vision of architecture as monument. Much of the architectural world, such as, for example, Domus’ Ermanno Ranzani, has drawn on his vision. I worked briefly with him after my degree but was not in time to become a real student of his. Cerasi was a master with students and «he showed in masterly fashion, in professional practice, in teaching and in writing, that specialized or sectorial instruments are not needed in designing greenery, public spaces or buildings, but that it is essential to use architectural instruments to vitalize the civic significance of a city».

He designed the Parco delle Cave Nord at Paderno Dugnano, the Parco della Martesana, the park at Muggiò and the project for the layout of the lake and hill for the Parco Lambro in Milan. His teaching regarding public spaces was absolutely innovative and original. Maurice Cerasi held the question of public spaces as being of the greatest importance.


1 Fagiolo, M. and Madonna, M.L. (Eds.) (1993), Roma Di Sisto V. Arte, architettura e città fra Rinascimento e Barocco, Edizioni De Luca, Roma.

2 Mazzotta Buratti, A. (1982), La Città rituale: la città e lo Stato di Milano nell’età dei Borromeo, Franco Angeli, Milano.

3 The expression, which translates as “this will destroy that”, is a fragment of text taken from the second chapter of Book V of Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, first published in Paris in 1831.

4 The S. Ambrogio district, in south-west Milan, was designed by Arrigo Arrighetti, Eugenio Gentili Tedeschi, Nicola Righini and Egidio Dell’Orto, and built between 1964 and 1966.

5 This is the first town plan for the city of Milan, drawn up by the engineer Cesare Beruto and implemented in 1889. It was followed up and integrated, in 1912, by the technical municipal team of the engineers Angelo Pavia and Giovanni Masera with extended radial roads and new ring roads that simplify the urban plan in a reductive way.

6 This work by Milanese architect Aldo Rossi, built in 1990, marks the end of a pedestrian area at the crossroads of two important road arteries: Via Monte Napoleone and Via Alessandro Manzoni. Conceived as a peaceful Lombard square in which to meet, have a sandwich or take a group photograph, it is made up of a double line of Lombard mulberry trees, now vanished from the local landscape, as well as stone benches, lamp posts and paving blocks of porphyry or pink granite. At the far end of the square stands the cubical staircase [...]» in Ferlenga, A. (Ed.) (1999), Aldo Rossi. Tutte le opere, Electa, Milano.

7 Alexander, C. (1977), A Pattern Language, Towns, Buildings, Construction, Oxford University Press, New York. Christopher Alexander worked as a Professor of Architecture at Berkeley. After reading Architecture and Mathematics at Cambridge, England, he completed his studies at the MIT and at Harvard. Born in Austria, he emigrated to England where he currently lives. His manual stems from an observation of historical city models. The book provides rules and images-models and at the same time suggests that the specific place conditions the choice of patterns. Its purpose is to collect and structure information about good practices, providing an anthology of examples that collects and organizes knowledge in an abstract way, by means of re-processed images. The text describes the methods for putting together detailed designs crossing different scales of magnitude: from whole regions, through to cities, districts, gardens, buildings, rooms, furniture, door and window frames, and down to the very doorknobs. The architectural systems illustrated are derived from classical models, used in fact by many architects, and chosen for their beauty and practicality.

8 Superkilen is the public space project that won the competition (2008) to redevelop an open space in the Nørrenbro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. The design team comprised BIG, Superflex and Topotek 1, and construction was carried out between 2010 and 2014. Some of the project publications include: Steiner, B. (Ed.) (2013), Superkilen: a project by Big, Topotek 1, Superflex, Stockholm/Oslo, Arvinius+Orfeus Publishing; Bridger, J. (2013), “Life on the Wedge”, Landscape Architecture Magazine, n. 9, pp. 86-99.

9 The urban regeneration project involving the banks of the Manzanares, by WEST8 and MADRID RIO, stems from a 2005 design contest. Construction took place between 2006 and 2011. Publications illustrating the project include: Dobrick, C. (2010), “Madrid Rio”, Topos, n. 73, pp. 28-35; West 8 (2012), “Madrid Rio”, Lotus, n. 150, pp. 64-75; Porras-Ysla, F., Burgos, F. and Garrido, G. (2015), Landscapes in the City: Madrid Rio: Geography, Infrastructure and Public Space, Nashville, Turner.

10 The project, designed in 1984 by Peter Walker, a major American landscape architect, is situated in a pedestrian area of the Harvard campus. This fountain enriches the public space with vital elements intended to be inhabited, explored and crossed. Made up of stone and water, this geometrical space calls to mind the rural, rocky landscape of New England. The fountain, designed in collaboration with the sculptor Joan Brigham, arranges 159 granite boulders in concentric circles, overlapping asphalt paths and the pre-existing lawn and incorporating the nearby trees. Water emerges from the centre of the circle – during spring, summer and autumn in the form of mist and in winter in the form of vapour from the university’s heating system – and obscures the central stones, creating a contemplative landscape in every season. The project won the 2008 Landmark Award of the American Society of Landscape Architects and of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

11 The project, developed in 2012, provides for the transformation of the capital’s urban plan along the Lanë River. Having grown without plan in recent decades, it conversely generates a linear system of new public spaces capable of increasing environmental quality. Cino Zucchi Architetti collaborated with One Works, Gustafson Porter (as regards landscaping), Buro Happold London and Antonello Stella Architetti. 

12 In 2017, five groups (Stefano Boeri Architetti, Mad Architects, Mecanoo, Miralles Tagliabue EMBT and Cino Zucchi) participated in a consultation regarding disused Milanese railway stations, with a view to developing transformation strategies for the city. The stations’ renovated spaces form new links between the extended city and individual districts. In Cino Zucchi’s vision, parks and gardens are not merely citizen services but veritable urban planning instruments. Scalo Farini has become a park crossed by winding paths and pedestrian walkways over the railway tracks; Porta Romana features a sloping lawn, a market square between the train station and the bus station; Lambrate traces out a large, semi-circular green “crescent”.

13 The word serendipity, coined by Horace Walpole in the late 18th Century, refers to a fortunate yet accidental discovery, loosely derived from the Persian tale “The Three Princes of Serendip”, the old name for Sri Lanka.

14 The Miroir d’Eau was designed by Michel Corajoud and built in 2006. The shallow water reflects the Place de la Bourse and the quays of the River Garonne. The project takes in the reflection of the sky, the monuments and people in 2 cm of water placed above granite slabs, with sprays of nebulised water reaching a height of 2 metres. Michel Corajoud, the designer behind the transformation of around five kilometres of the banks of the River Garonne, said he drew inspiration for his project from seeing Piazza San Marco in Venice under water.

15 The design of the square dates back to 1981-83. The works of Albert Viaplana i Veà together with Helio Piñón between 1947 and 1997 were an expression of Catalonia’s architectural experimentation. From the late 1970s, their projects, rooted in the Escuela de Barcelona, embodied simplicity, minimalist and conceptual research. The CCCB, Centro de cultura contemporánea de Barcelona, built between 1990 and 1993, is considered their masterpiece.

16 Ever since Tempelhofer Feld opened as a public space in 2010, it has offered the city of Berlin 300 hectares of open spaces in the city centre. From here, planes used to take off for destinations worldwide, but now the area offers a rich leisure time offering, such as skating, hiking, gardening, picnics, birdwatching, kitesurfing, mini golf and community gardens.

17 Built between 2004 and 2007.

18 The international competition was launched in 1982 with the aim – to quote the goals of the competition notice – of establishing, through the winner, the 21st Century Park model. Bernard Tschumi’s project certainly betrayed this expectation and excluded the most important French landscape architects of the school of Versailles, subsequently reintegrated in the themed gardens of Promenade Cinematique. Instead, the proposal put forward by Rem Koolhaas with Elia Zenghelis, Kees Christiaanse, Stefano De Martino, Rurd Roorda, Ron Steiner, Jan Voorberg and Alex Wall and with the landscape architects Claire and Michel Corajoud undoubtedly held the greatest theoretical and innovative value. Publications illustrating the outcome of the competition include: Hayward, M., Lombard-Valentino, C. and Barzilay, L. (1984), L’invention Du Parc: Parc De La Villette, Paris Concours International = International Competition 1982-83, Paris, Graphite; Baljon, L. (1992), “Designing Parks: An examination of contemporary approaches to design in landscape architecture”, in Gordon, C. (Ed.), Amsterdam, Architectura and Natura Press; more recently OMA (2015), “Masterplan Parc de la Villette”, Lotus, n. 156, pp. 44-49; Repishti, F. (2015), “Layers”, Lotus, n. 156, pp. 50-51.

19 It was first used by Sir William Temple (1628-99) in his text Upon the Gardens of Epicurus (1685) to describe the Chinese way of planting gardens in an apparently haphazard manner, “without any order or disposition of parts”. The term became popular in the mid-18th century to describe how the Picturesque, with its irregularities and its asymmetry, can instil surprise.

20 Lang, S. and Pevsner, N. (1948), “Sir William Temple and Sharawaggi”, The Architectural Review, n. 106, pp. 391–392.

21 BAM, a contemporary botanical garden in the heart of Porta Nuova, in Milan, was designed by Petra Blaisse, with her firm Inside/Outside, and Piet Oudolf, and won the “International design competition Gardens of Porta Nuova - Garibaldi Republic area”.

22 South Cove is an artistic project by Mary Miss, located on the artificial shores of the Hudson River at Battery Park, reclaimed in order to build the new Battery Park City neighbourhood between 1984 and 1987 and, after recent restorations, even more perfectly integrated into the city’s public space.

23 Maurice Cerasi (1932-2015), architect and professor of Architectural Composition first at the Politecnico di Milano and then, from 1986, at the Faculty of Architecture in Genoa, wrote several books and essays, including: Cerasi, M. (1976), Lo Spazio Collettivo della Città, Mazzotta, Milano; Cerasi, M. (1969), La Lettura dell’Ambiente, CLUP, Milano; Cerasi, M. (1990), Periferia e Progetto dello Spazio Pubblico, Seminar ERASMUS, Genoa-Barcellona; Cerasi, M. (1985), “Problemi di Progettazione del verde e degli spazi aperti - introduzione metodologica”, in Parchi Naturali/Urbani, Regione Lombardia Conference, Milano; Cerasi, M. (1985), “Contributo sulla problematica dei parchi, Seminar “Il Sistema del verde nel progetto di sviluppo dell’area Provinciale Milanese promoted by the Milan Province. He designed and realised numerous parks, public spaces, residences and council housing. His projects have been published in magazines and international collections such as “L’Architecture d’Ajourdhui” (October/November 1972, n. 173/1976), Domus (n. 673/1986, n. 706/1989, n. 709/1989), Lotus International (n. 54/1987), Architektur+wettbewerbe (n. 130/1987), World of Environmental Design - Nature Conservation and Land Reclamation, Barcelona 1995, Houses, Links International, Barcelona, 1997 and in national magazines. His works dating between 1974 and 1988 were collected in “L’Industria delle Costruzioni”, n. 207, 1989. He drew up several studies and research projects for public institutions: in 1966, a “Study of the environmental values of the Lodi area” on behalf of the Lombard Institute for Economic and Social Sciences and of the Province of Milan; the “Territorial Plan for the Coordination of the Ticino Park” (1976 to 1980); a research “Project for the use and protection of the environmental system of the Alta Val Nure area” in partnership with the Politecnico di Milano and the Provincial Administration of Piacenza (1983-84); the research project “Recovery of plain-based quarries in urban and semi-urban areas”, for the IRER (Lombard Regional Institute of Research) in 1985.


Download data is not yet available.