By Mario Pisani
It seems these days it is necessary in our complex mechanized world to turn our attention to the design of open park areas on the periphery of contemporary cities, in order to create more favourable environments for our contemporary urban fabric. Such spaces would provide cultural and social redemption and also establish for the inhabitants, an understanding and sense of belonging to the particular place. In historical traditional urban fabrics, despite their continuous modification and change in time, their architecture has always provided a strong sense of identity, and orientation for the visitor, thus creating a particular spirit of the place and allowing a clear reading of the mnemonic layering of the site in question. This allows one to fully understand both the memory and history of the place.
Today, unfortunately we have severed our links with both memory and history, and we have practically destroyed all traces of the past. We seem to be overcome by anonymous contemporary forms, by a completely amorphous and nameless architecture which produces physically unsatisfactory and soulless ambiances. If we are not able to re-establish some form of meaningful architecture, we risk, an almost complete collapse of our spiritual and emotional values, which would definitely lead us to a much poorer lifestyle.
The elegant and refined work of Cino Zucchi and his associates is immediately evident in the solution for their San Dona` di Piave Park project, a town in the Venetian Provence on the banks of the River Piave in Northern Italy, reconstructed after it was completely destroyed during the first World War. The architect, a Professor of Composizione Architettonica e Urbana at the Faculty of Architecture in Milan, has already regaled us with a number of projects for public spaces such as those of the external areas of the Milan XIX Triennial, and the piazzas schemes in Cerea, Arzignano and Milano Gratosoglio, together with other works in agricultural, industrial and historical areas, such as those of Porta Serrata in Ravenna and the Epano Skala Harbour in Mytilene-Lesbo.
The surrounding environment of the San Dona` Park consists of a series of only modest examples of buildings of no great architectural value. Zucchi has conceived the idea of creating a form of new landscape, a sort of link, bringing together the various time frames of the site, and in the process giving character to the area and emphasizing both a sense of well-being and esthetic enjoyment. While at the turn of the century project on the Milan periphery, the architect focused on isolated areas defined by raw concrete walls to surround the enclosed spaces, at San Dona`, he has created a series of undulating terrains and a fascinating series of light features functioning as bordering thresholds to the main central carpet-like area. The combination of these features contributes towards creating a habitat suited to tranquillity, relaxation and rest, very much the required properties of a contemporary urban park in the vicinity of a populated area. One part of the project focuses on providing serene atmospheres of silence and meditation, while on the South side, adjacent to the main road, a funnel shaped entrance provides an attractive access to the whole complex.
The choice of forms, attention to detail and the colours utilized, together with the creative inspiration and clear mindedness of the designer, are evident in all the aspects of the project. The concept of tranquility is also made manifest in the seating areas, as is the use of a pebble and cement mixture which covers the site, laid over as an undulating carpet. All these aspects clearly indicate progression from the architect’s previous projects. Here, mimicking the natural contours of the site, the designer trails the natural undulations of the hills and dales, and in the process suggests specific pedestrian routes for visitors. The system recalls, in simplified form, the well known balustrade of Antonio Gaudi at the Parco Guell in Barcelona. The stretch of about 20,000 square meters carpet in luminescent white is punctured by the green areas as laid out by the architect. They highlight the respective areas, those dedicated to public use and those for children, circumscribed by a series of light features, simulating erupting natural water springs. The multiuse of this project allows adults and children to thoroughly enjoy the park. The area for children allows not only pedestrian use, but also provides for biking and skating activities. There are also areas of rest for the elderly and an area in a piazza where the youth can meet and gather.
The outstanding qualities of this project are its plasticity and flexibility and also its novel idea of way-finding throughout the site. The project is conceived in contrast to a rectilinear concept on a strictly organic lines. The spontaneous play of water of the fountain emanating from a series of water spouts which eventually gathers into an undulating stream, together with its strong link with the natural vegetation, makes this project an extremely attractive and convincing one.