The Piazza Vecchia (Old Square) in Bergamo Italy is a Renaissance square, that Le Corbusier called “ the most beautiful square in Europe”. As key part of a major international landscape symposium Arketipos held in Bergamo throughout September 2014 this historical square was temporarily transformed into a contemporary landscape exploring the theme of Well being and healing.
This year London based artist/ landscape designer Peter Fink of Studio Fink delivered its annual makeover in collaboration with Lucia Nusiner (botanist) and Maurizio Quargnale (lighting). The design of this new outdoor space had to take into careful consideration the need to protect the fabric of this important historical piazza as well as how to proactively deal with the anticipated large number of people using the new space. In the end over its sixteen days existence the Piazza Verde attracted 250000 local people and tourists of all ages.
Peter Fink’s design focused on exploring two key issues:
How can the Piazza Vecchio become temporarily ‘green’, both literally in an environmental sense and metaphorically as place of new growth and positive change ?
How could the new and old coexist momentarily in an unexpected way as a part of a continually evolving urban narrative?
The act of seeing the existing urban landscape of the Piazza Vecchia become for Peter not only the end result of a previous creative processes, but also the beginning of a new continuity —a landscape to design with, not for. The Piazza Verde design aimed at renewing the relationship between art and landscape with the solid representing the physically manifest historical architecture and the slow and more complex void the cultural and social landscape.
The detailed design aims at exploring how a healing landscape can lead to increased sociability of public realm spaces. This is a difficult quality for a place to achieve, but once attained it becomes an unmistakable feature. When people see friends, meet and greet their neighbours, and feel comfortable interacting with strangers, they tend to feel a stronger sense of place or attachment to their community – and to the place that fosters these types of social activities.
On a practical level the implementation of the Piazza Verde relied on using artificial grass throughout to create a seamless surface for the creative exploration of our senses through a bold use of colour, shapes, smells, and texture of planting.
The checkerboard of trees defined and cast its shadow at the edges of the square gradually making way for smaller perennials and grasses. The flower beds of the same colour as the surface, on which they stand on, merge with the artificial grass in sloping, flared triangles. The raised beds contain a wide variety of herbal and medicinal plants with the trees and shrubs chosen by Lucia Nursiner following the same criterion.
People become an integral part of the set up, moving and occupying the space “like water streaming through pebbles.” The place making of the Piazza Verde aimed at creating informal day and night time spaces for relaxing and socializing as well as to increase temporarily the dialogue with the surrounding historical urban grain.
Besides creating a platform for meetings and events, and an irresistible attraction for people of all ages, the temporary transformation of a major historical square become a thought-provoking act that directs public attention to the positive importance and the implications of place making and landscaping ideas.
Location | Piazza Vecchia Bergamo Italy
Date | 2014
Design team |
Landscape design | Peter Fink
Botany | Lucia Nusiner
Lighting | Maurizio Quargnale
Client | Bergamo Municipality
Images | Courtesy of Studio Fink