NEW HORIZONS


A new vision: the Green Utopia

Green as a source of new life. A flexible organism that branches into urban spaces, brings vital sap and naturally regulates people’s lives. The future of cities passes through the design of city parks and ecological corridors

NEW HORIZONS


A new vision: the Green Utopia

Green as a source of new life. A flexible organism that branches into urban spaces, brings vital sap and naturally regulates people’s lives. The future of cities passes through the design of city parks and ecological corridors

The studio

Name

Metrogramma

Founded

1998

Office

Milan, Moscow, New York

Partners

5

Website

metrogramma.com

Director

Andrea Boschetti

Awards

Habitat BZ 2001, Gold Medal for Italian Architecture. Domus Malles (INARCH Prize 2010

Let’s do an experiment. A change of perspective. Let’s try to imagine the ideal city from above instead of below.

Let’s look at it as if it were an organism, an interconnected system feeding itself naturally. Just like a game, we draw lines connecting the green belts that include urban spaces and internal parks. These junctions, just like arteries, bring life, protect biodiversity and nourish the system. All around lie the urban spaces full of infinite green ramifications.

In this period marked by the pandemic, we have understood that the balance regulating human life on earth has been disrupted. It is no longer a problem for ecologists, but a need involving all of us personally. The question which arises is therefore reasonable: what do we have to do in order to restore the order between us and nature? We asked Andrea Boschetti, architect and urban planner, founder of Metrogramma studio, which has been involved for years in designing and redesigning metropolitan spaces both in Italy and around the world.


What role should green spaces play in our daily life?

A crucial issue that we have presently understood is that the respect for the environment in which we live is not just an ethical issue, but something of paramount importance. The word sustainability has been used for too long in a suitable, utilitarian way, especially aimed at selling something. Its true meaning has never been pondered upon. This pandemic has taught us that it is time for a revolution. I’m using this word in a distinctive and sustainable way. The revolution has been triggered by nature, which is passing us its message in an impactful way: it demands total respect.


To re-establish the right balance between nature and city, what must change in practice?

There are structural measures and single actions. First of all, in Italy a law should be voted on the authority pertaining to architecture and urban planning. Regulating the relationship between planners and administrations would enable thinking about long-term structured interventions and not about those stretching over a five-year period.

In other words: architects must design without being conditioned by politics, while politicians must govern without launching slogans. In this way, even urban planners and architects would take back a little bit of responsibility in designing cities.Then there are the people.

We are all called in to change our habits. I know it is very difficult, but there are no alternatives. We must take advantage of this lock-down period: make the most of technology by practising more smart working and cutting down meetings that can be held on-line, using the bicycle more, being careful not to throw cigarette butts on the street, being more attentive about separate collection, producing less waste.


How should cities change?

Genoa. Rendering of the future Polcevera Park and the Red Circle. The project still under construction bears the signature of Metrogramma, Stefano Boeri and Inside Outside

NYC Boulevard & Broadway, Slow city planning, 2009 ; Metrogramma with ETH Zurigo, Politecnico di Torino, Università Federico II di Napoli.

Projects

Milan Zoning Plan (PGT 2011); Scalo Milano City Style (2016), VIPs Buildings in the area of the Losail Marina in Doha, Qatar, tourist establishment dedicated to the world of skiing, named “Sunny Valley”, in the Urals, Russia, Parco Polcevera, Genova 2019.

He is currently the Scientific Director of all the events promoted by the Innovation Design District Milan - Porta Nuova, Porta Volta and head of the London-based design of The One Atelier, an international company specialized in luxury real estate. In September 2019, together with Stefano Boeri and Petra Blaisse, he won the international bid for the reconstruction of the "Quadrante Val Polcevera – il Cerchio Rosso (the red circle) and the Parco del Ponte" in Genoa.

Over the past fifty years, cities have been conceived as against nature. If we consider the infrastructure development between the 70s and the 80s, we can only see that traffic engineering has erased the last traces of nature in the city and built clear separations between those who want to take a walk or ride a bicycle and those who need to move quickly. Everything related to a slow-paced life has been cut to a minimum: squares have become crossroads, boulevards motorways. The natural environment has been reduced to the planting of hedges. Today 85% of urban spaces is intended for mobility and only 15% for people who move slowly. Cities however are made up of people. It is necessary to reconsider the space of mobility - in any case it must be smaller, electric and clean – in parallel with that of the natural city.

This is the right time to do it, everyone is asking for it, but we need to redesign the spaces. There is a lot to be done and there would be many structural investments in public welfare to be defined.


How to safeguard biodiversity?

Nature is a system: it doesn't matter how much green there is in a city, but how it is planned. The birds and squirrels in London move through ecological corridors that amazingly increase the ability to transfer precious bioclimatic and fauna assets even in the heart of the metropolis. Now that we have reduced traffic and move less, we look with amazement at the presence of deer in the city and a goose in the centre of the village. This confirms that the city has been working ecologically as a system. The ecological corridors - real arteries that connect green areas even far away from each other - are important not only because they improve the quality of our life, but because they strengthen nature itself. Connecting the environmental systems that are inside and outside cities as much as we can is the task of urban planners in the coming years.


What importance do parks have in cities?

NYC Boulevard & Broadway, Slow city planning, 2009 ; Metrogramma with ETH Zurigo, Politecnico di Torino, Università Federico II di Napoli.

Milano Future city – San Babila via Padova axis Research commissioned by Volvo: 10 centre-periphery axis projects, 2019.

The need for open spaces will increasingly be a necessity. And the parks in the metropolis a reality to be organized. I am thinking of Parco Sud in Milan, mainly a manufacturing area, little known to the city dwellers. If it were upgraded as an urban park it would be the largest in Europe. During this period it could host an open-air school. And it would be an example for the whole world. In Great Britain, for example, they are monitoring all the places where they can develop outdoor educational activities.

It is important that each neighbourhood, district or micro municipality has its own park connected to other green areas. The parks can host theatres, areas for sports, children, for reading, restaurants, bars. However, the quality of the parks is directly proportional to the quality of the services it offers. We need to design sources for drinking water, equip them with high-quality, self-cleaning, touchless toilets, capable of guaranteeing safety.


Together with Stefano Boeri, Petra Blaisse and Laura Gatti you are working on the Polcevera park in Genoa. What kind of park will it be?

Above, the Morandi bridge designed by Renzo Piano connecting very large geographical areas: France and Italy. It does not deal with the communities that have been affected by its collapse. The Polcevera park has the task of regenerating the two sides of the valley that have been injured. It is conceived as a system of parks with different ecology and infrastructure concepts.

There will be an industrial park, a memory park, a combined bike-pedestrian lane leading to the station. It will host an innovation center, a green factory, the new student campus that will feed the university, medical facilities for the local catchment. Green becomes a regeneration source of new life. In general, green areas have always been conceived as a need for builders to give something back to the city after building developments. In this case the difference is striking: we start from the park to build architecture around it. And at the centre of the project lie people's needs.