Area 8 – The Bella island
To mark the bicentenary of the death of Giuseppe Piermarini, ( Foligno, 18th July 1734 – 18 February 1808), the architect of the Scala opera house in Milan, the Minister for Art and Culture and the “National Committee for the Celebration of the Bicentenary of the Death of Giuseppe Piermarini” have organised a workshop to honour the work of the architect.
The utopian idea consists of turning back the clock 200 years to rediscover the historic roots of the city plan in 1819. This will then be the starting point for an imaginary urban plan which will provide a modern city capable of offering all the facilities and amenities necessary for the present day. Seven areas of the historic centre have been selected and each assigned to an invited architectural firm . Each sector has to blend the latest concepts in urban development and architecture as well as a “folly” by Piermarini, that is, one of his many undeveloped projects.
Studio Kuadra was assigned “area 8” with one of Piermarini’s “follies” , a design for a “stylised coffee house” ; a circular building of which only a few plans still exist. A longstanding exhibition in the Centro Arte Contemporanea in Foligno and a catalogue are the results of the workshop.
The project exploits the chance to build against the city battlements so as to redefine the physical and perceptual boundaries of the area. The concept of an external perimeter was reinforced by creating a bastion which serves both as a small city park and school building. As a result this emphasises the sense of protection offered to the inhabitants by the military nature of the construction, while the fortifications have been remodelled for the new buildings and uses required. The entire makes the area extremely accessible.
At the summit of the flights of steps, the fortifications have an observation area with a view of the world outside the walls where the city’s skyline can be admired.
Access to vehicles has been restricted to the area around the school. The area around the base of the steps has been converted to a city garden, This will be managed by the school, and ensures the city has a ready supply of fresh produce in the event of future sieges! The garden will be an instrument of social and pedagogical development, and a fulcrum for the creation of a community area as well as responding to the ever increasing demand for nature and breathing space in cities.
Before the industrial revolution, country and city cohabitated in harmony together, indeed, it can be said that in every phase of western history the development of a city was accompanied by a proportional growth in the parks and market gardens inside the city. This tradition was lost with the industrial revolution, nowadays in cities, cars have the upper hand.
The last 20 years have seen a revival in the venerable tradition of allotments: that is gardens inserted into the city fabric and assigned to citizens, but owned by an association or the town council. They are worked by amateur gardeners ( in this case the pupils).
The concept is to rethink the structure of Foligno based on its historic conformation ( a fortified city and urban allotments) to design a more sustainable future.
The stairways enveloping the “bastion” mean that it is completely accessible at every level and even the summit and outer walls are open to the public. In this light a terrace above the level of the city wall has been created as an observation point with a view of the outside and in particular the city itself.
The “folly” has been provocatively positioned on the summit of the fortifications, in the most exposed point and the most visible, increasing the juxtaposition with the surroundings, a spire jutting into the sky as in the original plans.
The building is supported on a slim winding framework with an hourglass shape, giving it a perfect balance; an installation in the garden of a modern art museum. Although the building sits atop the fortifications like a lantern, the folly does not interrupt the grassy path running along the city walls as tradition requires. Here this is reinterpreted as a smooth lawn, surrounded by shrubs, it might seem as if it immersed in an orchard; keeping a watchful eye on the gardens lower down.