Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

• July 5, 2011

Shared by GOMMAdesign, this PINI@PIGNETO proposal is an entry for Pont’è Pigneto Competition.  The goal of the PontèPigneto competition was to gather ideas for a public space which could be energetically self-sufficient (through an intelligent use of form and technology) and elastic (capable to respond to fast urban transformations). The pedestrian bridge in Pigneto neighborhood – Rome, already an important node for the area, was chosen as the project’s location for his capability to become one of the iconic symbols of the neighborhood through a careful redevelopment.

GOMMAdesign pM rendering 01 600x338 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto, render courtesy GOMMAdesign


The neighborhood’s name “Pigneto” comes from the presence of a long row of Maritime Pine trees, planted by the Caballini family along the wall of the eighteenth-century “villa Serventi”.

In order to recall that image deeply carved in Pigneto’s historical memory and toponymy and integrate the project with continuity in the neighborhood’s imaginary, the “Maritime Pine tree” was chosen as the formal and structural inspiration for the proposal, considering also that nature can provide the best inspirational role-models for energetically and socially sustainable design solutions. Once identified the symbol around which people could aggregate, the main strategy was to promote the strengths and the most valuable features of the neighborhood.

The cozy and intimate ambience of Pigneto, which looks more like a little village, rather than a piece of Roman suburbs, facilitates a sense of conviviality and sociality which is still one of the main trait of social life there. For this reason, the square proposed here defines an intimate space, and takes inspiration from the image of a “yard” more than from the typology of “urban square”.

GOMMAdesign pM rendering 02 600x338 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto, render courtesy GOMMAdesign

The necessary safety barriers, on the edges of the square which overlook onto the railway, become the walls of this “urban room” and, although being visually permeable, suggest a more intimate use of the space. The sensibility for a sustainable life-style appears in neighborhood’s daily activities: the widespread use of bicycles as means of transportation; the small-scale entrepreneurship naturally oriented toward efficiency, reuse and sustainability; the variety of events organized to spread the knowledge about these topics.

The most iconic elements of the project, the photovoltaic Pinetrees, catch this vibe and are built with simple and reused materials that can be largely found in the surrounding urban landscape: pylons along the railroad, lampposts, poles and even bicycles, share the same cylindrical shape and metallic material. A mere mimesis through materials is clearly not enough, hence the goal was to create a new “simple complexity” obtained by rearranging the elements identified so far, combining, with a few basic assembly techniques, modular elements made of a few parts that are always the same. The aim was to witness the sensibility for an environmentally-sustainable lifestyle that pervades the area.

In addition, the “leaves” of the photovoltaic trees, designed not to hinder each other from the sunlight, add a functional layer more than a merely symbolic one, as they provide a large surface of photovoltaic panels, that could supply energy for the lighting of the square. At the same time they offer the sun-shading necessary to fully enjoy the square.

The lighting effect is the most visible expression of this simple-complex organization of the elements and gives to the square a mesmerizing new aspect in the night time: the unique atmosphere and the catchy visual effect is intended to become a landmark and the iconic focus of the crowded nightlife of the district, while at the same time ensuring the necessary illumination for the square to be safe and enjoyable.

GOMMAdesign pM rendering RGB 600x345 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto, render courtesy GOMMAdesign

The Pinetrees

Six trees: project’s roof and foundations
In the mood for reuse and recycle which inspires the whole project, the structural elements which constitute the trunk and the branches of the pinetrees are made of tubular galvanized-steel pipes, normally used in railroad’s pylons. They hide and contain wires and electrical parts, while at the same time serving as supporting elements for the branches+leaves system and for the slabs which compose the square (structurally beared by cantilevers attached to the trees’ trunks).

GOMMAdesign pM rendering 03 600x338 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto, render courtesy GOMMAdesign

The “leaves” accomplish 3 functions:

  • Collect solar energy (with photovoltaic panels)
  • Illuminate the square in the nighttime (with rgb Leds mounted on panels made of metallic mesh)
  • Provide sun-shading during the daytime.

The Square-Yard

Turning a crossing point into a place to stay and socialize, a “public yard” for the neighborhood. The square-yard was designed to promote a spontaneous, relaxed and informal sociality. The brick structure and the cobblestone paving of the existing bridge have been preserved, while its tufa and travertine parapets were cut to allow an easy transversal crossing.

GOMMAdesign pM benches plan 600x390 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto – Bench layout, drawing courtesy GOMMAdesign

GOMMAdesign pM trees plan 600x390 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto – Roof plan, drawing courtesy GOMMAdesign

The slabs, added on the sides of the bridge in order to create the square, are supported by cantilevers attached to pillars (the trees’ trunks) and anchored to the bridge and to the railroad’s slopes. The new paving is made of basalt, the same material as the paving of the existing bridge, to give visual continuity and sensorial homogeneity to the square. Furnitures are made of metallic meshes (vertical supporting panels) and galvanized-steel sheets (horizontal top plates). Varying their height while keeping a visual coherence and connection, that objects accomplish two different functions: they serve as benches to sit and stay and as walls with “analogically” variable transparency. In particular, these walls offer to the users who walk across the square always new and unexpected perspectives, transparencies, openings, overlaps and moiré-effects. In addition these walls offer an alternative surface to the walls of the houses in Via del Pigneto for spontaneous posts and graffitis and for official promo materials for exhibitions, events or institutional communications. The same materials and the same effects are also used in the perimetric fences: metallic meshes for the vertical elements and galvanized-steel sheets on the top.


An icon for the neighborhood, a witness for renewable energies
With an area of 600 square meters of photovoltaic panels, oriented southward, the project has a complete energetical self-sufficiency for the largest part of the year. The photovoltaic panels’ layout (an hexagonal grid), their orientation (southward), their tilt angle (30 degrees) and their shape are designed and optimized to use as much as possible the available surface and to ensure that no solar panel receives shade from adjacent panels.

GOMMAdesign pM lighting scheme 600x335 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto, drawing courtesy GOMMAdesign


PV-powered LEDs
The square is illuminated diffusely by LEDs applied to the metallic mesh panels which compose, together with solar panels, the treetops. More specifically, the mesh panels mount two rows of LEDs, one facing down (for the direct illumination of the square), and one pointing up. In the latter case, the shielding on the back of the solar panels placed at a higher altitude catch and reflect the LEDs’ light output diffusely.

GOMMAdesign pM night rendering 01 600x338 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto, render courtesy GOMMAdesign

In particular, as “RGB” LEDs are used, the light output can be varied both in intensity and color, hence different configurations (fixed or changing over time) can be achieved.

The strong visual effect that you get with this lighting system is a “crown” of light, which strongly characterizes the project, and turns it into an iconographic and visual landmark for the whole neighborhood.

In addition to the lighting system mounted on the treetops, any furniture (benches, partitions, perimetric fences) mounts, below the top plate, LED light fixtures directed downward, which provide a diffuse lighting that at the same time accent the geometries of the project.

Fast and green mobility: Bicycles
A side of the square is reserved for a three-meters-wide bike path with an adjacent bicycle parking area, so that the new square could also become the start and the end point of possible routes and an exchange node between pedestrian and bicycle mobility systems.

The bike path is placed on the side in order to avoid pedestrian crossings and assure this way the best functioning of the square. Its paving is made of concrete with blue pigment granules, in order to mark its different function and recall the color of the sky reflected by the metal elements of the square.

With the aim to promote bicycles as non-polluting and socially healthy means of transport, the project proposes to prohibit motor vehicles from crossing the square, as they can easily take advantage of the existing closest driveways.

GOMMAdesign pM crossing and sitting scheme 600x900 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto, drawing courtesy GOMMAdesign

Future covering of the railroad’s ditch: the Green Linear Park

The vision of a future covering of the railroad’s ditch that this project suggests allows the creation of a large Green Linear Park which, at the most relevant points for pedestrian crossing, will feature “photovoltaic” squares, similar to the one proposed here.

GOMMAdesign pM extension 600x100 Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto, drawing courtesy GOMMAdesign

Parametric design strategies

One of the main elements of the project for PontèPigneto competition was the solar-paneled canopy inspired by the shape of the Maritime Pine tree. Hence the design process started from looking at the beautiful structures created by recursive branching systems (such as pine trees), while in parallel different models and methods to achieve optimal packings of solids in space, like foams and crystals, were analyzed. Thanks to the great capabilities of “Grasshopper” (a parametric modeler for Rhinoceros3d –, it was possible to manage the complexity of the proposal and explore different possibilities.

So in Grasshopper a node-based parametric model of a modular branching system was created, through which it was possible to explore and evaluate different configurations and aggregations, and verify in parallel very quickly the modularity and the assemblability of the components.

GOMMAdesign pM geometry Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto – Geometry plan, drawing courtesy GOMMAdesign

Through exploring the geometrical properties of the hexagon, a shape which optimally packs in two dimensions, all the other rules, which controlled the geometrical behavior and the shape of all the other elements of the branching system in three dimensions, were derived.

Different ways the single modules could aggregate and proliferate were considered, paying attention to eventual structural and geometrical issues at joints, where several branches met. The aim was to obtain a continuous tridimensional structure, in which all the pinetrees could work as a whole interconnected canopy and could resist to winds and accidental forces in an optimal way.

GOMMAdesign pM parametric plan Pini@Pigneto Sustainable Urban Space | GOMMAdesign

Pini@Pigneto – Parametric plan, drawing courtesy GOMMAdesign

All this was possible because every component was designed to be completely parametric, so it was easy to change and verify instantaneously every strategy and every parameter variation, i.e. the initial shape of the “cell”, the branches’ tilt angle, the lengths and the diameters of all the structural elements, their aggregation (in order to optimize both geometrical and structural issues) and the shape and the inclination of the solar panels.

In particular, regarding solar panels, the parametric model allowed to optimize panels’ shape and at the same time to avoid unexpected shadows in order to maximize the energy production.

+ Project credits / data

Project: Pini@Pigneto
Type: Public square
Location: Pigneto – Rome, Italy
Year: 2010
Status: Competition entry
Design: GOMMAdesign
Design team: Francesco Bagni, Vittorio Menna, Gabriele Settimelli

+ All images and drawings courtesy GOMMAdesign

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Category: Landscape

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