HOME CARPET Town Hall requalification and new public spaces
An interesting operation of urban renewal in a brave tiny center among the early hills of Bergamo. The construction of a new primary school similar to a defensive inhabited urban border with a green heart, following a successful contest of ideas the Studio was proclaimed winner of, was joined in about a year from the education building's completion, by the integral redefinition of the municipal private courtyards, hitherto treated as merely residual unused spaces. The design task was directly assigned by the Municipality after appreciating the significant social impact triggered by the school mentioned above. Derived from a participative competition and realization path, the building, winner of several prizes including the recent 2013 Renzo Piano Foundation Award, was from the start greeted with huge enthusiasm by the residents, who made it their own inhabiting, grooming and protecting it with a decisive and amazing dedication. Assumed as a reference by the community, the building has been gathering around itself the frequentation of children, adults and the elderly throughout the day, thus encouraging a natural control and a progressive increase of environmental quality and safety.
The Administration, therein convinced about the need to insist on the process of urban renewal began with the school until then crowned with complete success, scheduled a second plan of recovery to be carried out in perfect continuity with the first: the town hall and its immediate appliances, distributed over an ideal ring stretching from east to west, and both landlocked between the school's didactic gardens and the historical park to the north, would conquer a quality and a valuable centrality that they had never possessed. These pertaining spaces, since ever physically segregated in an inaccessible residuality, were released from every impassable edge and finally donated to the community. The resolved attitude of "openness" chosen by the Municipality to characterize a new relationship of interchange with citizens finds here a symbolic representation in the clear elimination of any so to speak defensive frontier. The voids, previously denied and downgraded to simple terrain vague, now become porous and crossable substance experienced in every direction. Gardens and paved surfaces operate as a hinge, a linking support, a territory of connection between different urban locations.
The strictly low budget project is based on rigor and simplicity: a few materials (in physical and chromatic continuity with those adopted for the nearby school) and reduced significant elements are involved in defining a semi-artificial landscape aiming to set an urban "living room". The existing administrative residency, a colorful building of the early seventies, is treated with a slight redesign procedure. Simply dressed in more delicate colors and embraced by a kind of vegetal stretched ring square, the Town Hall becomes a core right in the heart of a new place where to get in touch, play or just relax for a few minutes at any time of the day. White concrete wheelchair friendly ramps and new staircases replace the inadequate pre-existing access to the building, while dark metal containments, profiles, railings and coatings, all custom designed, give to volumetric presences a kind of geometric attitude smoothly conflicting with the organic forms of tree masses, shrubs and lawns. A flooring in recycled light grey concrete elements with a barcode superficial texture, winds through meadows and historic trees drawing tactile fingers ruled by a sharp and precise planimetric geometry.
Suspended volumes for long benches in the green are placed at strategic thickening of the pavement just nearby significant points of convergence within the network of paths. At night all benches get illuminated at the base and start floating on clouds of grazing light that give the walking level a surprisingly vibrant look. Shaft luminous elements and light spots hidden in the bushes complete the construction of a warm, somewhat domestic, fluffy and highly familiar perceptual landscape. Connecting the school gardens to the historical urban park in a seamless green ridge, this new collective stage, just like a home carpet, has soon been welcoming, hugging and cuddling people at any time of day and night, taking the shape a real community proscenium. Former segregation has been erased, this is now a place for all. Cats prowl stealthily above the grass or occasionally take a nap on a bench. Mothers bring their children here for playing safe. The elderly meet, talk and rest peacefully in the shade of the trees at summer or just lay in the tepid sunlight during mild winter days. Always at twilight, young lovers find here a romantic place where to date and share their sweet secrets!