Candidate – Italy
Submission by: City of Mantua
Project name: Parco Te
Parco Te is a project of approximately 8 hectares adjacent to Palazzo Te in Mantua, a famous Renaissance building that is a UNESCO heritage site. Prior to this regeneration, the area was an underused part of the city that did not dialogue with its valuable surroundings. The project, with 5 hectares of lawn, 274 new trees of 6 different species and 1400 metres of paths and trails, creates a new hinge between the monumental area and the city through a geometric design that recalls Mantova’s historical elements, reconciling the vocation as an equipped urban park with the need to structure the space in a coherent way with respect to the monumental presences protected by UNESCO, which was also involved in the design process. The objective, shared with the Municipality of Mantua, was to create a contemporary public space to be lived in, rich in functions gathered in particular within the thematic green rooms, and capable of effectively but respectfully accommodating the needs of the different populations that will pass through it, reconciling them with the requirements of quality tourism.
Parco Te has a twofold social significance: on the one hand it is one of the cornerstones of an operation to reconnect the neighbourhoods with the historic city centre, and on the other it represents a space, a green lung, of life, activity and socialisation returned to all Mantua’s citizens.
The objective was to create a contemporary public space to be lived in by day and by night, capable of effectively but respectfully accommodating the needs of the different populations that will pass through it, reconciling them with the requirements of a historic building and quality tourism.
We strongly wanted a vital green area, fully sharing the motto used by the Municipality of Mantua to communicate this project publicly: ‘the city belongs to those who live it’.
The park is therefore rich in content for users with different passions and age groups, who can meet and mingle within this new city green space
The soil characteristics of the area limited the choice of trees, which were selected with the desire to create a resilient and durable park. The planting of 274 trees (Carpinus betulus, Quercus ilex, Platanus x acerifolia, Quercus robur pyramidalis x bimundorum, Celtis Australis), 1,400 m of hedges (6 species), 620 m² of shrubs (40 species) and 955 m² of rose bushes (5 species) in addition to 48. 000 m² of lawn contributes significantly to improving the urban environment, mitigating the heat island, promoting biodiversity, soil permeability and rebalancing the ratio between shade and sun exposure.
The new Parco Te project has transformed a previously under-utilised and poor quality area into a welcoming, pleasant and service-rich environment for the inhabitants of the area, the citizens of Mantua and the many tourists who frequent the area around Palazzo Te every day.
With the opening of the new park, visitors are now able to experience the district beyond the mere experience of visiting Palazzo Te, taking advantage of the small and medium-sized shops and local restaurants in the area. By creating a new experience that goes beyond just visiting the palace, the number of visits to Palazzo Te itself will also benefit.
The park also borders the city stadium, and the possibility of being able to spend quality time before and after the match in a space like Parco Te will make the experience of going to see the match of one’s city team at the weekend with family or friends more attractive.
The construction of Parco Te is a valuable investment in the health of the local climate, as it contributes to mitigating climate change, protecting biodiversity and improving the quality of the air and the surrounding environment.
Thanks to almost 300 new trees, the new park acts as a green lung and absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants in the air, helping to reduce air pollution. The trees and the numerous plants present act as natural filters, capturing particulate matter and other pollutants and releasing oxygen, improving the quality of the surrounding air, which suffers in the surrounding areas from the presence of driveways in addition to the pollution typical of the Po Valley.
The park’s vegetation provides shade and reduces the urban heat island phenomenon, helping to maintain milder and more comfortable temperatures in the surrounding areas, and the park’s large permeable green surfaces absorb some of the rainwater, reducing the risk of flooding and soil erosion.
Wellbeing of visitors/users
Parco Te has the characteristics to be considered a park for health, in fact it contains within it a whole series of functions related to open air movement both for sport and play that make it a place accessible to all where, thanks to its lighting, it is possible to do both physical and mental activity surrounded by greenery both during the day and in the evening. For athletes, there are three green rooms with an open-air gymnasium, a platform for yoga and meditation and an area for basketball and more; another three rooms are dedicated to games for children of different ages; a small arena will allow outdoor educational activities while ping pong tables, chess and bocce courts will allow ‘slow’ fun accessible to all. Finally, there is a large ring that wraps around the park where it is possible to walk, run, ride a bike or simply rest on the numerous benches present.
The selection, origin and quality of used products and materials
The investigation into the nature of the soil underlined the fact that it was a very draining and poor layer, with a very evident basic reaction. This situation limited the choice of trees, especially in light of the need to create a resilient park, one that would easily adapt to the current climate changes and where the plant stock would require a low level of maintenance.
This also led to the choice of rhythmically alternating rings of hornbeam and rings of holm oaks, ensuring greater adaptability to the progressive climate change.
The canopies of these two essences produce soft, well-penetrated effects due to their similar dimensional nature, and stand up well to pruning, while at the same time offering interesting colour interactions during the different seasons, where the stability of the dark green of the holm oaks acts as a continuous low point to the seasonal change from the bright green to the yellow of the hornbeams. This decision to limit the variety of essences used also stems from the awareness that in the formal setting of Palazzo Te, order prevails over variety.
This formal order is taken up by the project, reinforcing the edging of the area with the four large walls of first-size trees – Platani, Bagolari and Tigli – within which are aligned the rings made of second-size trees – Carpini and Lecci. This clear frame also defines the large central prairie and the two green exedras, for whose columnar essences the Quercus Piramidalis was chosen rather than the classic Cypress Poplar, on the basis of the former’s greater adaptability and resistance.
The 3-metre high hornbeam hedge towards the stadium and towards the railway, and the area of the old cattle market, which is not being redeveloped and is subject to improper use, are completed by the structuring essences of the plant.
There are many different paving stones in the park, depending on the area and its use. The main paths of the ring and the rooms are made of limestone.
The overall design
The area where Parco Te stands was previously a large underused area on the southern edge of the city of Mantua and next to the famous Palazzo Te. The project aimed first of all to protect and enhance the identity of this monument, partially compensating it for the ‘traumas’ that have radically transformed the area over the last century.
The central element of the project is a large open and freely usable lawn, which can accommodate a variety of informal daily uses as well as events of a temporary nature. This space is well defined at its edges by newly planted vegetation structures that nevertheless remain penetrable, even with the eye, so that the extraordinary historical heritage of the area can be perceived within the large invaded area.
The new vegetation curtains conceal smaller and more intimate spaces where equipment for more specific uses is planned to meet everyone’s needs: for sportsmen and women, three green rooms are planned with an outdoor gymnasium, a platform for yoga and meditation, and an area for basketball and more; another three rooms are dedicated to games for children of different ages; a small arena will allow outdoor educational activities, while ping pong tables, chess and bocce courts will allow “slow” entertainment accessible to all. Four particularly scenic green rooms will contain themed gardens: hydrangeas, herbs, grasses and perennials. Two large circular squares at the ends of the lawn will be able to accommodate temporary functions such as stages for shows or skating rinks for the winter period. A large ring where one can walk, run, cycle or simply rest on the numerous benches present will envelop the large central lawn, cut in two vertically by a path with flush fountains. Finally, four narrower diagonal paths will ensure a better bicycle and pedestrian connection of the area.
The architecturally poor city stadium next to the park has been screened from view as much as possible by plant grafts.
The impact on the environment
The first factor in achieving a resilient, environmentally conscious public park with low maintenance costs is to choose the plants in the right way, depending on the terrain, the local environmental situation, and the climatic data of the area. We also selected the plants from the perspective of their longevity, their shape, to follow the architectural lines of the project, and then made the right technical choices. For this reason, the variety of trees and vegetation in the different rooms was selected directly from native and local plants.
We are in an area of great nursery vocation, the vegetation chosen will complete and enrich the scenario of plants already present in the park. All the plants were chosen for their high energy efficiency and with a view to reducing the number of buildings and related works. An example of this is the automatic ultraviolet system that allows for excellent water quality in the level fountains, with less consumption of chemicals and savings in water change.
The innovation value of the project
The great innovative challenge of the project was to reconcile the vocation of a truly urban park, as a large collective facility, with the need to structure the open space in a coherent way with respect to the presence of the extraordinary monumental emergencies. the first step was to carry out an accurate study of the area. The park of Palazzo Te is a place of inestimable value, one of the most important UNESCO sites in Italy, which dialogues directly with the fabric of the contemporary city, in which it is actually located today. In this dialogue between history and contemporaneity, the Park project is positioned. We have therefore treated the memory of the place not as a static element, but as a dynamic one, capable of reinventing itself even today. This approach, not only preserving historical memory, but also opening up to the vitality of the entire citizenry, has been a new element for the city of Mantua, which has been welcomed with great enthusiasm.C