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Three alternative approaches to interpret and act on the urban landscape.

To interpret and act on the urban landscape, we propose three alternative approaches that arise from the common desire to seek the creation of ethically and socially more human places, in which innovation and experimentation with possible future scenarios become the basic principle of design actions. The three urban strategies explore three outwardly different approaches that, on the contrary, are deeply linked by the relationships of space sharing and awareness of the social challenges of the contemporary city, such as the need to increase green spaces and manage waste disposal.

Study team: Prof. Barbara Coppetti, Prof. Angela Poletti with Raffaella Cavallaro, Fabio Santonicola

Work group: Peiyun Wu, Linmiao Chen, Liye Huang; Ai Xu , Zixuan Cheng , Xueqi Wang; Wen Xue, Yijia Zhang, Yutong Zhang

The "Art Yellow Ribbon": a shared public living room


In this first approach, people, wrapped in an organic shape, become the center of the design process.

A long yellow line, a smart ribbon with multiple functions, ready to answer to different needs: it can be the floor of a square, a sidewalk, a table with benches on which people can relax, it can even become part of the building surface, or a barrier such as a separation. It exists everywhere on the site and becomes an axis that guides the main direction of movement.

The analysis of the ‘status quo’ of the site highlighted a very important problem, which became the main theme pursued by the project, from which the concept of the intervention proposal arose: since the area is very separate in position, function and population, the project aims to solve this problem with the main idea of "sharing", which means that public space can be shared among citizens and everyone can enjoy it together. Consequently, the "Art Yellow Ribbon" becomes the symbol of sharing, by integrating existing activities within the site and encouraging people to spend time there using this device, in order to improve the connection between them.

Following this design proposal, the public space becomes a "shared public living room": the living room is a space without borders, to be used exactly as the living room is used in everyone's home, a place to rest, watch TV, drink beer, have a coffee or play. A yellow connection makes thus the open space in this new urban scenario become a shared area aimed at favoring a new way of communication, which increases the possibilities of interaction between people as well as the space for artists and ordinary people.

From an architectural point of view, the yellow ribbon is enriched with various kinds of installations that run through the open space so underlining and stimulating the artistic aspect of the site, creating a new community culture, in which residents can take part in the work of the artists – making art everyone's business. In this way, art and community will no longer be separated, but will cooperate in order to redefine the identity of this abandoned piece of city.

The northern part of the site becomes the core of the experimentation for this strategy – it is an abandoned place, invaded by spontaneous vegetation and totally unused. This place, where the arches are the protagonists of the restoration of the area, is extremely important because it’s the beginning and the gateway to the site. By wrapping it in the yellow ribbon, the strategy is to improve the quality of this space, make it well used and able to attract the crowds, becoming a shared open space, capable of providing citizens with an interesting shared "living room". Some 'sharing devices' have been equipped with lighting systems, to foster a greater sense of security: at night, the devices along the river bank can transform, so that people can use this area even in the evening.

The different materials can help distinguish the place of the event from the square space. The soft material can provide a safer place for children to play with less safety risk. All in all, the combination of the square with the arches and the yellow ribbon makes it a place with shared functions and allows activities of different groups to be brought together.

In this perspective, the restructuring of the Arches part will have to play a fundamental role in improving the atmosphere of the site. Here too, the ribbon aims to transform the bridge, serving as a dividing line between the road and the site, in a filter space designed to connect the different fragmented parts of this forgotten piece of the city.

By creating a knot between the holes in the bridge, the ribbon crosses the arches, forming a volume with different degrees of opening. While the various volumes in space interact with each other and perform different functions, they are nonetheless unified by the theme of the ribbon. Firstly, the arches convert from obstacles to gates: just one hole will actually be the main entrance to the site so to keep the flow of access under control. Secondly, the arches switch from obstacles to connections: the holes in the bridge, closed with glass partitions and filled with different functions, such as workshops and community activity spaces, increase the activities for different groups of people and improve the quality of this new entrance. The lights and sounds of crowd activities will reduce pedestrians' fear of the place, thus attracting them to interact more with the area, while new forms of business that require human participation constitute a transition from a traffic place to a place of entertainment, enriching the road interface and stimulating the vitality of the site.

Another important point of experimentation is the space along the canal: here the ribbon evolves, becoming a pavilion overlooking the water in some points and a special pedestrian path in others: in short, it is meant to be a device that helps people enjoy the landscape both from water and from green space.

The interactive landscape created through the design of the ribbon improves the participation of residents and fun of the site itself.


The second outlined approach focuses on the growing inevitable facts about global warming, population growth and the global food crisis. The strategy is to use sustainable design techniques to create green cities, establishing an efficient and self-sufficient energy system in order to effectively treat urban wastewater and waste, reduce the impact on nature and its destruction through the city over a longer period of time, and achieve a sustainable and long-term urban life.

As urban residents are increasingly aware of the impact of the environment on food production, transportation, sources and security, urban agriculture is set to grow and attract more attention from the public and politicians. Many people choose to plant and grow some vegetables and plants right on their balcony. The strategy is therefore based on the construction of a new passage, in which urban agriculture is considered an ecological and sustainable lifestyle.

With regard to the problem of water pollution of the site, the acceleration of urban expansion and renewal, has caused a large number of artificial and exploitation interventions to affect the entire ecological environmental system; the large-scale strategy aims to rebuild the continuity and integrity of the ecological river water system. More importantly, the goal is to purify the water body and build a habitat that fits into the essential development process of the city, which would restore the connection between nature and man and create vitality and a sense of belonging for the area.

On this basis, the project aims to renovate the spatial function of the river bank and guide the residents to enjoy and use it through design, in order to make life and the river ecosystem coexist harmoniously, and finally realize the project vision.

The rain garden project takes advantage of the action of plants and sand through which rainwater can be purified and gradually infiltrated into the ground in order to preserve the groundwater on the one hand, and to use it for landscaping, irrigation and other urban waters on the other, thus achieving sustainable means of water conservation. The water circulation system not only purifies wastewater, but also releases nutrients for farms and urban parks. Moreover, the layered drainage system strengthens the reuse of water resources, reduces the waste of resources and achieves sustainable urban development. The plant system, at the heart of this design strategy, will also contribute to the creation of a microclimate, the release of humidity, the absorption of CO2 and dust particles as well as the production of oxygen.

Again, the area of ​​the arches is considered a main part of the project, a connectivity center for pedestrians, vegetation and other urban structures, which were previously isolated. This will encourage more fluid communication flows, from both a human and an ecological point of view.

In the current state, disorderly spatial organization, poor air circulation, poor ambient lighting, accumulation of garbage, weeds invasion and noise pollution caused by railways make people uncomfortable and reluctant to stay there.

For this reason, a design vision linked to "urban agriculture" was also taken into consideration, but developed in synergy with the planning intention that artists and residents can live a more interesting experience. These two background conditions meet in the area of the arches and are transformed. In order to maintain the continuity of the concept of "urban agriculture", we have set up greenhouses for crops under the arches as well as a reading space with didactic functions. At the same time, exhibition spaces and studios are arranged to meet the needs of the artists. In order to encourage the participation of residents and artists, we imagined a shared creative space, where they can carry out different creative activities together. In addition, greenhouse crops can become works of art to avoid food waste. In this way, people can not only enjoy the pleasure and knowledge brought by sowing, but also gain some artistic influence. Finally, we have opened another arch to allow people to directly reach the shared farm across the river by decompressing the traffic pressure of the original arch to encourage them to travel green.

Solving the problem of lighting and noise, on the other hand, was another important topic of study: combining the linear design strategy with the characteristics of LED lights that can save energy, protect the environment and promote crop growth, the arches stretch linearly and are provided with luminous bands, satisfying not only the lighting needs, but also allowing to create different atmospheres of the space.

A Sustainable Agricultural Art Park: a new scenario for the arches

Arches axonometry

The rain garden project strategy

A new scenario for the public space


Within the general design strategy of this latest project, our attention is entirely focused on environmental education and on the importance of teaching respect for the environment. In this perspective, the space under the arches of the bridge is seen as an opportunity to recover not only a physical space but also an ideal space, or rather an ideal concept, based on the principle that people are increasingly interested and engaged in the environmental issues such as pollution and attention to the management and disposal of waste, issues that are addressed through the tool of the 'game'. In virtue of the number of the arches, the project reinterprets the theme of the seven deadly sins in a particular way, by symbolically associating them with the wrong behavior of the individuals towards the environment. However, the function of these seven designed spaces is not to criticize human nature for its vices, rather it seeks to provide another perspective by making the semi-enclosed space under the bridge a privileged observation point of community life.

The elements of the arch in three dimensions are mainly recovered, namely the facade of the bridge, the space under the arches and the square between the bridge and the river.

Lust is then reinterpreted as an auditory space within which the processing of the terrain can make people hear the sound of the river flowing into the cave and reflect on how important it is to preserve the canal and the water from sources of pollution.

Gluttony, on the other hand, becomes a particular 'teaching device'. A transparent container is located inside the 'highest' arch – i.e. the arch not directly connected to the road: through a tube that extends to the road cycle path, cyclists can comfortably dispose of waste while, at the same time, the waste collection itself can be observed from inside the arch.

Greed is a space full of lockers where all the items people no longer use but could be useful to others are collected: the nearby residents can put things in the lockers for those who need them.

Sloth is an extension of the arch that reaches the square: the presence of the steps allows people to rest and children to play and enjoy the environment.

Wrath is a space characterized by different shades of red but also a space for meditation.

Envy: the central arch of the bridge becomes a set up place equipped with peepholes of different sizes, which provide some new angles for observing the river and the park.

Pride is a space with a large entrance, which gradually narrows as you get closer to the exit. The deepest part can only fit one person.

Finally, you can consider the area of ​​the arches as the central area of ​​the urban park and open it up and down, so that it plays the role of connection with the green space of the park. Inside this new square, the arched and circular shapes have become floors of different materials, enriching the flat style of the square. Small different spaces are also made to meet the needs for different activities of the citizens.

A large arched element at the site has also become a path system of the square. The route connects the two banks of the river, along the line, residential areas and green spaces, providing an integrated quality of space and experience.

A new place for entertainment and environmental re-education: design strategy for arches

A new scenario for the arches


In conclusion, the livability and happiness of a public space are conveyed by multiple factors, in turn influenced by a series of aspects, visible and invisible, which concern the area under study and its context. Each project highlights a specific aspect of Via Malaga, which becomes the fulcrum of the design process and outlines, through the development of a specific strategy, a new scenario that aims at well-being, quality of life, health and sustainability. In any case, the result is meant to be the definition of a place where people want to live and spend time, create memories and project their future aspirations.

Article by

supervisors R. Cavallaro e F. Santonicola; students: Peiyun Wu, Linmiao Chen, Liye Huang; Ai Xu , Zixuan Cheng , Xueqi Wang; Wen Xue, Yijia Zhang, Yutong Zhang

Image Credits

Peiyun Wu, Linmiao Chen, Liye Huang; Ai Xu , Zixuan Cheng , Xueqi Wang; Wen Xue, Yijia Zhang, Yutong Zhang. Supervisors R. Cavallaro F. Santonicola


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