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Competition: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

An open international competition has been announced to revamp the 1,830m2 Isola Pepe Verde community gardens in Milan, Italy (Deadline: 1 November)

Open to everyone, the Sprouting Minds contest seeks ‘self-sufficient and zero-impact’ proposals to transform the public green space in central Milan and create a new upgraded children’s playground and other functional spaces.

The call for concepts aims to identify a phased strategy to regenerate the gardens in three stages allowing the space to remain open to the public. All materials used on-site must be renewable and concepts should allow for future self-build expansion.

Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

According to the brief: ‘Today, the community garden is an emerging feature in the transition between an industrial dormitory city and post-industrial city focused on wellbeing.

‘All proposals must keep room for the eco-boxes and reflect on the culture of community gardens as a response to the failure of contemporary public spaces.’

Founded by an apolitical group of 20 members seven years ago, Isola Pepe Verde is a non-profit organisation with 18 trustees and more than 300 members. The group was granted a large plot in the Isola district of central Milan in 2012 and opened the green space to the public the following year.

Located a short distance from Milano Porta Garibaldi railway station, the volunteer-run gardens receives an average of 120 visitors every day and also hosts a range of community events throughout the year.

The unique green space – located in an area of the city renowned for its shortage of parks – features around 1,000 natural specimens, 200 plant species, 35 eco-boxes and 2 compost boxes.

Contest site: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Contest site: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Contest site: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

The latest project aims to upgrade and renew the popular park which celebrated its fifth anniversary last month during the Milan Green Week.

Submissions must include at least three A3-sized presentation boards featuring images along with one-A4 page containing a 4,000-character project description. The competition language is English.

The overall winner – to be announced on 7 December – will receive offered €3,000 and five additional honourable mentions will also be awarded. All winning projects will be exhibited at Isola Pepe Verde in March next year.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is 5pm local time (UTC+1) on 1 November

Contact details

IPV
Via Guglielmo Pepe 10
20159 Milano MI
Italy

Email: sproutingmindscompetition@gmail.com

View the competition website for more information

Q&A with Elisa C Cattaneo

The organiser discusses her ambitions for the contest

Elisa C Cattaneo

Elisa C Cattaneo

Elisa C Cattaneo

Why are your holding an international contest to rethink the garden play space at Isola Pepe Verde in Milan?

The project is a hologram of a general thought, both on the act of design – as a cultural project – and on the city as a critical opportunity. On the city, because it recalls an urban space that works by contrasts and differences, by minority and molecular scales to counter global and generic ones. In this sense, the project needs a complex urban thought, as a para-city in the city, towards a non-homologation, a multiplicity. Regarding the design project, the game is indicative because it requires an invention/reconfiguration of rules and spaces. Through the game, which is allowed only to artists and children, as Deleuze said, we redefine a way of imagination that is not belonging to our knowledge. Other possibilities, other ways might rise. We have opened the competition to an international public precisely because within this theme are contained the central questions about the contemporary city and the contemporary project: different nationalities presuppose different cultures and different approaches, therefore an enrichment of the points of views. In particular, young people are called upon to expose themselves autonomously in relation to two questions that touch the heart of the project: what kind of city have I in mind? How do I approach the project?

Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

What is your vision for the new outdoor playground?

My vision is the answer to a city that can live through stratifications and contrasts, which grows abandoning the ‘great ideologies’ and the modern project that have characterised the western city during the last decades. A ‘weak city’, therefore, in the sense of infirmity, that is, moving away from the magnificence and exact synthesis. It is an idea of city related to the Weak Thought (A Rovatti, G Vattimo); to Foucault. The participants are called to respond to the topic through both invention and/or rhetoric. It is not a request for a utopian or visionary city, but for an imaginative one. And the latter is substantially different from the formers. Imagination has a strong history, rules, sophisticated approaches. Also sustainability is an essential topic in this competition, but not as ideology, but because it might imply an infra-free city, with light infrastructures that replace heavy systems. It is a way to create a free space.

Contest site: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Contest site: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Contest site: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

I think that architects, artists, scholars, students at every level are taking part in it. The teams might be multidisciplinary and it is not needed to have local representatives. Proposals must be submitted in the way requested by the call, to assure anonymity and allow a correct jury’s procedure.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

This call is a pilot project and, when successful as I am sure it will be, it is going to be replied in other cities, according to site-specific needs and conditions, involving local communities and citizens. The major result of this competition will be the spreading of this procedure throughout the world.

Are there any other recent garden play space projects you have been impressed by?

There are many illustrious references: from Aldo Van Eyck’s kids, who replaced in his challenging playgrounds the exact Corbuserian hero (and a total-white architecture). But I also think of Gille Clement’s interpretation of nature, of his suspended and biodiverse gardens as new relationships between man and nature; or Oudolf’s gardens or, again, the Time Landscape by Alan Sonfist: an extraordinary work readable as park, as garden, as work of land art. An approach without disciplinary boundaries. After all, the garden is the first and original place generated by human beings, to try to dominate and to soften Nature. The garden is a hybrid, stratified place, impossible to channel into a single discipline. It is a thought about the universe. In a certain sense, the garden works as Alice’s mirror: it can transform everything in something else and change the meaning of the world.

Contest site: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Contest site: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Contest site: Isola Pepe Verde, Milan

Happenstance case study: Q&A with Lee Ivett

The founder of Baxendale Studio discusses lessons learned creating a new playspace for the Scottish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

How did your project create an innovative new playspace within an existing garden in Venice?

The Armature tests ideas about the role of design in facilitating people’s collective and individual agency. It creates space for cinema/performance, for play and for making along with the ‘tools’ and material with which to occupy and interpret those spaces. The Armature takes the form of a corridor/walkway that is animated through colour, light and structure; providing sanctuary and connectivity between activity spaces and other areas within the garden of Palazzo Zenobio.

This project is it is not a playspace that is solely for children. It is a place to be playful regardless of age, ability, background. It was important that adults felt equal amounts of delight, potential and opportunity in a place that they wanted to be rather than just leave their children.

Happenstance by Baxendale Studio

Happenstance by Baxendale Studio

Source: Image by Brian Hartley

Happenstance by Baxendale Studio

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

The visual language is heavily inspired by Venice. It is a meaningful response to the physical, spatial and existing activity of the site and to a vernacular application of temporary structures in Venice: the altane, sets and colours used during carnival, the passerelle; (walkways that are brought out during the flooding). We utilised timber and simple methods of assembly to permit participation in its construction and to encourage replication and adaption beyond our involvement. From the outset people really engaged with the structure in a multitude of ways; they touched it, climbed it, cycled through it, sat on it, swung off it etc. As a resource it quickly became precious but as an object it was always intended to be quite the opposite.

Happenstance by Baxendale Studio

Happenstance by Baxendale Studio

Source: Image by Basharat Khan

Happenstance by Baxendale Studio

What advice would you have to contest participants on rethinking the garden play space at Isola Pepe Verde in Milan?

Use design to suggests rather than dictate behaviour. Work collaboratively across creative disciplines. The successful application of the armature was the collaborative relationship between ourselves and the Lead artists and curators of The Happenstance project; Wave Particle. They ‘anti-curated’ a team of artists and architects from Scotland to act as the spark that would engage the community and ignite activity by responding to the Armature. It is also important to really understand and engage with the existing dynamics of the site; to use design to make sense of it and then expand the potential and possibilities that the location can afford. Be bold and be beautiful.

Happenstance by Baxendale Studio

Happenstance by Baxendale Studio

Source: Image by Basharat Khan

Happenstance by Baxendale Studio