Providing a serene antidote to the hubbub of Milan Design Week, this tranquil pavilion recasts the idea of early Italian garden
Despite their centuries of development, Italian gardens are today victim to a shallow characterisation. We’ve constructed a vision of flowerless greenery around restored Renaissance examples – much like we continue to ignore the true polychromy of antique architecture. While these denials reassure our conceptions of restrained ‘good taste’, they come at the high cost of experiential authenticity.
For, like buildings, gardens are about mingling the cerebral with the sensory. To ignore this is to sterilise their beauty and numb their power. Thankfully, the Giardino Geometrico, Piero Lissoni’s contribution to Milan Design Week, succeeds in recovering the phenomenological magic of both colour and scent.
Nestled among the flora of the Brera Botanical Garden, the outdoor installation combines a temporary pavilion with a scattering of furniture from sponsor Living Divani. The pavilion’s modular regularity, derived from its gridded plan, is offset by a graceful lightness of structure. From the perspective of a low-slung armchair underneath the pergola-like covering, the garden’s parterres surround you as a series of framed landscapes.
Lissoni’s serrated roofline also plays its part in mediating nature. Enclosing panels of transparent mesh, it simultaneously diffuses the sun’s rays while punctuating the leafy canopy above. Meandering through the pavilion, your eyes are drawn up to where the enveloped trees escape through gaps in the roof.
This interlacing of the manmade and organic is again reflected in the choice of materials. In addition to the wood and steel superstructure, Lissoni incorporates panels of Laminam – a high-performance ceramic product. Set at right angles to the pavilion’s central corridor, these wafer-like slices echo the language of the louvres above. Finished to resemble stone, onyx and marble, they also suggest a Miesian reference – the Barcelona Pavilion en plein air?
The engineered ceramic is also repeated elsewhere in the labyrinthine garden, alongside a colourful selection of new and classic designs from Living Divani. These pieces of furniture invite the visitor to take momentary pauses to savour the mingled array of botanical fragrances. Thus, the Giardino Geometrico recaptures the symbiotic purpose of early Italian gardens – a commune with nature and an immersion in its delights. Despite the botanical garden’s scientific origins, it avoids all clipped harshness in favour of a rich palette of sensory experiences.
As a whole, the installation also succeeds in demonstrating how to do a sponsored project with integrity. While so much of Milan was drizzled with the faddish ‘design bling’, here, the garden, structure and furniture all play off each other intelligently. Together they succeed in creating what all the best design does – a whole greater than the sum of its parts.