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Cosenza and its surroundings

Street Life: Cosenza (Italy)

Council for the Environment

Project: Cosenza Citta' dei Parchi (Cosenza Parks City)

Town Parks:
Historical park of the Swabian Castle
Botanical gardens of Via De Rada

Intermunicipal parks:
Historical - nature park of the Vallone di Rovito
Nature park of the river Cardone
River park of the Campagnano creek

Sector 6: Protection And Maintenance Of The Environment
Ms. Ada Basta, Architect: Sector Manager
Mr. Franco Perri, Architect: Service Manager
For the Team:
Mr. Ferruccio Stumpo, Surveyor

Mr. Giacomo Curti Agronomist
Ms. Ernesta Librandi Agronomist
Ms. Angela Altomare Architect
Ms. Daniela Francini Architect
Mr. Bruno Manna Architect
Mr. Pasquale Vocaturo Architect
Mr. Francesco Campolongo Geologist
Mr. Paolo Vercillo Geologist
Ms. Albina Marasco Engineer
Mr. Michele Martire Engineer

The project in its geographical, economic and social context

The urban growth of Cosenza led to a fragmentised structure of the town which is now divided between the new part, displaying a discordant development along the plain, and the old part which is isolated, clustered around the hills and was abandoned by its inhabitants thereby causing the closing down of its commercial activities.
Cosenza's history, culture, economy and society have been strongly affected by the new urban structure.
Since the approval of the new General Urban Plan in 1994, important projects for the realignment of the urban structure and urban regeneration have been started.
Green areas and public spaces are now considered important factors for the urban and environmental regeneration of the town. Basically, the aim is to enhance the existing natural heritage and the historic places, therefore giving the area a more balanced structure.
Within this context the project 'Cosenza Citta' dei Parchi' was conceived:
The seven hills, forming the natural walls of Cosenza are considered to be delightful scenery that has to be linked to the town, in order to create a natural system of green areas which enhances the historical heritage and the landscape and meets the needs of the citizens at the same time.
The historic park of the Swabian Castle focuses on the Pancrazio hill, with the aim of regenerating its deteriorated and abandoned landscape, in order to make the citizens aware of their history and origins.
The botanical gardens of Via De Rada aim at regenerating an abandoned area of approximately 20,000 sq. metres and at transforming the isolated hill of Muoio Piccolo into an outdoor museum of the Mediterranean flora.
The rivers constitute a link between Cosenza and its surroundings allowing a more harmonious development of the town in order to regenerate its outskirts and to start both a formal and a substantial upgrading of the town.
The river park of Campagnano aims at connecting some fragmentised parts of the town along the town's northern border with the surrounding urbanised areas creating a single geographical and socio-cultural area.
The historical - nature park of the Vallone di Rovito and the nature park of the river Cardone aim at regenerating the southern areas of the town by restoring two natural routes. These routes are very important both for the national history and for culture and civilisation.

The project in connection with the fourth theme of the Biennial: how to design public spaces for a different use in the city

Over the last decade, Cosenza has carried out more innovative planning than in the past. The innovation lies in the restoration of the existing buildings and infrastructure and in the protection and enhancement of the environmental, natural and historical heritage, by redesigning the suburban areas and re-evaluating the ideas and processes which led to its creation. The present local government is aware of the need for a new centrality for the south of Italy to regain something of the past, when it was the cradle of civilisation. The goal is to find the 'genius loci' again and build a new scenery strongly linked to its identity and site resources. The answers to the uncertainty of post-modernism and to the crisis of modernity can be found only in the lessons of history.
The Document of Florence has provided the necessary official tool to put the project ideas into practice. These ideas have been conceived free from any intellectual interpretation of the past and aim at developing forms and spaces respecting the uniqueness of the 'green monuments'.
The project has been drawn up pursuing two goals:
the return to the original planning of the composition and the distribution of the spaces;
their formal and functional upgrading.

A team of advisors carried out two simultaneous and preliminary studies:
An indirect survey or historical study
A direct survey or a set of geo-topographical, botanical, architectural and photo-interpretative surveys.

On the basis of these cultural choices, the project was drawn up according to three main topics:
Historical, critical and analogical interpretation
Specific historical and typological information
Site regeneration

In brief, the analyses of the historical evolution and the environmental transformation led to the designation of the areas that have to be converted into parks. Along the river Cardone the ruins of ancient water mills and the many 'Torri carcare' have been found, as well as other important monuments such as the 'Eremo di Canale', where Gioacchino da Fiore died. On the Pancrazio hill the historical survey discovered the original medieval path leading to the Swabian Castle, the Roman 'Fontana Regia', and the features of the flora of that time. The original, radically altered background was re-created, thereby restoring the 'wonder of nature', where it had been wiped out or radically changed. This was done in order to achieve what we have always expected from a park - to surprise and to educate.

Project goals and programmes
The main goal is the ecological regeneration of the town of Cosenza through its parks. The Park is conceived as a social place, an intimate and quiet landscape devoted to relaxation and play, to rest, to contemplation, to dream - an opportunity to enjoy the city and its natural environment.
Environment is the central element of the area, influencing and suggesting the planning choices.
The natural environment that was kept unaltered or was remoulded over time, and the artificial environment that has been adapted to the human needs, are inseparable - these two elements are linked together and every kind of intervention altering the area would be harmful.
The project guideline is, therefore, the protection of the environment, its improvement by means of maintenance interventions aiming at the 're-planning' of the area and of the changed environment, simultaneously stopping the existing process of decay or preventing a new one due to a misguided approach.
In this perspective the Park is:
A path leading citizens to a more direct and harmonious relationship with the environment and fostering historical, physical and social activities.
A natural laboratory heightening scientific, artistic, and natural interest and developing a more spontaneous and genuine relationship between man and nature.
An educational itinerary for the young leading to a careful and stimulating analysis of the environment to promote awareness of the need for protecting the environment, public health and the rivers.
An historical itinerary for reviving the remains (the Swabian Castle, the Roman consular streets, the ancient 'Torri Carcare', the ancient water mills), the holy places (the Vallone di Rovito with the holy altar named after the Bandiera brothers, martyrs of the Italian Risorgimento) and splendid natural landscapes along the rivers which testify to the civilisation of the people of Cosenza.

Project strategies and results

The project ideas were conceived on the basis of careful analyses of the various areas concerned which led to first-hand knowledge of them and the detection of the most essential aspects from the environmental, historical and cultural points of view.
In particular such analyses have detected all the aspects concerning geomorphology, the environment and vegetation as well as the social fabric and its relationship with the environment over time. Moreover, it focused on the present exploitation of the area according to the needs and organisation of society, of patterns of life and their impact on the natural and historical environment of the area.
The results of the studies have highlighted the value of the areas designated to become parks and the need to avoid any kind of intervention which could cause their ecological deterioration. Therefore, the project basically aims at protecting vegetation, renovating the landscape, and regenerating the environment and buildings. This, in turn, will lead to the repossession of abandoned or disused areas. Only a limited number of new elements will be added and they will be in perfect harmony with the surrounding environment and, accordingly, will rejuvenate the existing historical elements, improve the exploitation of the area and support the dissemination of the culture and knowledge of the area. Therefore, the use of 'polluting' structural and architectural elements has been avoided since they could alter the historical importance of the areas, simultaneously causing a strong impact on the environment and irreversible changes.
Green areas are the main and upgrading element for the parks and urban scenery. The final outcome will be a system which will integrate the social leisure requirements and the need for more pleasant common areas and for a deeper knowledge of the historical and cultural roots of Cosenza.

Park of the River Cardone The Svevian Castle (Castello Svevo)