Fiume, Baranzate, Milan, Italy, 2020
“Neighborwoods” is a project born to give new life to an unused bowling green in Baranzate, via Fiume 20. The space featured an open-air park full of trees, a kid’s playground, a football field, a bowling track and a little indoor cafe.
We conceived the area as an example of a blindspot: a cognitive bias that made it invisible to people in the neighbourhood. Thinking about it, our aim became to make the city aware of its overlooked possibilities by using mirrors as a metaphor for a new way to perceive reality. In that way, Aletheia became the keyword to achieve our ultimate goal: to bring the essence back from oblivion.
As a challenge, we decided to look at ourselves through the mirror. Being born in the outskirts we asked ourselves what were our desires, our needs, what made us feel unseen or lost. The activities generated by our reasoning dictated the qualities of the spaces we designed. Despite being different, and sometimes contrasting with each other, what was born could be conceived as an organism, breathing and reacting to the changes of the hosting ambience.
That was the time when we decided to approach the site in a new way. After classifying every tree, having researched its origins and details, we found their lost meanings. As soon as we finished, our vision was clear: we were able to find a place for each activity so that the designed structure had a protecting, enriching, in some ways symbiotic relationship with the existing trees.
We started by renovating the cafe to tell the story of the city. Baranzate was born as a cultivation spot for mulberries, to feed the “bombyx mori” to obtain and weave silk. An old tale stated that its breeding started the moment a cocoon fell into the cup of tea of the wife of the Yellow Emperor in China; she noticed the beauty of the filament and couldn’t resist it. For that reason, the Bar becomes Infuse-Eat, a soft, blurred spot to dive into memories and experience tea and its varieties in a different way. Being welcomed by a sensitive installation that reproduces the delicate sound of flying moths the space embraces its inhabitants, guiding them to a higher awareness of their bodies and origins.
Through veils and glowing paths, we wanted to conceal some surprises for the bravest and the more careful visitors: the bathroom becomes “Toylette”, a place to play mind games and experience the world the way plants do, thanks to hydro and photosensitive materials. By being grounded and observing users will be able to find indications to discover a hidden room, an intimate space to leave a message to those who will come later. Infuse eat features an outdoor extension right at the entrance of “Neighborwoods”, protected by an intricate arbour covered in wisteria.
The project then grows into the playground, the football field and a group of Diodara Cedars with a Parkour space with both humanoids and abstract shapes, a biomorph structure and suspended pathways. Those structures provide space to experience the adrenaline of Ilinx, extreme activities to explore ourselves through physical challenges.
The old bowling track is the right place to host a conversation and studying spot, embracing the inspiring properties of the nearby walnut tree. By creating two twin spaces, called Maieutica and Tana, we were able to highlight the existing features left behind by the forgotten activities once held there and amplify them. “Maieutica” is a space to chat and have a rest, to think and plan, alone or in groups. It has no walls, but its sides are surely part of its identity: mobile windows to ensure the passage, opaque materials that can become boards to brainstorm and a root-like pattern that frames its patron tree. The ceiling features a tribute to the Sun, that given the exposition of the whole place is exploited as an aesthetic factor during sunset. On the other hand, Tana is an elegy to nighttime. Born as a study place, its furniture is designed to be dismounted and folded to leave space for a soft floor that protects its inhabitants during the night. A lantern-like effect is obtained by giving privacy to the users, using non-transparent materials on the most exposed sides.
Lastly, we designed a perceptive space: a simple protective flooring is fused with non-toxic paint to the trunks of three Plane trees to give the illusion of a contained space. The space follows some perimetric walls to be used as canvases for street art. In that way, the Street Lab grows to protect its artists, giving them a safe space to experiment and discover.