Di Dato & Meninno Associated Architects: The renewal project for the “Borgo di Castello”, the historic village surrounding the castle of Gorizia, has represented an opportunity to reconsider this part of the city, which is Gorizia’s symbol par excellence. It is, in fact, a place rich in history and in mutations stemming from the variety of authorities that have ruled over this territory in recent and remote times. Here the past has been radically reinterpreted into a new scenery that, nevertheless, is the seamless evolution of what had been here before. An accurate, preliminary historical analysis has generated new proposals that, together with a rearrangement of the prominence given to spaces and paths that had been changing through time, have given birth to a new configuration, thus regenerating an area that in recent times had remained isolated from the rest of the city. The main purpose was to create a new experience both for the residents and for the tourists who frequent these places, transforming this “fossilized” part of the city into a place that is fit for various purposes and occasions.
The visitors who are about to discover the Borgo are directed to the castle through the central uphill route, which is given new emphasis and dignity by the project, regaining its role as backbone of the road system, where the Provincial Museums and the little Holy Spirit church are located. Beyond the medieval church, before reaching the castle’s main entrance, we encounter a wide yard – Piazzale Seghizzi. This space has been totally redesigned in its appearance and in its functions: until recently, it had been a mere car park, surrounded by motorable roads and therefore not suitable for pedestrians. Now, it has been transformed into an ideal stage, with the tall pine trees planted after the first World War and the surrounding hills acting as a beautiful backdrop. The road above the yard has been eliminated and covered with earth, thus obtaining a slope and a natural amphitheater around the yard. Curved cuts across the slope, just sketched by weathering steel blades if seen from the yard, more visible and similar to elegant brushstrokes when seen from the castle rampart, serve as giant seats in the midst of green. The new arrangement of this space includes stone pathways leading uninterruptedly to the castle’s entrance, offering a variety of views of both the yard and the surrounding landscape with the hills of nearby Slovenia.
The possibility of using this place both as a car park for visitors and as a setting for open-air public events, illustrates the fundamental concept of the whole project: flexibility in the destination of spaces, in order to offer new opportunities instead of rigidly determining the purpose of each place. The remarkable increase in the flow of visitors and the new elevator from the main square to the castle are actually transforming the ways the Borgo is accessed. This has suggested the implementation of multi-purpose spaces for the benefit of tourists, of local residents and of citizens in general. A precise and accurate choice of materials, of their texture and patterns, has made it possible to create a natural and instinctive hierarchy of relevance, giving prominence to the central ascending road, to the clearing before the Holy Spirit church and to Piazzale Seghizzi: these have become the actual key points of local open-air life and of public events that are held here. The choice of materials is closely linked to the principles of durability, of connection to the past – memory – and of interaction with the environment’s colors. The architects’ concern to create a durable, long-lasting framework is manifest in the main focuses: the cobblestones forming a fan pattern on the ascending road, the weathering steel of the seats and the light gray stone elements from the nearby quarry of Aurisina, which have been salvaged from various local construction sites and restored in order to guarantee higher performance and durability in comparison to new, modern elements. The space in front of the Holy Spirit church and Piazzale Seghizzi have been paved with whole and split pebbles, in agreement with the Department of Cultural Heritage and Landscape, so as to recall the traditional pebble pavings that were obtained from the nearby river – the Isonzo.
Whereas until recently this area appeared as a medley of shapes, styles and materials, we can now enjoy the homogeneity of the custom-designed items of street furniture resulting in a harmonious overall setting: balustrades, handrails, road bollards, bicycle racks, etc. have all been created simply with the use of square cross-section, 1×4 cm steel blocks. The custom-made elements imply two advantages: a uniform, consistent look and simplified maintenance and replacement procedures that can be easily carried out by local non-specialists, following the information contained in a chart of metal components. The planting arrangement is the result of specific collaboration with a landscape architect. The common choice has been to focus on the seasonal aspect of the vegetation instead of its stately, monumental character. Therefore, thanks to the deciduous trees and the flowerings alternating all year round, visitors can rediscover those ever-changing colors and fragrances that pervaded this site in the nineteenth century, making the Borgo even more attractive and ever-surprising. The treatment of the pines’ roots has been particularly demanding, even if not noticeable at present, since obviously it was carried out underground. Nevertheless, the care of tree roots is essential for avoiding future damage to the pavements around the trees. As regards lighting design, although the need to comply with the narrow margins set by the Department of Cultural Heritage and Landscape, it has been possible to arrange the lightning in order to create accurately balanced dark and lit spots in order to obtain a dramatic, highly evocative effect.
To sum up, bearing in mind the cultural and historical frame of reference our renewal project was to become part of, we meant to concentrate here the memories of the past of Borgo Castello, determined to provide both the inhabitants and the visitors with a place that is renewed and permanent at the same time – not a simple summary of previous cultures but, based on an analytical approach, a place that represents innovation in the tracks of an uninterrupted path.
Design: Di Dato & Meninno Associated Architects
Location: Gorizia – Italy
Invited competition: 2010
Client: Municipality of Gorizia
Total area 19.000 sqm
DD&M (project leader)
Electric plant project: p.i. Mariagrazia Wilfinger
Landscape Project: arch. Emanuele Lai, arch. Stefano Valenti
DD&M (project leader)
Collaborators: Andrea Bisiach, Valentina Cantarutti
General contractor: Euroscavi Srl
Subcontractors: Falcomer Srl, De Zotti Impianti snc, Vivai Galiano Lessi s.s.
Photographs: Massimo Crivellari