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Unidee in residence 2001
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for River Park project of Biella: Andrea Polidori, Francesco Lamarmora, Gigi Spina, Giovanni Vachino and Giovanni Pidello

Natural landscapes are not yet gardens, but it is only by selecting and composing their elements and materials that gardens are made… natural places become gardens when they are shaped with our hands and woven with our dreams.
(Ch. Moore, The poetry of Gardens)

As part of the Campaign " Together for the Landscape" , promoted by the Observatory for the Environmental and Cultural Heritage of Biella, the Pistoletto Foundation has contributed in recent months to the reopening of the debate over the future of the area along the River Cervo, which separates the district of Chiavazza from the city of Biella. This part of the town is home to buildings of important architectural and cultural interest such as Arch. Giuseppe Pagano's Pettinature Riunite, the Michelangelo Pistoletto's Cittadellarte, and the Sella Foundation and these have drawn attention to the area, encouraging the idea of a riverside park.
As this operation takes shape it is proving to be one of the most important initiatives for the future of the town since the associations and evocative power the place excites, constantly suggest new ways of exploiting it to the best advantage. Also taking part in the debate with commitment and enthusiasm are the Benetton Research and Study Foundation of Treviso which have been involved for years in the conservation and improvement of "areas". Fundamental to the development of the project and for its legitimacy is the commitment of the Council of Biella.

The Observatory for the Cultural and Environmental Heritage of the Biellese
The Observatory was established in 1994 to strengthen the links between various entities (local history, environmental and conservation associations), which had been doing important work in the field of the cultural and environmental heritage for years.
The sole objective of the Observatory is the protection, promotion and enhancement of objects of artistic and historic interest, together with the protection and enhancement of nature and the environment, by means of a collaboration between associations, societies and other entities whose objectives are entirely or partially the same.
In the year 2000 the Observatory for Cultural and Environmental Heritage promoted the first phase of the awareness campaign "Together for the Landscape", whose aim was to create the conditions for a debate that was open to everybody on the subject of the landscape. Different initiatives were launched where the common objective was to understand, to experience and to defend the landscape. These three verbs define the main themes of the campaign but also the three fields of activity in which the twenty members of the Observatory are involved.

The River Park
The structure and configuration of the "garden" are the result of those ideal tensions (mystic/ideological) and those motivations (economic/functional) that have formed the values and the guidelines, in the history of a community, of a people, a civilization.
Even if the material which constitutes it is prevalently "natural", the garden is not a natural landscape and it cannot be assimilated to this because its chief characteristic is its intentionality, its ability to interpret and describe a world of which it is part.
In recent years a new trend has developed with regard to the planning of green spaces, aimed at integrating these in some way with the town, following previously laid-down rules, but adding corrections and improvements. This represents a new approach because previously urban green space was generally created in expanding areas and the juxtaposition of new building and green areas had never been seen in terms of complementary design.

In its evolution the "garden" is indissolubly linked with the development of a town and sometimes provides a place for experiment, a foretaste of what the town itself will become.
The way urban parks are planned today is closely related to the important question of " saving " the urban environment; it is a question of proposing interventions aimed at restoring meaning and dignity to the space where people live besides providing new possibilities for expression in order to create an all-embracing "consolidation of image" of the area, salvaging and rewriting the layers of its history.
To sum up, therefore, the modern concept of a park, according to recent developments in the architecture of European landscape, must be seen as a large multi-purpose, polysemantic container, a living organism that generates events, activities and interests, which attracts and arouses curiosity, communicates and improves the quality of life for citizens and their surroundings; a place whose historical, cultural and environmental identity will clearly re-emerge after having been partially cancelled or put to one side in our modern times.

A highly evocative area of Biella has been identified as possessing the potential and characteristics to become a "container" for art, culture and nature. This area is situated along the banks of the River Cervo and separates the district of Chiavazza from the town of Biella.

It is an area where the industrial and cultural heritage is extremely important: it contains examples of industrial archaeology such as the ex- Pria Woolmill on the bridge of the Maddalena, the Rivetti factories, the industrial complex of the Sella family where the Sella Foundation is situated, the Pistoletto Cittadellarte Foundation on the site of the former Trombettta Woolmill, and that masterpiece of Italian rationalism, the G. Pagano factory.

It contains atmosphere and landscape, with a fragile and vitally important fluvial ecosystem, " Ripisilva" vegetable associations, and it is an example of rural and protoindustrial landscape where traces are still present of the irrigation ditch system, which should be preserved before it disappears forever.

It provides opportunities for sport and relaxation with sports grounds, open fields, paths, and cycle tracks .

It is well-connected to Biella by means of bridges, with paths for cyclists and pedestrians providing an alternative to the car for travelling between Chiavazza and the town.

It is a busy commercial area, offering opportunities for restaurants and bars, factory outlets and quality commercial enterprises compatible with the area.

Another important consideration is the need to connect those valuable and evocative aspects of the urban section of the River Cervo (Cittadellarte, Sella Foundation, etc.) which, although unique, do not at the moment form a whole; a connection by means of routes and pathways would provide a positive synergy and a cultural experience of great importance that would certainly attract attention beyond the boundaries of the province. A similar link-up should be created between areas that are currently empty and an exhibition space could be developed in the Pagano or Rivetti factories. There would doubtless be advantages for all concerned but only if the project is conceived as a whole, and not as separate units. It is essential that the concept of connection is not limited to the area of the park but extends to the town so that there is no noticeable, physical boundary between town and the park, which must be accessible from various parts of Biella and should form an integral part of the entire urban green system.