u m m e r
in residence 2001
u l y - o
c t o b e r
River Park project of Biella:
Andrea Polidori, Francesco Lamarmora, Gigi Spina, Giovanni Vachino and Giovanni
landscapes are not yet gardens, but it is only by selecting and composing
their elements and materials that gardens are made
become gardens when they are shaped with our hands and woven with our
(Ch. Moore, The poetry of Gardens)
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
provides opportunities for sport and relaxation with sports grounds,
open fields, paths, and cycle tracks .
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.
is a busy commercial area, offering opportunities for restaurants
and bars, factory outlets and quality commercial enterprises compatible
with the area.
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.