The urban fabric of Prato draws its uniqueness from its extreme symmetry. Aligned along the lines of the ancient Roman Cardo Decumanus, the orthogonal grid that makes it up is striking in its permanence and by the degree of its spatial and temporal extension. From the historical city center to the industrial and agricultural outskirts, the grid is deeply imbedded within the landscape. By virtue of its harmonious balance and adaptability, it still plays a key role in determining the urban setting and homogenous dimensioning of built surfaces, industrial blocks, horticultural plots. Residences, small factories, warehouses, orchards, vegetable gardens . . . a significant amount of spatial overlapping covers the territory with a complex but harmonious texture that remains extremely legible.
In order to recover the dimensions of such a layout, the three hectares freed up at the heart of the ramparts cannot be a void. This project functions in structuring the site so as to more fully integrate it into the existing order.
The park is made up of a vegetal and mineral composition developed from a figural interpretation of its unique cartography. Aerial views of Prato, in which the overall arrangement of the succession of plantings and narrowly-dimensioned factories is visible, have been decrypted, superimposed, folded over one another . . . allowing us to extract the essential rhythm and pattern structuring the material of the city, serving as a matrix for imagining the potential landscape of a park. This graphic process allows for the geometrical arrangement of mineral and planted surfaces, rigorously demarcated by sculptural hedges. The hedges function in ordering the site into axes that run parallel to the Cardo. A high stratum of trees dominates the park from above, while less regulated plantings are added to those already existing.
It is not merely a case of a simplistic transposition of an urban phenomenon and its outlines to the present, but rather the creative play between original urban forms and their memory. Turned about and rethought, these forms tend towards an abstraction that allows for the formulation of a system well suited to the site, contextually consistent in regards to the circulatory flows and dimensions it proposes.
The park not only evokes the ancient outlines of Prato, but those elements immanent in Renaissance Italian gardens as well, such as the use of perspective, climbing vines, and arbors. Utilizing a contemporary and abstract language, the park reinterprets the major principles of classical composition. The main elements of vegetal, mineral, and water, interact and play off one another here for the creation of architectural spaces which house artistic components.
To the south, a shallow basin runs alongside the rampart, placing the spectator at a distance from the architectural vestiges of the past. In baroque artifice, the water reflects the medieval wall: doubling it visually in height and accentuating its monumentality. The sequence of hedges multiplies the number of vanishing points and bifurcations possible, while creating spaces whose dimensions are similar to those of the public squares in the historical city center.
Located at the foot of the ramparts, the park constitutes a major entryway through which one reaches the small, narrow streets of Prato's historical center. It functions as a space where one already experiences the intimate scale and rational ordering of the historical center.
These scattered gardens are home to particular forms of vegetation that echo the artistic program of the site. The Luigi Pecci Center for Contemporary Art is located adjacent along the Avenue de la République. Through the desire to extend this intramuros space, and to be fittingly part of the cultural dynamic particular to the city, our program for the park remains closely in connection with contemporary art. To the north of the site, a single-story building opens onto the park, housing not only restaurants and facilities for the site, but vast spaces dedicated to temporary artistic exhibitions and studios.
The park itself takes on the role of an open-air museum. In the center of the park, contemporary sculptures are displayed within and around the park's remarkable plantings. The choice of vegetation was based upon aesthetic qualities, colors, and exuberance, and not particularly in relation to botanical properties. Displayed in such a way, these natural curiosities assume the rank of artworks.
Comune di Prato
MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste (lead consultant)
3,3 ha (7,5 acres)