Chiara Del Core 1 apr 2021 Articles 0 comments

3. The garden and public park

From the early 1900s until today, urban green spaces have always played a role
most important for citizens and the neighborhood park and garden are the most widespread example.
Both are characterized by an area inserted in the urban context, varying in size and which houses vegetation and areas used for specific functions.

Differences and analogies
Unlike past eras in which one felt compelled to follow rigid formal schemes, today green areas are conceived as a mix that blends the formal aspect with the functional one.
In the context of the contemporary urban landscape, parks and public gardens play a fundamental role for the link between man and the natural element now almost lost.
Both are called to respond to similar needs (playful, leisure, recreational, sporting), must be easily accessible from the entire urban fabric and must guarantee easy access for all. However, there are some aspects that differentiate the urban park from the neighborhood garden, first of all the size: we start talking about urban park starting from 10,000 m2 of surface, while below this value we talk about garden.

The urban park, very vast, is often located on the edge of the city and performs a hygienic-recreational function. Thanks to its generous dimensions, there are many activities that can be placed there; these are real functional areas structured according to standard schemes and rules. The lawn solution is the predominant one since it is easy to maintain, and is aimed at highlighting the vastness of the whole.
If the park is located in areas affected by suburban expansion, there could be areas used for vegetable gardens and spaces that recreate specific natural habitats, in order to develop and protect animal species that contribute to ecosystem balance.

Parks can be classified into:
  • URBAN PARKS → medium size, formal aspect, recreational-recreational activities
  • METROPOLITAN PARKS → large size, large turnout of users
  • METROPOLITAN BELT PARKS → ecological protection, agricultural activities

In general, it can be noted that the greater the presence of the plant component, the less intense the design of the architectural component.
As for the neighborhood gardens, these are small green spaces, introduced in the first half of the 1900s which soon spread like wildfire within the urban fabric. Today they perform an important social function as they can be used daily by the inhabitants of the neighborhood who consider them a point of reference and meeting point. The design of these spaces requires a lot of attention as there is an intense flow of people in limited spaces.
Here are some small design measures, useful to users:

a correct location of the shrubs ensures the alternation of shaded areas and sunny areas the choice of plant species can be varied but must involve little maintenance.
Autochthonous typologies are preferred, the alternation of green areas with paved and equipped spaces, guarantees the easy carrying out of recreational, sports and rest moments. The absence of architectural barriers must be guaranteed unconditionally from the earliest design stages, so as to allow access for the disabled.

As for the neighborhood garden project, it must provide more than any other, the correct integration with the context. The choice of flora, for example, must be made by studying the local species: a scheme of indigenous types is needed that replicate the most common biomes in the specific territory. Thanks to the presence of shrubs and vegetation, the neighborhood garden reduces the effects of the "heat island" typical of the urban environment, also decreasing the action of pollutants. Furthermore, since the activities carried out in the open air are closely linked to the daily rhythms and the life that takes place inside the buildings, the close relationship between the design of the gardens and the surrounding buildings is necessary.
From a social point of view, these are green areas that can be reached mostly on foot by the elderly and children, closely integrated into the housing fabric. The neighborhood garden, unlike the park, for its small size and its aggregation capacity, constitutes a point of reference for the inhabitants of a specific territory. Thanks to it, citizens feel part of a community (feeling often too faded in contemporary urban environments) and develop the ability to interact and socialize with each other.

Three Milanese examples

Sempione Park, Milan

It is an urban park located in the area adjacent to the Sforzesco Castle in the city of Milan. Dating from 1893, it occupies an area of 386,000 m2 and is an important example of an English-style Romantic park. With its irregular layout, Parco Sempione contrasts with the very orderly city plan. Fully fenced, it contains many plant species and a differentiation of spaces dedicated to play, sports, recreational activities and animals. Today the large spaces that make up this vast green area are used for important Milanese events and shows.


Map of Parco Sempione in Milan and photograph of the park with the Castello Sforzesco in the background

Forlanini Park, Milan

The park was inaugurated in 1970 and with an area of 750,000 square meters is located in front of the Milan Linate airport. It is a metropolitan park that still partially preserves agricultural activities. Completely free of fences, today it is continuously expanding and transforming also thanks to the contribution of associations and citizens who commit themselves daily to its management. Since it occupies a very large area, there are several plant and fauna species that distinguish it.


Plan of the Grande Forlanini Park, Milan and an agricultural cycle-pedestrian path inside

South Regional Agricultural Park, Milan

It is a park of the Lombardy Region that includes part of the territory of Milan and the municipalities in the south, east and west. Established in 1990, it was created to protect the landscape and equip the area with a large green lung. The total area measures 46 000 ha and the landscape is typical of the Po Valley consisting of crops, some wooded areas and numerous rivers (southern Lambro, Naviglio Grande and Pavese).
As for the fauna, it is mainly concentrated in the natural areas of the park while the highest percentage of vegetation is distributed along the banks of the rivers.

Parco Regionale Agricolo Sud - Milano -1   Parco Regionale Agricolo Sud - Milano -2

Views of the South Agricultural Regional Park, Milan

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