Chiara Del Core 1 apr 2021 Articles 0 comments

7. The smart garden

Today the concept of smart seems to occur too often and sometimes even improperly.
In fact, there is a great distance between the abuse of the term in simple theoretical discourses and real use. It is necessary to understand the deeper meaning of the term and operate in order to guarantee its real application. By "smart city" we mean an intelligent city, which combines innovation, resource optimization and energy saving and ensures efficient and accessible services for citizens.
In the specific case of green spaces, they will be considered an integral part of the smart city and must be accessible and avant-garde. Today the field of design and urban furniture is very active in the study of increasingly smart solutions, in terms of sharing and energy saving. Below are some examples of conscious and responsible intervention within neighborhood parks and gardens.

Contemporary furniture between design and energy saving

Research in the field of outdoor design today is aimed at providing integrated solutions that combine traditional functionality and new technology. These are design choices that arise from the needs of a changing and increasingly computerized user.
The public garden is considered a living space, a place for meeting and exchange, perfect for welcoming accessible and environmentally friendly design solutions. If then innovation is the main aim to reduce waste, then we can talk about human-sized projects. In the urban context, more and more innovative solutions are chosen that concern the finishes and lighting systems of the gardens and in some cases the furniture.
For example, as regards flooring, the use of photocatalytic materials is spreading, capable of separating fine dust thanks to Titanium dioxide which captures and reduces polluting substances, subsequently washed away by rain.
Another solution chosen for walking surfaces is characterized by photovoltaic tiles. These are luminous glass blocks powered by solar energy stored during the day; each brick lights up at sunset thanks to the LEDs inserted inside it. In this way the space can be enjoyed even in the evening hours without excessive waste. Precisely with regard to the lighting aspect, there are several intelligent solutions that are used in public spaces. Increasingly equipped with sensors that are activated when users pass, the appliances are designed to contain electricity consumption and pollution. In fact, according to recent studies (International Energy Agency) urban lighting is responsible for 6% of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and 19% of world energy consumption. The field of intelligent street lighting today is enjoying great acceptance as solutions aimed at improving the current situation are urgently needed. This is how lampposts are placed perfectly in green public spaces which turn on and regulate the intensity and direction of the light beam according to the flow of people and go off when the passage is null.

Graphic representation of the effect of photocatalytic flooring with respect to environmental pollution

Another important aspect to consider within the smart public garden is characterized by the services and all those elements that contribute to improving efficiency.
Outdoor furniture deals with the study and design of furnishing accessories for open spaces. There are numerous experiments and proposals that intend to enrich traditional solutions by inserting innovative aspects. An example of this are the SMART BENCHES, sessions designed to improve the relaxation break with the addition of shared services such as the control of the local microclimate, the possibility of recharging the smartphone and still providing information on the place where you are via wireless hotspots. fi.
The electronic devices are protected from external agents and the refined design makes the seat pleasant from an aesthetic as well as functional point of view. The materials used are eco-sustainable and well resistant to wear and weathering. Often, this type of bench is equipped with photovoltaic modules that make it completely independent for the production of energy necessary to recharge the battery of portable devices.
Inside the public green areas, depending on the space available, you can also find sports equipment capable of performing multiple functions. Real open-air gyms where, through physical exertion, users produce energy re-used later. All tools are weatherproof and are equipped with a USB port that allows the use of smartphones and electronic devices. Sometimes there are also information totems that indicate the amount of energy produced, the kcal burned and the distances traveled. In some cases these screens are interactive and through a touch panel it is possible to exchange information and surf the web. These elements are waterproof, have an anti-breakout structure and are equipped with an audio system and braille panel to allow their use even for the disabled.
Since each neighborhood garden has an area used for parking for users, also in this sense there are very useful smart solutions that can facilitate users by saving them precious time.
A parking management system has been introduced which, thanks to a free and downloadable APP by everyone, allows you to check in real time the availability of parking spaces close to the green area. Monitoring works thanks to the insertion of sensors on the ground at each individual parking lot.
SOFT ROCKER, the seat with solar panels and USB ports

Sports equipment with integrated solutions

When security also becomes smart

The public garden project must necessarily include measures that guarantee safety inside the spaces, because it is known that if the citizen feels safe, he is encouraged to attend a place, otherwise not. For this reason, even in this field, innovation improves the performance of the elements arranged to protect users. The SOS columns are an example, connected to the control unit and to the emergency number, they allow rapid audio and video communication and prompt intervention in case of need. For correct operation and consequently rapid use, however, the meticulous and careful maintenance of the appliances is of fundamental importance.
Another important security measure is given by the area video surveillance system; the cameras are connected to the competent bodies ready to intervene in case of danger.
In this way, the above solutions allow the citizen to be an integral part of the control of the urban territory thus contributing to his own safety and that of other users.

Safety devices inside a green area

Participatory planning

If the project interpreted in a smart key also includes the participation of future users, it will have an added value of fundamental importance. For example, involving children through recreational workshops for predicting play spaces will help achieve a more satisfactory result. In the same way, users of different age groups and social backgrounds will be able to contribute to the success of the project by expressing their particular needs and proposing valid solutions aimed at satisfying them.
Finally, this type of approach is useful for recovering the sense of community and belonging to the place where you live, as well as promoting sociability among individuals.

8. Examples of neighborhood gardens

Architects and planners often find themselves faced with the complicated burden of redevelopment and conversion of urban voids or abandoned areas. The effort is to restore identity to places that have become anonymous residual spaces, reconverting them into areas intended for the community. Furthermore, since today the urban environment is poor in green areas, the public environment is interpreted in a green key and made a mix of technological innovation, sharing and sustainability.
Below are some examples of successful design that concern contemporary neighborhood gardens, intended for particular functions or born from specific purposes.

Piazza Risorgimento - Turin, 2016 _ The smart garden

It was the first smart square in the city capable of combining technology and sustainable innovation. Born from the urban redevelopment project of the Campidoglio district, the square was a real social experiment; on a temporary basis (3 months) it has received a great consensus among citizens. The promoter of the project was Planet Idea, a consulting body aimed at spreading integrated innovation in the urban area.
The main guidelines of the project were the sustainability of the solutions adopted, the advanced technology of the systems and the sharing of the services offered. Among the solutions, an outdoor gym has been proposed that can produce useful energy through the physical exercise of the users, a relaxation area complete with musical sessions and an area used for urban gardens. Furthermore, some specific choices, aimed at saving energy, have contributed to the awareness of users regarding these issues. An example is the photovoltaic tiles inserted on the floor and the information totems powered by solar energy.
Also from a social point of view, a contribution was made: through the planting of common gardens and bookcrossing, an initiative aimed at sharing readings and books made available to the community.
It has been shown how this type of urban intervention, attentive to the needs of citizens and in step with the times, has provided an excellent result from an economic, environmental and social point of view.

Entrance and smart bench
Users who use smart equipment and an example of a photovoltaic tile

Viale Montello - Milan, 2013 _ The sustainable garden

The lot where the "Lea Garofalo" Community Garden stands today has been abandoned for years, waiting to be used as an anonymous parking area.
It was thanks to the contribution of the inhabitants of the neighborhood, of architects, nurserymen, designers, of the Transit Gardens Association and of the Municipality of Milan if the fate of the area has changed. From the beginning, the intent was to give new life to the space by returning it to the urban fabric but in a green key.
At the heart of the project was the desire to recover pre-existing biodiversity through the insertion of native plant species, plants and new urban gardens. This decision was also dictated by the desire to recreate an extinct community environment in the area.
The choice of low-cost materials characterized the management of the space and the creation of the walkway, the floral basins and the seats, due to a limited budget. The management model today provides for the active participation of citizens, protagonists from the early stages of the redevelopment process, which make the place alive and lived every day.
Within this neighborhood garden, there are numerous social initiatives that link it to the events of the entire city. The promotion of exhibitions, cultural events and recreational events represents an important opportunity to make an area until recently forgotten, an excellent pole that attracts flows of people from the rest of the city. In this way, urban planning fulfills the important task of creating social networks and connections between distant areas but belonging to the same urban context.

Planimetric diagram of the functionalization of the area (out of scale) and view of the garden

Tools of the "trade" the citizens engaged in the management of common gardens

Freilassing, Bavaria - Germany _ The garden dedicated to fitness

It is a periurban garden the size of a football pitch, entirely dedicated to physical activity. Intended for a varied range of users, it is conceived as a meeting and exchange place available 24/7.

The green area used for outdoor sports is divided into four sections, each of which offers services to users of different ages. The first portion is intended for more trained athletes and consists of specific equipment suitable for the most demanding exercise. Two areas follow which offer cross-training activities, training suitable for everyone, including the elderly and the disabled. The last area has been left free of specific structures in order to increase yoga and dance classes in the open air. The outdoor gym aims to attract people from all over the town and to involve local sports associations.
The sporting garden has several objectives:invogliare i cittadini a svolgere attività fisica per contrastare stili di vita sedentari
  • favor a multigenerational use of the same spaces, fighting the exclusion of the weakest and most disadvantaged groups of population
  • increase the sense of community
Furthermore, the high quality of sports equipment made with resistant, safe and long-lasting materials is guaranteed.

Aerial view of the open-air gym

Sports facilities

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