A contaminated “drop”:
Project for an experimental botanical garden
Since the XX century, for the first time in the geological history of planet Earth, the intervention of a living being has had such a devastating impact on the terrestrial ecosystem inducing the scientific community to hypothesize about the ending of the Holocene and the beginning of a new geological era, called Anthropocene. This definition places humans, once again, in the centre of a new terrestrial revolution, as one could describe it, in which humans have become, by all means, a geological agent, capable of influencing the physical, chemical and biological balance of the environment.
The “Great Acceleration”, which began a century ago with the excessive use of natural resources, the emission of carbon dioxide and the increase in world’s population, has caused an unprecedented ecological earthquake, resulting in clear changes in the climate and the environment. Climate change or environmental change are often associated with the visible alterations that the biosphere sustains, overlooking the most important consequences human intervention has on the soil. The unscrupulous use of the pedosphere, has caused an environmental collapse, the invisible damage of which is worsening rapidly, thus changing the traits of natural areas and, therefore, anthropized areas as well.
What if these visible changes were only the tip of a drifting iceberg belonging to a now lost continent? What if the foundations of a city were nothing more than urban fossils from a new polluted geological stratification? Could contaminated traces become the “pretesto” for an urban and identitarian regeneration of a place?
A Contaminated “Drop” represents the manifest of a contemporary invisible “necropolis” formed by graves, containing industrial and social waste. This waste, which is both contaminated and contaminating, can rewrite the very concept of boundary between two spaces, two cities, two men, between a urban landscape and a rural one, designing once again a territory and with it, the elements and relations that form it.
In the Po Valley there is a city called Milano that, in the XX century, underwent a greater development than other cities, adapting itself to town plannings that aimed for an industrial and urban growth; these plannings, however, overlooked a fundamental aspect: the relationship with the surrounding natural environment. All of this caused a completely improper reconfiguration of the soil which, in some places, has lead to an illogical abandonment and a hostile inflexibility to the continuous mutations the society of the new century requires. The soil, thus, hosts static places and buildings, new ruins belonging to a post-industrial archeological scenery.
In 1880, among the many farmstead that once surrounded the city of Milano, one in particular, called Bovisa farmstead, was used to build an important productive industrial center with an adjoining railway track. This railway track encloses the alienated area, giving it the shape of an upside down drop. Nowadays, this area has become a degraded site called “Parco la Goccia” (Drop park), also known as Park of the gasometers, a 42 hectare abandoned area, contaminated by old industrial waste. Today, as rebellion to such abuse, nature has brought back a forest with 2500 tall trees inside this 42 hectare enclave, stating a simple but truthful law, the importance of which, only now we understand.
Contaminated traces, which are a manifestation of that former human activity, are hidden underneath this apparent rebirth of nature. They could also become a scientific resource to experiment with several biological technics to reclaim the terrain. These contaminated traces which are represented by an elevation of the soil to indicate the different toxic materials, present an occasion to redefine, or rather redesign, the whole area. This will only be possible if such information is turned into a project to develop a pedestrian cycle path that would delimit the experimental areas, keeping intact the arboreal and archeological industrial heritage.
We are talking about an Experimental Botanical Garden, the purpose of which is not only to research contaminated grounds bypassing the problem of pollution in itself, but also to take advantage of them as a genuine scientific and social resource. In conclusion, the park could become the first and only botanical garden with such traits and could be developed as a new scientific center for research, in which scientists and researchers from around the world would meet. Besides being an incubator for investigation, the project also symbolises the chance to regenerate an area of the city and , consequently, to finally establish new relationships with the place and the citizens; the park, with its sinuous and intricate paths, will scenically reinterpret the appearance of a nineteenth-century English garden, characterised by the presence of sycamore, poplar and linden trees, as well as a number of scenic sequences filled with a remarkable abundance of botanical species.