The local town council's decision to pedestrianize the centre necessitated a substantial rethinking of public space in Montebelluna, especially Piazza Gabriele d'Annunzio and the stretches of Via Manzoni just off this square. In Luisa Fontana's eyes, it was essential to completely overhaul sections to produce an area that was convenient, accessible and sustainable - in the broadest sense. The design process involved analysing the data and requirements, determining how historical and functional aspects could be correlated, and introducing aesthetic features to form a zone in which people interact, a place of relations. The role of architecture here was to turn a public space into an enjoyable area for people, combining innovation (notably the pieces that furnish the area, designed by Luisa Fontana), organic design and other elements that help create a participatory vision of the project. At the forefront of this process was the exchange between urban history and architecture. The setting was originally formed during a 19th-century period of expansion that saw the addition of buildings and public spaces to make the urban centre more functional. This means the town has elements of formal architecture as well as specific spaces for markets (grain, cows, pigs, poultry). This exchange was useful to understand how to proceed with the transformation. In the project, urban architecture engages with the buildings, affirming a sense of modernity while introducing new functional and visual elements. The work takes a global approach to tackling the key question of how to exploit the potential of this space to produce an enjoyable area that draws people to it. The project meets a wide array of needs. For instance, the entire public area and surrounding shops are accessible and friendly places for just about everyone, with shaded areas, elegant designs, durable materials and environmentally sustainable solutions. The harmony that pervades all the different aspects helps make this a compelling place, regardless of whether one is a regular or occasional user. It is a lovely place to go for a stroll, meet friends, enjoy shopping or browse through one of the markets. It is an attractive place for visitors and locals alike, enticing them with its original urban furniture, colours, water features and flooring, and offering opportunities to rest and be sheltered. This design uses multiple tools. The floors are divided into sections marked by different colours and materials (porphyry, coloured and decorated concrete, gravel, pebbles, natural and artificial grass). The various sections introduce different, yet complementary functions. The lighting uses only LED bars and these are incorporated in hot-dip galvanized, coloured tubes that branch out in 3D geometric patterns that look like hen's feet (in keeping with the poultry market), trees (in an organic view), or crystallized geometric lines. The benches cater to the need of adults and children to rest and enjoy a moment of relaxed comfort. These rounded solids are made of concrete with colourful elements and polished finishings, dotting the area in a sequence that fits naturally into this "furnished" space, providing shapes that make this zone familiar and comfortable. The water and the movement of the water jets, coloured by LED lighting, introduce variations to the micro-landscape. They characterise a central section of the piazza, forming an attractive space without making the whole piazza any less functional. The shade and shelter are provided by fluid, light and airy structures that not only provided shaded spots for people, but also help protect the most exposed shops from sunlight. Zinc bars curve and support opaque PVC canvases and other elements that offer protection. They include LED bars and help define the rather unique scenery that marks this elegant, multi-purpose square. These elements are reminiscent of subtle analogies from the living world (feathers, leaves), although they can also simply look like geometric patterns that interact with and animate a liveable, pleasant, adaptable and changing urban space, a true sensory experience.
Location: Montebelluna, Treviso
Client: Comune di Montebelluna
Architects: FontanAtelier - Luisa Fontana
Works Managment: Roberto Bonaventura
Art Direction: Luisa Fontana
Contractors: M.C., City Design, Andreola
Street Furniture: Bellitalia
Luisa Fontana, born in Zurich, graduated with top marks at the Venice IUAV.
In the Nineties she set up her practice at Schio, Venice, where she works to public and private commission, ranging from industrial and interior design to urban design and residential, school, hospital, commercial, cultural and religious building.
For the engineering development of her projects she turns to international engineering firms like Arup, with whom she has developed pilot schemes in the field of sustainability and energy saving. Attentive to the subject of accessibility, she is a member of C.E.R.P.A. (European Centre for Research into and Promotion of Accessibility).
She has been an assistant professor and visiting professor at the Venice IUAV, as well as the Canadian University of Manitoba and the Montreal University École d'Architecture de Paysage.
Her works have been exhibited in Spain at the Barcelona 3rd European Biennal de Paisatge (2003); in China at the Nanjing Museum (2006); at Brazil’s 5th Architecture Biennale (Brasilia 2006); in Japan at the Sendai Mediathèque and the Fukuoka Acros (2007); in Italy at the Acquario Romano for her personal show “LuisaFONTANAtelier. Global Architecture” (2010).