Requalification of the Church Square Italy - Elisabetta Pani
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Requalification of the Church Square Italy

Elisabetta Pani

22 October 2015

Requalification of the Church Square in the Historic Center Quartucciu Italy - Public squares and avenues, as main expressions of open urban spaces, can be considered the playground of collective living, aggregation spaces where society, politics, ecology and economy meet.
The project was commissioned after being selected through an open competition in 2010, promoted by A.P.I.C.E. srl, a building enterprise whose owner, Antonio Puddu, decided to donate the requalification of the Church Square to its birth city. The design process was developed from 2011 to 2012 and the realization was completed in November 2013.
The design concept is based on the reconnection of the areas and the revitalization of the activities that were lost over the course of time due to the urban growth, to return this space to its community. The intervention in this context, intensely connected to its social and cultural background, opened a consideration process on the revitalization issues in public spaces, based on the reintroduction of their significance through collective practices that embody the relationship among the city and its inhabitants. In such sensitive areas as historical centers, the strategy should be aimed at the rehabilitation of their urban and civic role and at the recovery of their lost identity. The regeneration of the urban landscape should take into account the individual dimension, generating a multiplicity of meanings that promote the identification between the community and its values.
The historical center of Quartucciu consists of a medieval compact fabric of patio houses, whose main characters are low density and introversion. In this thick system of winding roads, the open areas are mainly related to the places of worship. The urban development changed the role of these places, concentrating new function in the suburban commercial areas and contributing to their abandonment. Incongruous uses, as uncontrolled parking, together with accessibility issues and lack of maintenance, contributed to the decline and the de-characterization of this area. The square looked fragmented, and suffered from the lack of a transition element among the private and public spaces on the northern side.
The requalification project was aimed at the regeneration of the public space for the community, in order to restore its civic identity and to reestablish the common values and the relationships that were lost. The intervention connects the different elements of this urban landscape through a new ground design, local materials and slight chromatic contrasts generate passages and standing spaces, shape the transition among public and private functions and delineate the areas dedicated to civic and worship activities. The green spaces, defined to respond to the new character of this place, contribute to the general design, maintaining a high level of permeability. According to this strategy, a new focal point is created by the convergence of fluxes and perspectives, marked by the collocation of the existing Virgin Mary sculpture.
Another important aspect was connected to the relationship with the historical buildings: St. George Church, St. Luigi Gonzaga Church, the bell tower and the medieval urban fabric. A new wing for the square was created in the northern side to reestablish the transition among the private buildings realized in the ’70 and the public space. This permeable wall, designed to maintain a visual connection among the areas, generates an intimate and preserved path and is associated to a green area. The conceptual reference is represented by the ancient patio housing structure, were the traditional adobe wall mediates the transition among public and private spaces. The use of pigmented concrete with iron oxides recalls the texture and color of the original material used in the urban fabric.
The core of the requalification process is represented by the new design of the square and the system of paths. The design was guided by the revitalization of these elements, by the study of the visual connections among the main building and the historical fabric and a by the introduction of a more appropriate circulation within the area. A new churchyard, directly accessible from the church, was created while the other major area, connected with the existing main road, was designed with a more civic purpose, to host temporary events for the community. These two spaces were connected through a system of slight slopes and large stairs and the height gap among them could be used to display different activities. The smaller surface behind the church tower has a more intimate character and was intended as a playground for kids and relax area.
The green areas contribute to the definition of this new urban landscape, not only in the design of the square and for climatic regulation, but also as accessible and liveable spaces that complete the surrounding system. Part of the existing trees were replanted during the implementation, as the quercus ilex on the east side and the jacaranda mimosifolia behind the wall, while the new plants were chosen according to the tradition of the private courtyards and their colors and smells recall the identity of these places. In the relax and playground area an important example of olea europea, symbolizing the Mediterranean tradition, was chosen to underline the intimate and domestic character. On both sides of the multifunctional area, the ceratonia siliqua trees mark the perspective towards the Church and protect the sitting areas from solar exposition with their perennial foliage.
The design of the benches and technical elements, as well as the wall fountain, complete the definition of the main lines of the project. The materials chosen for these surfaces are three varieties of local granite: rosa beta, rosa nule and giallo san giacomo. The urban furniture were realized in Corten by a local artisan on demand and the lighting system was studied to respond to security needs and to intensify the architectural solutions.

Elisabetta Pani. Architect, graduated in Cagliari in 2005. PhD in Architecture in 2011. Author of various publications on social housing and urban regeneration processes. Professional practice accompanies her research activity.
Bruno Ferreira Franco. Architect, graduated in Salvador (Brasil) at UFBA in 2002. PhD in Architecture in 2012. Investigates and works on landscape, public space and requalification of dismissed industrial areas.
Massimiliano Onidi. Engineer, graduated in Cagliari in 2006. Works in the field of architectural design and digital representation.
Gina Orrù. Engineer, graduated in Cagliari in 2009. Works in the field of architectural design, recovery and environmental engineering.

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