Spagnolo / Sharing Landscape: Beyond the Urban-rural Dialectic.

Sharing Landscape: Beyond the Urban-rural Dialectic. The FARM

Author: Isabella Spagnolo, Politecnico di Milano

Supervisor: Guya Bertelli, Prof., DAStU, Politecnico di Milano; Marco Bovati, Associate Professor, DAStU, Politecnico di Milano; Andrea Oldani, Prof., DAStU, Politecnico di Milano

Research stage: intermediate doctoral stage

Category: Extended abstract

The birth of agriculture, the birth of ancient civilizations, and the birth of the urban phenomenon are three phenomena that are closely intertwined and can be traced back to a common origin: the Neolithic Revolution, in which the invention of agriculture was the forerunner to the others.

The adoption of agriculture allowed for the first time in human history a lasting surplus of food production per person, thus making possible a significant consumption of non-strictly food products.

Man thus began to turn natural resources to his advantage systematically.1

Thus began the work of modification of the places, the architecture of the places which starts when man tries to modify it, to design it. Architecture is nothing more than a spatial organization socially recognized as a bearer of meaning. Taking up the famous quote by Adolf Loos: “If in a wood we find a mound, six feet long and three wide, arranged with the shovel in the shape of a pyramid, we become serious, and something says within us: someone is buried here. This is architecture.”2

The history of man can be said had begun precisely with agriculture (8000 BC in the Middle East and 5000 BC in Europe). It marked the transition from nomadism to permanent residence, allowed by the fact that there was no longer any need to travel to get food.

Agri-culture allowed the first specializations of work and the creation of an urban life in which some non-agricultural producers gathered; urban life, which has favored the intellectual and technical development from which the civilizations of antiquity, the first cultures, were born.

Heidegger goes further, combining the act of cultivating and making the land productive and that of building, both of which in German are expressed with the term Bauen. They are, in fact, two different expressions of human living.3

The first paradigm: the Fence

Figure 1: The first paradigm: the Fence

The fence

The first modality of appropriation of the space by man is the construction of limits. Primordial topological approach, the practice of the fence is the human action of attributing a specific shape to the earth, thus giving it geometry, dimensions, proportions, stability, and durability. Architectural concepts through man appropriately define space by placing a boundary between himself and natural arrangements.

The italian term “paese” itself (“country” in english), hence that of “paesaggio” (“landscape” in english), derives from the term “pagus,” as a concluded outcome of the “pangere” action, or planting poles to delimit and occupy the land, in the colonization process.4 At the origins of the recognisability of a landscape, therefore, the function of the limit between an inside and an outside acquires a role of primary importance, which sanctions the taking of possession and control of a territory, one of its first forms of structuring and construction.5

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Running Fence, California, 1976

Figure 2: Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Running Fence, California, 1976

The second paradigm: the Grid

Figure 3: The second paradigm: the Grid

The grid

Among the first grid impositions, we find the Roman ager, which has often left indelible traces in the territory, which can be deciphered – if you know how to read – even under the subsequent forms of arrangement of the environment.

The centuriation - an essential tool for colonization of the provinces – has a characteristic square mesh structure, each of about 710 m on each side, resulting from the orthogonal intersection of the major roads and the axes of the minor rural roads: a large cadastre, drawn directly on the territory. Its grid constitutes a basis for measuring the land.6

Centuriatio along the Via Appia

Figure 4: Centuriatio along the Via Appia

The third paradigm: the Court

Figure 5: The third paradigm: the Court

The court

There was a complex mutuality between the elements of the farmhouse and its territory: one and the other would not be as we know them if both did not coexist. The rural house represents the coagulating element between the two worlds and the different functions connected to them, urban and rural. It does not constitute a limit but rather a place of exchange, control, production, and transformation, between rurality and urbanity.7

From a planimetric point of view, the farms tend to organize themselves around one or more large spaces, usually square or rectangular, with very various functions, such as the farmyard for processing and drying the grains, the temporary storage of fodder, room for maneuver of all the company company’s equipment.

Therefore, the core of these structures is not a full, but an empty, the “court,” a court almost always equipped with a threshing floor: a place together for harvesting, processing, drying, distribution of the harvest before its storage. Moreover, even the Italian term “cascina” (“farmhouse” in english) probably derives from the Latin “capsa,” which means “container.”

Plan of the Boscaiola Prima farmhouse in Porta Comasina, Milan

Figure 6: Plan of the Boscaiola Prima farmhouse in Porta Comasina, Milan

The fourth paradigm: the Greenhouse

Figure 7: The fourth paradigm: the Greenhouse

The greenhouse

The type of greenhouse can be said to represent a bit the opposite of the court: instead of having a central void around which the functions are arranged, there is the incorporation of nature inside the building and the thinning of the border thanks to the spread of iron and glass structures during the nineteenth century. A principle of total spatial sharing between nature and architecture is established for the first time.

The greenhouse is now being re-proposed in the form of a vertical farm, containers for growing that, thanks to contemporary technologies, no longer need light and soil: agriculture thus becomes an integral part of the building, of the artifice; a mechanical uterus that provides nourishment to the organism to which it belongs. Hence, Landscape 4.08 can be seen as the technological and formal apex of the last historical phase. These will then be studied and analyzed, through vertical farm case studies, as a design strategy with different formal declinations that can suggest new forms of urban resilience based on the principle of sharing that has characterized the farm from the outset and continues to do so today.

Historical picture of the interior of the Crystal Palace, 1851

Figure 8: Historical picture of the interior of the Crystal Palace, 1851

Othmar Ruthner, WIG64 vertical farm, Vienna International Garden Show, 1964

Figure 9: Othmar Ruthner, WIG64 vertical farm, Vienna International Garden Show, 1964

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  3. Cattaneo, Carlo (1965): Scritti economici. Florence: Le monne.
  4. Sereni, Emilio (1961): Storia del paesaggio agrario italiano. Bari: Editore Laterza.
  5. Turri, Eugenio (1998): Il paesaggio come teatro: dal territorio vissuto alterritorio rappresentato. Venice: Marsilio.
  6. Dessì, Adriano (2019): Le città della campagna. San Giuliano Milanese: FrancoAngeli.
  7. Agnoletti, Mauro (2013): Italian Historical Rural Landscapes, London/ New York: Rippon S.
  8. Bertelli, Guya (2019): Landscape 4.0. Sharing spaces for the future city. Santarcangelo di Romagna: Maggioli Editore.