A wild landscape invades the rational spaces of the Palazzo dell’Agricoltore in Parma. Mike Nelson's monumental work is - and initiates - a path of urban regeneration

The site specific project conceived as a path (not predefined) by the 'artist British Mike Nelson looks like a monumental and wild, visceral and poetic work the Palazzo dell'Agricoltore di Parma which, until 12 June 2022, winds and pervades the seven floors of the imposing rationalist building of 6000 square meters located in the heart of the Emilian city.

Curated by Didi Bozzini, the exhibition has its roots (literally) in the history of the architectural complex, reflecting on the political, economic and social role played in 82 years after its construction in 1939 and still today testified by the name, Palazzo dell'Agricoltore, which is now being built: The House of the Farmer.

A journey through the history of the Farmer's Palace

The building was the seat of the corporation that was the organ of management of agricultural activities under the government of the fascist regime. With his installation composed of a multitude of pieces related to the world of work rural (trunks, branches, roots but also tools) , Nelson leads the visitor (without indicating which path to take) through the labyrinthine spaces of the building, between empty rooms, geometric and hypnotic stairways, hallways, doors and porches, redesigning the building as if it were a sculpture in itself.

The staircase imposing in the volumes and the floor repetitive in the pattern, typical of bureaucratic buildings, are punctuated by Nelson's interventions made with natural materials taken from reclaimed land of dimensions proportionate to the building.

A wild landscape moved inside the building

An entire wild landscape at the gates of the city, cleared of materials that make agriculture more difficult such as rocks, trunks of tree, branches and roots, the entire side of a hill, it has been moved to the inside the building to become an integral part of its structure, of its architecture.

This network of elements - visual traces evocative but not descriptive, raw, twisted and earthy - outlines a material and mental path in memory, between reflection, nature and culture.

A visceral and moving recovery of natural elements

There is something very visceral about the 'clearing' of a space” explains Mike Nelson. “The objects take on a particular urgency or importance that had lied dormant hitherto. The ripping and taking from the countryside could be seen, or felt, as a brutal gesture somewhat in keeping with the building’s relationship to a totalitarian past. It could also be a reminder of the dehumanisation of agriculture by mechanisation through the 20th century and the environmental ills that have come along with that. The bringing back of these natural forms, ostracised because of their obstruction of agriculture seems strangely poignant in such a building”.

The rational lines of the building welcome roots and twisted branches in a dialogue between raw and worked materials

“Artistically the natural forms framed against the severe and brutal lines of the building’s architecture will compliment; the marble veneers and floors will gaze upon and support their unruly relatives - the rocks strewn across the floor. While the heavy wooden doors will act as guards to the twisted boughs and roots of trees” concludes Nelson.

With The House of the Farmer, which Didi Bozzini views as a promenade through a work which must be explored in its entirety in order to be understood, opens therefore a new begins for the building, focusing on hospitality, culture, sustainability and empathy.

An artistic project that initiates a process of urban regeneration

The regenerative values brought by Mike Nelson, who with his pervasive intervention brings nature back to the Palazzo dell’Agricoltore, take root in Parma. In fact, a process of recovery and restyling of the complex begins which in 2023 will lead to its transformation into a Regenerative Hotel, a hotel - the first Italian B-Corp hotel - based on human sustainability and natural. A place open to all, able to give a regenerative impulse to the city.