An agricultural park to live in: Michel Desvigne talks about Seimilano, the new park "to live in" which will be born in 2024

Michel Desvigne, the internationally renowned French landscape architect, is busy in Milan on various projects: from the Village Olimpico of the former Scalo di Porta Romana at Parco Seimilano, the urban regeneration project that Borio Mangiarotti and Värde Partners are building on an area of 330,000 square meters once occupied by the Calchi Taeggi quarry.

With the start of the Seimilano Park works, we asked Michel Desvigne to guide us in his poetics to imagine this new city park, which will be finished by the end of 2024.

Where will the Seimilano Park be? In the area between via Calchi Taeggi and via Bisceglie and will occupy 160 thousand square metres.

What is the design idea of the Seimilano park?

I have always been fascinated by the contact that the city of Milan has with the agricultural territory. I have always loved the dynamism and propensity for modernity of this city and yet it doesn't lose its contamination with the countryside.

Even seen from the plane, you can see the precious design between city and landscape.

In the peripheral area where Seimilano develops, we wanted to bring back the geometries of the cultivated land and the proportions created by the management of the water. We wanted to evoke the relationship between agriculture and the city and restore this spirit of place within the park.

Relying on the image of the parcels of fields and their geometries has also allowed us to exploit a problem to our advantage: the area has different depths of soil due to reclamation works. Playing with the forms of the agricultural landscape has given us the opportunity to find an aesthetic balance between rows of trees, raised walkways, hedges and empty spaces.

Obviously we are not bringing the agricultural landscape back to scale but we are reproducing a miniaturization of it, a composition of rooms where we can develop a great flexibility of uses and ways of experiencing the park: from sport to rest, from the intimacy created with rows of fruit trees next to the houses up to give the possibility to walk according to combinations of paths which, thanks to the infinite intersections between paths and areas of the park, will always be different like a city that offers myriads of possibilities.

What will the Seimilano park be like?

What we are going to create is a young but immediately inhabited and central park within the district and the city of Milan.

This is why it must immediately have legibility: the species we will plant are recognizable, they belong to the grammar of the place, as well as the frames and rows of trees.

Although young, we manage to take a leap of imagination and see that wood grown.

This vision was also shared by Claudio De Albertis, a man I greatly esteemed and with great sensitivity. We wanted to make a park that had a clear ecological footprint: there will be densely planted areas and more than 1 hectare left under forest management, plus the areas destined to host grasslands left wild, essential for guaranteeing biodiversity and asylum for birds and insects.

This is perhaps the paradox of this park: apparently it may seem simple, with common plants, but it is its complex functioning and its adherence to the territory that are rich in meaning.

More than a park it is a manifesto on how to design in adherence to the territory. Sometimes it happens that in landscape architecture the moment in which the park is inaugurated is the end of the planning, here will be the beginning of the story: we will have a park that will grow together with its inhabitants.

Among the natural elements present in your project, water is central, can you tell us something more?

Like the landscape of the Po valley, this park is also extremely marked by the management of water.

Not only because it stands on a diverter of the river Olona which prevented city floods and not only because it puts rainwater collection and reuse systems into practice.

The innovation of the project is based on geothermal systems which, thanks to the recovery and channeling of water as a thermal flywheel, act as a heating and cooling system for both the homes and the park.

One could say that this is a climatic island where the park and neighborhood are designed with the responsibility of those who look at climate change and are looking for new prototypes of habitability, between technological power and poetry.

From polluted soil to a place of residence and refreshment, how does nature help us to express this change?

This area was historically a quarry and as often happens after the exploitation of resources and abandonment, it had become a place to throw waste and waste.

An important job has been done to safeguard the soil and, above all, the aquifers from polluted leachates and give new life to the territory.

Nature intervenes in giving - or restoring - identity to places. The idea of bringing a piece of the countryside into the city was not meant to be a picturesque exercise, in the art of gardens it is no longer necessary to artificially recreate nature as if painting a picture.

By now we've all traveled, seen different landscapes, we don't expect an encyclopedic view of nature. The goal for me is to create authentic landscapes and, to do so, it is to read and interpret what is already present in the spirit of the place.

In this profession, much of the energy must go into cultivating sensitivity to understand the identity of places.

At the Parco delle Cave in summer you can see fireflies. Will there be this magic in SeiMilano?

I hope so. I remember one summer in Tuscany, one evening I was with Umberto Eco and other friends. There was a clearing, a bit of mist and fireflies appeared.

For me they have a taste of summer in Italy. This is a magic that cannot be drawn at a table but you can create a project open to the wild, hoping that nature will do it for him.