Spending time in the gardens created by Antonio Perazzi is an experience that reconnects the relationship between man and nature. You are not admiring a beautiful postcard, you are one of the living organisms that inhabit that portion of the soil. Sitting at the tables of the Manifattura Tabacchi creative hub, a conversation arose on the non-rules of the gardener and on urban redevelopment with a green footprint.
Tell us about the concept of Temporary Botany.
How should a garden be that wants to be part of an urban regeneration?
It will need to be welcoming, open and on the move. The brilliant thing about the garden is that, beyond aesthetics, it touches feelings and strings that have their roots in the depths of our childhood. The plum tree that you climbed as a child, boredom, the dust in the light, the more or less defined colors: when you create a garden you also create a gardener. And if there are gardeners, there is a place that is visited with affection.
The ideal paradigm is the vegetable garden that requires constant care, but gratifies the effort with production from production, also creating a form of reverence for the generative power of nature.
What drives your garden design?
When I start a new project I feel a mixture of elation and terror. I wonder if I will be able to decline the requests and potentials well. I realized that designing landscapes means planning a system and completing it with variables: knowing how to do but also knowing how to listen to the dynamics of change.
It is surprising how we can attribute functions, finishes and botanical species to a rectangle of land, but how the authentic soul of the place emerges from the micro and macro-variations brought about by attendance.
Is it in these variables that the concept of the wild comes into play?
The wild represents the different, the relationship with what is outside you. The landscape, by definition, is a space of action, the theater of life of organisms, it does not have only an aesthetic contemplative component. It is a field of relationships between living beings – humans, animals, insects and plants. Often, it is thought that the wild is the antithesis of the project, instead it is an element of the design. There are gardens designed to leave room for the “uncontrolled”, which does not mean celebrating the uncultivated but making the wild one of the elements of beauty.
I would like to go beyond the garden, beyond the idea of control behind the continuous pruning, fertilizing, watering to restore our wild spirit and get back in touch with the desire to experience nature.
Are there any rules in this dynamic gardener-nature dialogue?
The first thing I do in a project is to dictate rules, not because they are strictly executed but to have a survival strategy.
First you have to prepare your frequentation of the place: I often start by structuring a grid that delimits the functions and brings out the potential for dialogue between different portions of space.
There is also a part related to psychological introspection. Almost like an analyst I have to probe the wishes and needs of the client and imagine the ways in which that place will be experienced. I will take directions and give interpretations which, in order not to be forced, will have a part of unpredictability. The gardens of the Manifattura Tabacchi, for example, are born as a dynamic object that grows with the relationships that inhabit it, which leaves the plants free to move.
Do you let us do some zigzags between your inspirations? Which gardens do you identify with?
I think of the garden as a library of plants happy to be together. I find the idea of seeing the garden as a personal story irresistible.
I am fascinated by the innate elegance of the wild species, of the cosmopolitan plants that traveled with the first botanical explorers and made their own the environment in which they adapted. I admire the masterpieces of historic gardens but I seek a vitality of forms, a hint of imperfection that I find when we leave nature free to move and surprise us.
Beyond the formalism of the Levens Hall hedge topiary, I observe the imperfect brushstrokes of the now naturalized tropaeolum speciosum. I am struck by the contradictions of Prospect Cottage, Derek Jarman's garden. Then I look at urban greenery as an auspicious form of nature that takes up its space between concrete: I therefore love community gardens, projects such as Paley Park in New York, the Promenade Plantèe in Paris – an inspiration for the creation of the High Line by James Corner – and the Vallèe by Gilles Clement.
This dimension of the garden returns as a living element, strongly integrated into people's lives. What do you wish for the future?
I would like to see more urban voids transformed into temporary gardens, and watch these gardens become community activators and hybridizers of cultures. How nice would it be if modern cities were smart enough to make available places awaiting destination for citizens who wanted to cultivate the land?