Ceci n’est pas un Parc
Sofia Coutsoucos and Anna Milani
“The project focus goes on those areas defined as terrain vagues or teirs paysage. The main goal is to understand that such places are not to be merely observed negatively. Rather, they are to be considered a resourceful place, of which the potential is yet to be discovered and acknowledged.
The intention is to associate the traditional scientific and objective method, to a more poetic approach. Walking and mapping through the body becomes a holistic experience.
The latter, has the important purpose of reaching the core of the human experience in a direct and personal manner.
The free and undefined nature of this space and the discovery of thousands of possible landscapes, invites us to maintain the vague character of the place. Here, relations and interactions between different elements merge into a new environment.
This, is a new landscape that stands between the influence of nature and a hinted structure.
In particular, the former railway yard of San Cristoforo lies at the edge of Milan, in a suburb that fades into the country landscape of Agricolo Sud Park.
We find the abandoned station structure in a “bucolic valley”: mineral and natural are melted together composing a new story. This is the way each floor transforms itself in a different landscape, that mutates according to its natural environment and the season cycle. The spirit of the structure is accepted and respected. A light system of infrastructures invades it and allows it to be habitable. The spaces permit unlimited uses on each floor and keep a strong relationship with the park nearby.”
Who influences you graphically?
At first, our graphic came out quite naturally from mapping and redrawing the railway yard during our surveys. Mapping has been a central and important part of the process, that let us gain knowledge about the place and at the same time developed already a projectual view about it, redefining its landscape by selecting what and how to redraw.
In general, we tried to study and collect different case studies that could help us to express the concepts of our work. We referred ourselves to the Japanese like Ishigami and Fujimoto, then we got closer to the situationist maps, Archigram’s drawings and collages, Dogma’s sights.
About the “proper” architectural drawing layout (plans and sections) we got inspired by classical architectural drawings of monuments as Pantheon, where the symmetricity of the architecture is used to represent in the same drawing both plan and ceiling, front and section.
Our graphic, through very clean and light lines, helped us to create a poetic and carefree drawing that wants to contribute to build a new and positive imaginary about this kind of spaces, the terrain vagues, which are usually observed negatively.
You explore your proposal through all means of representation, do you trust that only in this way is it possible to fully convey a project?
We live in an epoch dominated by visual representation. Everything must be reported as good-looking pictures, videos or symbols. The visual aspect prevails over all the other ways of communication.
Due to our strong narrative proposal, we were interested in new and unusual representation, but at the same time aware of the importance of using classical instruments.
Our goal was to get closer to those typical and classic representation methods by making them more narrative. In this way we reached to draw a section that could be technical, but at the same time tells a story, in which anyone can find a different atmosphere to follow.
It is exciting to escape sometimes from the academic world, that is always presented as traditional and boring.
Ceci n’est pas un parc, how and to what extent did the surrealist movement and Magritte inspire the way the project was developed?
The choice of the title “Ceci n’est pas un parc” was guided by the desire to offer instantly the concept of a project as a process. Our park is far from the traditional definition of park, because our goal is not to design something defined but something that could be closer to a strategy, to a process.
Thanks to this thought we got close to surrealist movement and Magritte masterpiece, where the authentic definition of reality is not so important. Suddenly what is essential is to avoid any level of certainty and all the traditional definitions of real and unreal.
Indeed, we ended up with a kind of surrealist park, where a layer of uncertainty controls and allows everything: the new definition of park is therefore described by definition, vagueness, infinite possibilities and blurred limits.
Our challenge was to provide to this new landscape a structure that makes infinite possibilities possible, that could be in harmony or totally conflicting.
The surrealist movement proposed to express the real thinking process, forgetting any power exercised by rationality: we followed it.
How do these hybrid animals- half men/half animals reinforce the approach of the proposal?
To fully get in contact and understand the dynamics of the abandoned railway yard, we literally left our state of ordinary and “well-behaved” citizens. We got ourselves dirty, we walked all along the place and we lived it during all the different seasons. At the moment, we started to think about the project design, it was clear that the main aim was to protect and develop this relationship between human being and nature, between anthropological elements and nature.
These hybrid animals (half men and half animals) highlight this concept: the importance of recover an “animal” state, a primitive state, where mineral and natural can coexist.
How could the format of a book help in talking about the strong narrative of the proposal?
The project defines architecture as a process in evolution: it assumes a specific role and function only when someone uses it and declares what it should be in that moment. This kind of public space doesn’t give a closed answer to how it should be used, but supports and encourages all kinds of uses from different people. This is way we think it can be very interesting to collect and tale all the unlimited uses that arise from this place. A narrative book could be the right tool to describe this kind of architecture, all the undertones that compose it and all the people that live it. This is also the reason why we developed a pop-up book instead of a “proper” maquette: a new kind of model that can be literally red and be browsed.