Courtyard Of The City

Location: Rome, Italy
Date: 2011
Methods & Tools: Hand drafting and illustration; Google Sketchup Pro; Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator; Physical modelling

A collaborative project with Jean Gu.

Greenery consists of the growing plants, foliage, and vegetation of the forests, parks, gardens, potted plants, and interstices of a city. Whether it be for the food and medicine, or for the shelter and comfort it provides, people are dependent on greenery. For this reason, it also plays a vital role in the shaping of the city. Rome, the Eternal City, is no exception. Its relationship with greenery is as complex as its history, and is reflected by its dense urban landscape. On one level, greenery is perceivably limited to streetscaping and to public parks such as the Villa Borghese Gardens. Other protected greenery of villa and botanical gardens are not so readily accessible, requiring payment upon access. On a whole other level is the world of the private greenery belonging to the people. Internal courtyard and apartment balconies provide intimate spaces for beautiful vegetation, adapted to their paved environments, and characterized by their owners' requirements. The wonder of these private gardens are kept hidden from the public, and they become overlooked and almost forgotten amongst Rome's complex fabric of buildings which enclose them.

The brief calls for a hybrid building with academic, cultural, and residential spaces, located at what currently is an excavated but empty site off Piazza della Moretta. Our project aims to challenge the notion of courtyards at an urban scale, and to share with visitors and to remind its residents of Rome's relationship with, and capability for public greenery. What if publicly accessible and shared interior courtyards and greenery are introduced to the city, and matches the level of intimacy present in private gardens? How could it create a continuum of spaces that tests and blurs the boundaries between public and private? Another challenge is to learn from the synergistic characteristics of the courtyard, and their way of reflecting their encompassing program in such a way that courtyard and program become one. Finally, we want this building to raise awareness to the various ways greenery can be used within and around a building, and by extension, throughout the city.

Our solution is to connect Piazza della Moretta with the Tiber River and the Janiculum Hill with new piazza which overlooks a new, public Courtyard for the City. Building up to the entire perimeter of the site (ie. following Roman’s city topology) while respecting the height of surrounding buildings, we carved out as much voids as allowed to meet building area. Each void responds to its surrounding program, creating a public meeting point, an experimental garden, a food garden, a terrace or a courtyard. Each void is unique to another, and takes advantage of its location and form (eg. sun, shade, privacy, view). The staggering of voids allow for glimpses to unexpected spaces. The project intends to challenge and change the public's view and experience of space, while encouraging interaction, discovery, and curiosity. The result is a high?performance hybrid community building that reflects and exemplifies the use of greenery throughout the city.