Parks have always been considered as green spaces for recreational use. Lately, urban planning policies have been expanding their definition by providing significant attention to different types of green spaces across the city - and their functionalities.
“The Rural Park of South Milan," also known as “Parco Sud,” is an example of how diverse a park can be. It was designed with the purpose of preserving, safeguarding, and enhancing the natural and historical heritage from the expansion of the city. The park is a large protected rural area located on the southwest part of the Milan Urban Region. Established in 1990, it is 47,000 hectares wide and shaped like a half-circle, and connects two other large protected natural areas: Ticino Park to the west and Adda Park to the east.
The territory is characterized by the presence of strong infrastructure (highways, railways) that connect the centre of Milan with the other major towns in this metropolitan region (Lodi - Piacenza, Abbiategrasso-Vigevano, Pavia).
The park comprises different functional areas such as agricultural land, river basins, sparse woodlands, a large number of farms (also known as “cascine”), local city parks (Parco delle Cave, Boscoincittà, and Trenno Park), and historical monuments like the Chiaravalle Abbey.
There are many strategies regarding the development of this large park. The Milan PGT proposes to transform the perception of Parco Sud by enhancing the landscape park with recreational activities and sports facilities. The results of its analysis emphasizes which parts can be improved according to this idea, taking into consideration its accessibility, and the proximity to residential parts. It also tries to understand which parts should keep their agricultural designation.
Furthermore, Expo 2015 is trying to develop multifunctional activities and a production of services linked both with agricultural activities and the use/renewal of the natural environment. It aims at creating a system of services and infrastructure to redefine the characteristics of Milan's metropolitan region, including the city proper and Parco Sud, towards a “metro agriculture” innovation and sustainalbility. The role of the independently owned farms inside the park is important in order to transform them into an important resource of sustainability, through social cohesion, and environmental requalification. Their scattered structures of the abbeys and farmhouses are in many cases of historical value, and also represent a statement of the region's agricultural tradition. The reconstruction of the buildings and surroundings can also bring a higher touristic value to the area.
Nevertheless, the role of the park near the boundaries of Milan is still confused by the opposite position of safeguarding against land consumption and real estate interest. And while Parco Sud represents Milan's green belt, its infinite view of agricultural land makes it hard to be perceived as a park. This is mostly due to its lack of transversal connectivity, recreational elements, and a pedestrian-friendly design.
In your opinion, is urban agriculture the theme for our future parks?
Credits: Photographs by Alexandra Serbana. Data linked to sources.