Landscape In-Between

Verbania (IT) - Winner


Team Representative: Metaxia Markaki (GR) – architect urbanist; Associate: Simona Ferrari (IT) – architect –

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S. Ferrari, M. Markaki

VIDEO (by the team)


1. How did you form the team for the competition?

We met few years ago at the Department of Architecture of ETH Zurich, where we teach and research at the chairs of Architectural Behaviorology and Architecture of Territory, respectively. We developed a friendship which eventually led to our first collaboration for Europan15. Our shared background as architects, enriched by our individual interests –in artistic practices for Simona, in territorial design and urban studies for Metaxia– lead to an insightful exchange. Our different experience of the site also enriched our conversation: as the former grew up in the Verbano Province and the latter was experiencing it with fresh eyes, we developed multiple viewpoints and a fruitful dialogue.

2. How do you define the main issue of your project, and how did you answer on this session main topic: the place of productive activities within the city?

Our project addresses the former industrial site of Acetati in Verbania. Once located at the double periphery between Intra and Pallanza, today the area lies at the heart of the polycentric fabric. As the city turns to its scenic lakefront on Lago Maggiore, the site is part of a “backyard” of residual spaces with hidden activities, fragments of landscapes, urban artefacts and local communities left in the background. How to embrace the site’s heterogenous character? How to imagine a meaningful urban space of such scale, where production and public space can coexist? How to find an answer grounded in the specificity of the site, yet taking into consideration its territorial interrelations? Learning from the productive history of Verbania, an idea emerged: production and its territory have to be conceived as one system of natural and cultural processes, forces, resources and activities. Our project builds upon an idea of ecology where the notion of landscape and production are redefined to complement each other. The ecology of production is a thread in the project that links architectural and territorial scale, articulating the in-between spaces of the polycentric city in broader ecosystems.



3. How did this issue and the questions raised by the site mutation meet?

Departing from the metaphor of the backyard, the project sets out to explore the nature of the city today: its elements, processes, landscapes and territories. With an attitude of carefully collecting, radically exposing and recomposing materials, flows, historical layers and traces of production engraved on site, our project reflects upon the idea of “reuse” and “production” as a territorial and ecological strategy. Our first move was the rediscovery of San Bernardino river as a strong public figure for Verbania, which allows to reconnect the city’s territory in depth, with the site becoming part of this figure. Carrying on the legacy of protoindustrial and industrial activities on site and the memory of its productive landscape emerged from the water and natural resources, the site is imagined as a new public landscape which coexists in synergy with production. The constant rewriting of the landscape through human activities manifests an idea of continuous reuse in the narrative of history, which inspired us to expand the notion of “reuse” to that of knowledge, existing networks, actors, skills and landscapes. Our proposal is a gesture towards a new ecology which accommodates nature and culture, production and everyday life addressing different scales and networks of making, with a creative community working on reuse, material design and innovation. We imagine the name of this community would be “Laboratorio Acetati”.



4. Have you treated this issue previously? What were the reference projects that inspired yours?

We have explored similar questions and contexts during our professional activity in architectural practice and education. However, Europan15 was a unique opportunity for us to experiment as an independent collaboration, sharing and further developing ideas. Confronting an actual site allowed us to give shape to abstract concepts. Several projects served as references, however our main discovery and constant inspiration has been the reality of the site itself. While visiting the area several times, we discovered anonymous activities, processes and practices that are taking place in invisibility, within the heterogeneous space of the “backyard”. Among those where traces of the productive legacy woven along the river, traditional stone crafts and extraction activities of the nearby quarries, gardens and gardening activities, local business recycling metal leftovers adjacent to the site. These findings became our point of reference and our ideas naturally unfolded with them.



5. Urban-architectural projects like the ones in Europan can only be implemented together with the actors through a negotiated process and in time. How did you consider this issue in your project?

The composition of actors and the notion of time as a design element were indeed funding ideas at the core of our proposal. Before designing the actual space, our project suggests a composition of actors and networks that will inhabit and connect the place to broader ecosystems and economies. Those actors initiate processes of production shaping a fluid and changeable landscape. The site, with its different forms of production in proximity and visibility, turns into an “infrastructure” which enables encounters and exchange. We imagine Laboratorio Acetati as a constant material and immaterial construction site in the making. We propose a “Phase 0” preceding the start of the works, where the public can experience the site in its raw form through a promenade and temporary uses. This is a step to address the collective memory and imaginary of the place. As different actors arrive on site and the refurbishment of the structures begins, the area remains visible and accessible. Lastly, the public facilities turn the site into a common project in constant negotiation and fabrication by the inhabitants. The public space of the city in-between it’s fluid, dynamic, a place in the making: it’s a promenade where one can act or observe the action. More than a designed articulated space, we imagine it as a composition of gatherings and eventualities

6. Is it the first time you have been awarded a prize at Europan? How could this help you in your professional career?

It is the first time we participate and we are awarded a prize in a Europan Competition. As young practitioners, the competition offered to us the ground to engage in a multifaceted discussion on urgent urban matters, offering the opportunity to articulate a critical voice and a vision on crucial issues with a projective prospect. We will carry this experience on to our future steps.



Office: No office yet
Functions: Architecture, Urbanism
Average age of the associates: 31,5 years old

Has your team, together or separately, already conceived or implemented some projects and/or won any competition? If yes, which ones?
We both have experience with projects and competitions having worked as architects in Switzerland, Greece, Italy and Japan. Our entry for Europan15 has been the first collaborative project that we did together. We are both architects with backgrounds and specializations in different disciplines. For our project three main disciplines played an important role:
Architecture — understood as a design discipline that takes care not only of the material and formal aspects of the project, but that also engages with its immaterial aspects: the composition of actors that will inhabit the site, their networks and the temporal dimension of the project.
Territorial Design — understood both as a research tool to engage with the broader scale of the site, its resources and ecology, and as a design tool to engage with territorial systems, landscape and urban design elements.
Art —examples of artistic practices provided references that informed our approach to themes like ecology, participatory processes, resource and reuse. Also, engaging with visual mediums like photography, video and collage as tools of analysis allowed us to capture and visualize our more intuitive readings of the site.