Urban requalification

Covo, Bergamo, Italy

The built city represents the “material” historical memory, the recording of the passage of time, and taking care of it involves a great responsibility.

The city and the territory constitute the habitat of a community and, at the same time, they preserve and represent its collective memory, history and identity, consolidated cultural heritage and expectations for future development.

Public space is the place of the collective image and of everyday life. If the city is redeveloped without a project for a quality public space, the impoverishment of the social space will advance with the consequent fragmentation of society. Working on public space through a landscape approach will initiate a process that has time as its determinant and that will develop a spatial structure capable of promoting fundamental daily practices for individual and collective well-being.

The conservation and redevelopment of urban spaces represent one of the ways to be followed correctly to ensure that the relative consequences are positive. Conservation and redevelopment are implemented through programs and projects (intervention plans) which, when based on knowledge and interrelated with each other, allow to protect the existing heritage and plan transformations in the name of the progressive improvement of urban quality.

Every citizen has the right to experience, within their own city, quality areas in which they can find themselves: for years there has been urban planning debate on public space on a “human scale”, urban design, urban quality, etc. These spaces, whether to be built or existing, must have characteristics of quality and harmony with the surroundings and match a general project of the urban space.

In the small Municipality of Covo, the aims of an intervention plan were defined, declined on the urban, mobility and landscape plan, up to a detailed redesign of important pieces of public space and the definition of a new scenario and a renewed urban quality.

The studies of the areas of intervention integrate in the analysis, in addition to the functional aspects, the historical and landscape aspects of the context, identifying places and quality elements for a planning process of urban redevelopment.

The redevelopment interventions on small towns must express both the homogeneous nature that characterizes them, and their articulation of public spaces in distinct parts considering the historical existent as a source of regeneration, investigating the relationship between the historicized context and the contemporary project, focusing on the potential of the open spaces of the urban fabric to produce new and original opportunities for regeneration.

The interpretation of the urban fabric as an element capable of giving life to public and private space, rethinking it according to the polarities of the monuments and verifying how these are able to redefine the system of urban paths and voids, has structured the design process oriented towards sustainability and regeneration.

The investigation and development of this project don’t only concern the practical and functional aspects, but also and above all the psychic implications of architecture. Practical and functional issues are therefore treated as part of a larger system, in which the space influences people and where the purpose of architecture transcends functionalism.

Good design is necessary to create good public spaces that are pleasant and useful. But the city and its spaces are not made only of stones and inanimate materials: they are places made above all by the relationships that are established between people and between people and spaces: identifying, relational, historical places. Therefore I strongly reject the functional concept of public space as a banal ground with specialized use, green or gray, intended for circulation of traffic, parking, pedestrians and so on.

In recent years, in many cities the phenomena of decay of public spaces have been countered by limiting car traffic in the inhabited center, developing soft mobility, cycle paths and pedestrian paths. Where this has not happened, life has become more difficult, especially for children and the elderly. In all city centers, large and small, today a greater quantity and quality of public spaces are claimed to make cities liveable.

Among the various critical issues found in Covo, the most serious and evident is the road layout, where vehicular traffic entering and crossing the town is the main cause of a gradual loss of identity and a progressive increasing degradation of public space and consequently of the urban scene along its path. The structure of the public space concerned, sidewalks, flower beds and surroundings, over the years has conformed to the car, relegating spaces and paths intended for the person to empty spaces without quality.

Furthermore, there are strong tensions due to the interference between cycle-pedestrian mobility and fast roads, to be solved through a reorganization of the road mobility system, where the solution often involves the rationalization but not the elimination of the viability of motor vehicles, while considering the creation of mainly pedestrian areas is fundamental.

Therefore, in this redevelopment project one of the relevant issues is certainly the claim and re-appropriation by citizens of the street and in general of the open spaces connected to it as a quality public space on a human scale.

A significant urban redevelopment therefore embraces the enhancement of landscape beauties, the rationalization of public spaces and paths, the creation of new spaces and pedestrian and cycle paths, gardens, new sidewalks and enlargement of the existing ones with revision of the roads and critical intersections, etc.

Finally, working on the urban scale, I found how much the design theme is loaded with further contents relating to “places of faith”. Historic places of faith that today take on a role of great cultural importance and a witness to living faith in the communities. Consequently, it is important to design an active and meaningful way, also with the hope of strategic synergies between the various ecclesial and civil institutions, through a concrete project for their enhancement and requalification. Where the Church not only presents itself with the extraordinary richness of a building heritage to be preserved and revisited, but can guarantee the cultural heritage to be a vital body.

The revaluation of memory is perhaps the most directly interesting thing for places of faith. By revisiting churches and chapels and sacred places of the historical faith, the community can indeed regain possession of a memory belonging to its genealogy, identifying itself with those values it preserves and investing vitality and spiritual energy to be introduced into the circuit of the relationship between religious and daily life.

Such an intervention plan assumes the aim not only of promoting a redevelopment of public spaces, but of being able to trigger a concrete process of urban regeneration. The initial public investment, provided for the implementation of the intervention plan, is certainly able to locally activate important economic repercussions, which can be effectively exemplified in a process of urban regeneration, where private investment is fundamental as well as boundary conditions necessary to determine it and encourage it.

The project was fulfilled through a coordinated set of works divided into nine areas of intervention. It was essential that these works were underlying a general project that framed them in an overall plan.

In 2020, the Regione Lombardia promoted and financed this project for the urban redevelopment and regeneration of the Municipality of Covo, assigning 1,700,000 Euros thanks to the Marshall Plan.

In 2021, the Association for the revamp of the bicycle - Aribi awarded the Municipality of Covo the “Little Copenaghen 2021” award, as a prize to the cities that most implement safe kilometers in urban centers to encourage bike to work and bike to school.

Project and work supervision

Massimiliano Gamba


Project: 2018 | 2021

Construction: 2021 | 2022

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