A men on the platform in the Portello area of Milan

Parco Portello

Italy

Parco Portello in Milan, designed by Charles Jencks and LAND Italia, is a multi-level concept of urban regeneration. It is a sculptural gesture, full of opportunities not only for recreation, fun and sport, but also to reflect more deeply on the relationship between humankind and nature.

Parco Portello in Milan, designed by Charles Jencks and LAND Italia, is a multi-level concept of urban regeneration. It is a sculptural gesture, full of opportunities not only for recreation, fun and sport, but also to reflect more deeply on the relationship between humankind and nature.

Parco Portello differs from other Milanese parks due to its innate landscape features and the attentive focus on design that undergirds it. Conceived as part of Gino Valle’s master plan for the Portello-Fiera area, the park’s hills make it recognisable even from a distance. The entire redevelopment process took place in conjunction with and in the style of the American landscape architect Charles Jencks (1939-2019). His legacy to the citizens of Milan is this project: a park where people can feel free to experience the rhythm of time.

Arriving in Milan by highway from the north, visitors can see two hills, one on the right and one on the left of the main road running into the city; both hills are artificial, but were built about sixty years apart: the one on the right, Monte Stella, is about 50m high and was constructed using rubble from World War II; the second, called Helix, is a little over 20m high and was built in the early 2000s using excavation materials from the demolition of the old Alfa Romeo factory that had been active from 1906 to 1986 in the Portello district, in what was known as the Alfa Romeo Area. The industrial complex was built on a service area bordering the grounds where the pavilions of Expo 1906 had once stood, in the open countryside to the northwest of the city. The urban park, which covers about 70,000m2 of land, is the result of a collaboration between Charles Jencks (who died in 2019), a principal theorist of modernism and post-modernism in landscape architecture, and the LAND studio. At the summit of Helix, with its truncated cone shape, is a fountain/sculpture depicting the double helix of DNA, also the work of Charles Jencks.

The park’s design structure is based on a series of circular spatial lines that create three “green sculptures,” positioned at strategic points to offer a view of the city and the surrounding landscape: Mound1, Mound2, and Mound3. These, along with the little Time Garden, represent various periods of time: Prehistory, History, the Present, and individual time. At the center are two large ponds, which welcome visitors and offer a lovely pattern of reflections that change with the seasons.

Located between two large thoroughfares, the Parco Industria Alfa Romeo-Portello opened in December 2012, but was not completed until 2022 with the opening of the Moon Garden. As part of the city’s Green Rays system of pedestrian and bike paths, it also interacts with the city from a broader perspective.

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