Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in 2015, Italy, Landscape architecture Posts, Milan, Piuarch

Amazing Rooftop Shows the Magic of Wooden Pallets

Article by Ho Chun Kit Dennis – Orto fra i cortili (Garden Among the Courtyards) based on wooden pallets, by Piuarch, Milan, in Brera, Milan, Italy.

How would you use a rooftop garden? Some people want to create a pleasant or interesting outdoor space for visual enjoyment. Others want a space in which to gather with family and friends. What makes a rooftop garden special is the way its design fits its purpose. Even better if it doesn’t break the bank and is environmentally friendly.

Such challenging goals can sometimes be achieved by taking some rather drastic measures, as this garden in the Brero section of Milan, Italy, shows. In this project, two industries that seemingly share no similarities collide – landscape architecture and, yes, logistics. How did it work?

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Attraction of Palette

This cleverly designed rooftop garden in the sea of Milan’s blocks of housing creates interesting optical effects. Orto fra i cortili pays tribute to Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez for his signature kinetic and optical art. In English, this back yard is called The Kinetic Garden for its visually dynamic character.

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

It was created through the use of a modular system of pallets that hosts four types of plants using a variety of color palettes. The plants include two varieties of salad in purplish red and green, and two types of pansy in yellow and purplish blue. The flowerbed is arranged in repetitive straight lines, resulting in monochromatic color strips.

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

When a person walks by the plants, the vision slightly changes along the way and an optical illusion of movement is created. This visual effect is amplified by the use of triangular boards placed between the borderline of color strips. This increases the optical depth being perceived by the eyes. As a result, users are more engaged with the environment.

The special arrangement of the color strips to create this visually dynamic effect is the highlight of the garden. However, as I mentioned, logistics is another major part of the project.

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

The Magic of Pallets

While the palette may catch our eye, it’s the underlying structure of pallets that shows how smart the project is. The former design, which aimed to rediscover the pharmaceutical usage of plants, involved the planting of medicinal plants with the use of an additional layer of pallet. For the present design, most of the flowers are no longer placed via another layer of pallet. Instead, they are embedded in the platform.

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Let’s think about the basic composition of a pallet. Depending on the type, it would have two deck boards with a stringer or block. In other words, there is space between the deck boards. This makes the installation of plants fairly easy and secure. The area of the deck boards without plants becomes a walkable surface that can create the platform. Therefore, the dual usage of the pallet here utilizes those structural characteristics intelligently and completely. Another economy of space: clever!

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Make Space for the Place

You may wonder whether the design employed the space for environmental purposes. Sure it does. When we examine it closely, we notice that the pallets are placed above the beams. This means the beams are supporting the pallets, and the structure is located above the actual roof. This leaves a lot of space between the pallets and the top of the structure. The shielding effect of the platform can help reduce the temperature of the building, and consequently help save money for cooling in summertime.

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

What about the gaps in the podium? What happens when it rains? The garden designers have taken this into account — the roof is slightly inclined on two sides. When it rains, the water on the roof slides along the plane. The water is then collected from the open drainage installed at both ends of the inclined surfaces.

Wooden Pallets

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

A Small Twist for a Large Leap

I believe a project like this is one of the reasons for the rising popularity of landscape architecture. With the mindset brought by the specialty, a small twist can bring surprising improvement to an already pleasant place. If I had seen the original garden, I would have been happy to stay and enjoy time with my friends. But since the plants are secured using separated pallets, users can reorganize the plants easily.

Wooden Pallets

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

However, one may notice this extra layer abruptly rises up from the surface, making it a problem from the aesthetic side. Now, it looks more tidy and clean, since the flowers have been aligned nicely. Last but not least, the art movement that inspired the use of the specific salad and pansy plants makes the users become more engaged and hence more attuned to the environment.

The Kinetic Garden successfully reminds us of the physical flexibility of a pallet and the kinetic potential of colors and flowers. The original merits of the garden have been strengthened by these wise tricks. For sure, we will be looking for chances to be there more than ever.

What makes a nice garden? What else would you add to Orto fra i cortili to make it even better? Let us know by sharing your ideas below!

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Wooden Pallets

Orto fra i cortili. Image courtesy of Piuarch

Full Project Credits For Orto fra i cortili :

Project Name: Orto fra i cortili
Designer: Piuarch
Location: Brera, Milan, Italy
Date of Construction: 2015
Size: 300 square meters
Green Area: Cornelius Gavril, VerdeVivo
Modules: Vivai Mandelli
Beams: PCR srl
Structure: Sice Previt
Others: Battaglia Contractor, Marazzi, Manuel Coltri – Marmi Due Ci, Colleoni Roberto & C. srl, Amea

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