Upside Down Flows. Redeeming the Landscapes Crossed by the Olona River in Milan.

3 mn read

The project explores the possibilities of ‘daylighting’ the Olona River in Milan, hidden and buried during the 1950s and 1970s as a result of socio-political and economic development in northern Italy, along the crossed urban landscapes of the metropolitan city of Milan.

The research phase uncovers the historical changes and transformations that led to the decommission and neglect of several portions of the city’s water system, thus embracing its value as part of Milan’s historic essence and spirit. While acknowledging the possibilities that deculverting streams can provide to highly dense urban settlements, the outcome of the work is an urban regeneration proposal, based on strategies and interventions aimed to reshape the crossed urban fabric with the deculverting of the Olona as a symbiosis merging both the downside, the underground system of hidden flows and the upside, the resulting urban fabric without the open-air river, from Rho municipality towards the south-western San Cristoforo neighborhood.

The proposal creates a holistic balance between past, present, and future reimagining the city’s streetscape by integrating nature-based solutions (NBS) and sustainable urban drainage solutions (SUDS), assembling in this way a green-blue corridor of open public spaces, unfolding into the surrounding neighborhoods by the implementation of placemaking strategies and adding slow mobility connections to the greater transport system. The overall aim of the project is to trigger critical thinking and reimagine Milan as a green palimpsest. In doing so, it aims to recognize the positive effects of reintroducing natural capital into the city, boosting and enhancing the mental and physical well-being of the population, while using phytoremediation and slow-infrastructure techniques to self-maintain public open spaces.

As a result, the Olona River presents itself as a palimpsest restoring the water flowing along the downside into the open air, acting as a catalyzer for the insertion of resilient green public spaces, and providing a series of ecosystem services that counteract the current climate crisis and enhance green and sustainable strategies in Milan by 2050.

The project was developed as a Master of Science thesis at the Politecnico di Milano in the course ´Landscape Architecture – Land Landscape Heritage’ by Virgilio Díaz Guzmán and Karelia Díaz Meneses, supervised by Andrea Oldani.

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