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Competition on invitation


Avant projet (Preliminary project)

THE RIVER AND THE CITY Design for the course of Urban landscape Lab Departement of Architecture, UniPR 2007

Project published in: • Paolo Bozzuto, Andrea Costa, Lorenzo Fabian, Storie dal futuro. Gli scenari nella progettazione del territorio. Officina Edizioni, Roma 2008, pages 168-169. • Simona Bartoletti, Filippo Cavalli, Progetti degli studenti. Presentazione dei quattro progetti finalisti del concorso ‘Paesaggi marginali. Esplorazioni architettoniche’ in SdS. Rivista semestrale degli studenti della Facoltà di Architettura dell’Università di Parma No. 3, Fall 2008. Project shortlisted by the teachers of the Urban design lab of the year 2006 - 2007 of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Parma to enter the international competition Arturbain 2007: La place publique, lieu de vie sociale. Project Une place dans le bord, Parma 43100. (

In a tradition-consolidated vision of a city historically conceived as a compact and dense urban cluster, still today the river represents a gap, a limit, no-man’s land to be admired with aloofness from the bridges as a postcard picture. Intangible and elusive, unexplored heritage, the river is the most ancient sign of urban ground and reason itself of the human settling. In the proposed utopian image the perspective of the observation and conception of the territory and of its components changes: it is no longer a 18th century city squeezing and isolating the river, but a new diffused “green city” surrounding it and penetrating inside it through the river changing dimensions, spaces, rhythm, relations. The River runs through our area North to South entering the city of Parma. Following its course the green city enters the stony city. Regaining possession of the river and going down to its bed, the citizen enters into contact with the green city getting into a new artery connecting to a wider provincial scope and sharing the values and characters of an alternative urban scenario. The river upgrading is necessary in a perspective of development of the green city project and of cohesion of its individual elements: it represents a constant element for the whole area, a recognizable sign with its own identity and multiple development potential, which in its logic of connecting and joining the various scenarios present in the analysis area must not merge with the exact, natural and anthropized realities it gets into contact with, keeping and enhancing instead its distinctive characters.

Model: designing new terraces (grey) and paths (fuchsia, exploded)

Outdoor museum

Market square

Urban orchards


Collages: showing materials

Focus on the market square (Piazza Ghiaia) Located at the river level but divided from it by 19th century banks over which the avenues stretch, the square connects to it with three tunnels bored beneath the bank giving access to the riverbanks in the dry period and creating new spaces for the market or for exhibitions. In the high tide season the tunnels can be closed with a bulkhead systems. The path (fuchsia) characterizing the entire project here establishes a relation between the square and the river, sketching the new multifunctional terraces.


Project awarded of special mention in the 20th International Seminar and Award/prize Urban Architecture and Culture The Architecture of places. Context and Modernity. Camerino, Italy 1–5 August 2010.

The project site is located in the heart of Saint Gervais les Bains, a tourist resort in Haute Savoie (France), in a strategic area since it is the point of arrival of a path that, through a wood, directly connects the village (800 m above sea level) to spa centre below (630 m above sea level); moreover, the area represents the margin, the border between the village and the spontaneous natural environment typical of this area, between the river that has hollowed the valley and the top of Mont Blanc towering over it. Requalifying this area, therefore, has the practical purpose of creating new public spaces with recreational facilities for the growing and growing tourist flow, as well as accesses and connections, easier to use, between the many different levels of the village; it is moreover necessary to integrate, within a more organic urban texture, the dwellings irregularly built on the village furthest margin, in an area in-between wilderness and built environment, starting at the same time a dialogue between two realities that co-exist but do not communicate. An intervention in this area does also have a cultural value of research, reading of the place, contemplation and listening to an intelligible reality, apparently unsystematic and stratified, but carrying all the rules, traces and codes for its own interpretation in its stones and, through sight, movement, dialogue with tradition, revealed in a contemporary language of signs and voids, respecting and emphasizing that complex system of physical and socio-cultural elements that characterize all mountain scenarios, starting from the essential feature: slope. Designing on a slope entails the conception of landscape as an integral part of the work, inseparable from the design: Landscape is the scene, and man is both performer and spectator, enjoying the perception of what he himself has performed, composing with sight, discovering visible and invisible traces of the place and expressing them with his own formal and cultural new composition sign, establishing a stated relation with the contest. Plots, routes, movements, visual axes, stopping points and perception sites must be identified, that is all grammatical features of the architectural language that is used in dialoguing with the project site, trying to interpret it evocatively, and that steers composition and formal choices.

Cross section

Longitudinal section

Views of the path winding through the woods, reaching the village

A NEW SQUARE IN LA SPEZIA Public competition 2009 - 2010

Competition procedure: • November 2009 (phase 1, competition of ideas): proposal selected among the 5 finalists over 89 participating groups • February 2010 (phase 2: preliminary project drawing-up): second best Project presented during the meeting dare arte alla città (give art to the city), XII Biennale of Architecture, Italian Pavillion at Arsenale, Venice, 23 october 2010

In September 2009 a group of Architects consisting of me, Elena Lombardi (Group Leader), Pietro Rizzoli and Margherita Zambelli, with the artist Stefano Mandracchia, entered the two-stage international competition for the urban renewal of Piazza Giuseppe Verdi in La Spezia. The judges were: • Architect Emilio Erario - Chairperson of the Board (Manager of Department 4 – Urban Development Planning and Control and Territorial of the Municipality of La Spezia) • Ing. Claudio Canneti (Manager of Department 2 - Environment, Technical Services and Public Works of the Municipality of La Spezia) • Architect Alessandro Mendini (founder of Atelier Mendini, honorary member of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, honorary professor at Accademic Council of Guangzhou Academy of fine Arts in China. In 1979 and 1981 he was awarded the Golden Compass for design, is “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” in France, was given honour by the New York Architectural League and a Honorary Degree by the Milan Politecnico) • Professor Giacinto Di Pietrantonio (Manager of GAMeC Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery in Bergamo, teacher at Accademia di Brera, board member of Quadriennale di Roma 2005, editor of MIART by Milano edizioni 2009 and 2010, scientific member of the P.A.A.L.M.A Prize. La Marrana Arteambientale Prize Artist + Architect ) • Mr. Gianni Bolongaro (founder of BGN Management Consultants in Marketing in Milan, co-founder with his wife Grazia Marino de La Marrana arteambientale and of the P.A.A.L.M.A. Prize. La Marrana Arteambientale Prize Artist + Architect ) Hereinafter an abstract of the project report.

Design competition for the architectural and artistic urban renewal of Piazza Verdi, La Spezia Reflecting upon the meaning of public space in connection with the city the definition of a place was attained that clearly wants to offer itself as ‘void’ within the urban texture. The square spaces were redefined by redesigning the plane characterizing it and the user’s perception of it, intentionally not intervening on the section line, thus enhancing the omission of constructions naturally defining it. The main instrument used to characterize the square is the flooring design, which is able to interfere with space perception, and thus to redefine it. This design is not merely a decoration perceptible only with a planimetric reading, creating a split with the architectural realization, but is conceived to be observed specifically by the user, interfering with the latter’s perception of the surrounding space. Starting from a study of man’s visual cone, the flooring creates an optic effect able to define a hybrid space from a perception standpoint. Thus, a highly-characterized space in its entirety is created, being also extremely changeable according to the position of the beholder or the direction of the look. The square, space of the changing and unexpected, is, also metaphorically, the joining point between the sea and the city. The need to create structured, complex, alluring places does not translate into a project imposition to irreversibly define the space, but into a ‘grid’ in which the possibilities are virtually infinite. The space can be occupied by a host of thin steel rods, easy to move, which are alternately lighting, pergola, screen base. The seats are plastic rings, partially filled with water or sand, which can be easily emptied and moved when necessary. Thus, the square becomes an open and free place with which people can identify. The flooring changing surface, as well as the infinite possibilities of use will arouse ever-different sensations. All choices made had also a costcontrol purpose.

Detail of the mosaic, artwork of futuristic artists Fillia and Prampolini, located all over the inner walls of Postal Building’s tower in Piazza G. Verdi, La Spezia (1930 - 1933)

Conceptual plan for competition phase 1

The square as an optical playground for everybody

Flexibility of space and its structures

Longitudinal section for competition phase 1

Collages for competition phase 1

Flexibility: snapshots of proposal for competition phase 1

Detailed plan for competition phase 2 (preliminary project)

Detail of the plan for competition phase 2 (preliminary project)

Section and plan for competition phase 2

Studies for “dehors� Competition phase 2 (preliminary project)




ETH Z端rich, Departement Architektur Institut f端r Landschaftsarchitektur (prof. Christoph Girot) Wolfgang-Pauli-Str. 15, 8093, Z端rich

I chose the Master of Advanced Studies in Landscape Architecture at ETH Z端rich because of its focus on the use of the latest modeling and visualization possibilities as well as the 3D illustration of landscape architecture. Having no previous 3D experience nor great confidence with computer-based advanced techniques, my challenge was to develop new tools that could have been useful for the practice and defy my lack of confidence with technology at the same time. The course of studies was completed part-time over two semesters and was divided into 7 theme modules and 1 concluding thesis module. The modular structure allowed me to develop my own themes, which were combined within the framework of an individual project as the concluding thesis module. Through intensive work with the latest software in the area of modeling and visualization, I was capable completing complex design tasks as well as developing new forms of design method. The chosen CAD programs (i.e. Rhino) are particularly appropriate for the visualization of large-scale landscape designs and offer the possibility for export to computer-steered milling machines. In addition, the use of photography as a design tool and video as tool for illustration and design round off the goal-oriented program.

References: - Alexandre Kapellos, Teaching Assistant LVMLab | Design Studio, MAS LA ETH,, tel: +41 44 633 21 71 - Pia Fricker, Director of Studies MAS LA ETH,, tel: + 41 44 633 42 68 - James Melsom, Teaching Assistand LVMLab | Design Studio, MAS LA ETH,, tel: +41 44 633 37 94


The fist module at ETH MAS LA got me immediately very excited about the working possibilities offered by the 3-axes milling machine and the sculptural aesthetics of the output. As soon as the knowledge was introduced in lecture one that only a three-directional movement of the machine is possible, I started wondering how this limitation could have been bypassed in order to obtain models with more informations and an enhanced 3D attitude. My first experiment was about time lapses and their representation. How to show evolution and different scenarios on just one foam block, and how to relate it with some more participation from the model’s beneficiary? I decided to use all four faces of a foam block with squared section. The idea was to mill not only one of the faces, but all of them one after the other. The result is an object that can be rotated in order to discover its meaning, a sculptured monolith suggesting a movement, a time-device on which four stages of construction are all represented at the same time showing a process, a program’s evolution.

Module Supervisor: Alexandre Kapellos,

Initial 3D model with all 4 variations in a row

Development of the model: the shape was studied on Rhino as a 3D object, then one face after the other was milled as separate jobs, manually re-positioning the foam block after each job.

For the final model I tried to relate my studies with something I was working on at vi.vo. architecture.landscape (, and this gave me the possibility of relating the module experience with some practical trade, translating the design for an on-going project into something completely new and that I could easily manipulate. The project for a huge inner courtyard in Triemli (Zürich) with its different levels, complex topography and bounding high-rise buildings seemed very appealing for its “secret garden” attitude and playing with light was an interesting challenge with the buildings acting like retention walls for light. I wanted to mill a huge foam block (1m x 1m x 0,2m) on both main sides, digging the material till a very thin section is left, in order to obtain a see-trough effect that could be strengthened illuminating the model from below, bringing it to life and suggesting different uses and materials. The ideas of flipping block faces, playing with stock material, trying to obtain a see-through effect were essentially introduced not only as an excuse for taking confidence with the software and testing the material and machine, but as new possibilities for modelling-related problem solving, like representing various materials, scenarios and conceptual ideas in quite immediate, simple but fitting models. The terrific precision of the machine’s movements are sometimes frustrated by a too short or too big drill bit, bringing some trouble in small-scale representations, but the opportunity of last-minute modifications such as playing with Z levels just before starting the job are one more way to allow some human touch and sensitivity into these new powerful tools.

Design copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape (, all rights reserved

Flipping the model and setting up faces for the milling job. In order to add some strenght to the thin surfaces (2 and 4 mm thikness) a secondary frame is added to the back face

Testing the thikness of foam


Task: In 2007, it was announced that the Gubrist Tunnel, northwest of Zurich, would be increased by three lanes to allow for the future expansion of the Zurich-Bern highway system, one of Switzerland‘s main highways. The task is to distribute the resulting excavated material, around 583,000 cubic meters, on a site by the southern exit of the Gubrist tunnel between Weiningen and Unterengstringen. New uses for this landscape were to be proposed, and the phasing of the landscape simulated as it evolves. My idea is to break the boundaries of the proposed site to create something useful for the whole valley and not restricted to a small area. The design is stretching the amount of material north and south of the site’s core, bridging the highway in order to reconnect portions of landscape with a gesture that is morphologically and visually suggesting a main axis for landscape interpretation and land use, from the mountains to the river. The highway, main actor in the process of disconnection, is perceived as a relevant element in the landscape creating a border, fragmenting the territory, originating a movement in a different direction than the natural one. The proposal is using the same concept but in twisted way, starting a dialogue: as the highway is digging the valley, the new landscape is filling the gap and rising the level of the ground; formally the one directional movement (eastwest) of the highway is rotated ninety degrees. The function is mainly the one of creating a new landscape that can be seen from a distance as a landmark (i.e while driving on the highway) and be used for agricolture or as a public park or promenade while providing a crossing structure for the wildlife. The analysis of the site was made through photography-based techniques like panoramas and videos; the original terrain 3D model was originated by a combination of google with the new pointclouds technique. The design workflow was based on a mix of traditional representation techniques and new three-dimensional tools learned, with a computer-based approach, enhanced and revisited by hand-made sketches and physical milled models as a way for testing the output.

General plan

Unterenstringen village

Highway to/from southern Zurich

Highway to/from Gubrist tunnel

Assigned design area

Kloster Fahr monastry and community

Test foam models

3D representation is used here as a process tool and not only for final representation. Sketching on printed viewports and milling test models are two useful ways to improve and verify the design

General design model, fitted into the site’s larger model

Aerial view with naked surfaces: the focus here is on the main terrain movements

Studies for vegetation, materials and general mood, mixing freehand sketching with computer-based rendering and collage.

Public park and promenade: different levels and slopes offer open view to the mountains or down to the highway for carspotting. Paths are left to a minimum as green corridors and one-directional walls are already suggesting a direction.

Function schemes, depending on time lapses and possible land uses.

Public park + Green corridor and wildlife crossing infrastructure: lower corridors collect waters and protect from excessive wind, providing a good environment for plants and wildlife in general. Wild fauna would use those areas to cross the highway undisturbed.

Public park + Green corridor + Agricoltural fields: even with surfaces guaranteed for public pedestrian traffic and wildlife crossing, there would be a lot of space available for agricolture, especially on the sunny top areas.

According to land owners and municipality plans all functions can cohexist like different possible layers added with time.




vi.vo. architecture.landscape positions itself between architecture and landscape referring to the interrelationship of the two disciplines. Urban space and landscape, buildings and gardens are perceived in their spatial context and processed in an architectural manner. Depending on the project involved, the issue of public space, the correlation of inside and outside, gradual changes in daily and seasonal rhythm, can all become important factors that play a central role in the design process. (exerpt from the vi.vo. webpage) I’ve been working at vi.vo for one year as an architect with a 50% working position, while attending a Master of Advanced Studies in Landscape Architecture at ETH Zurich. Coming from architecture but having always being interested in open spaces, while working at the firm I had the opportunity to deepen my knowlege about landscape design in a different, more practical way than while at the master. The two things resulted as being quite complementary. I had the opportunity to take part on various projects at different stages, working as project architect on competitions and ongoing works and having the opportunity of being responsible for design solutions, building details and graphic representation.

Badenersrasse 125, 8004, Zürich phone: +41 442717600 fax: +41 442717601

References: - Maria Viñé, founding partner of vi.vo architecture.landscape,, tel: +41 79 30 488 48 - Martina Voser, founding partner of vi.vo architecture.landscape,, tel: +41 79 46 131 92

RENOVATION OF THE FORMER INDUSTRIAL SITE OF KUNZAREAL IN WINDISCH Competition on invitation 2011 (copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape, all rights reserved)

vi.vo. architecture.landscape Project team: Maria ViùÊ ( project leader Lorenzo Figna: project architect. Concept, design, graphics

The former woven mill site of Kunzareal is facing a fundamental renovation from industrial site to residential neighborhood with part demolition and new construction. Our intention is to summarize the whole area into an ensemble despite the functional and structural heterogeneity of the elements to connect. The industrial background of the area defines a role identity and the project relies on specific structural elements and characteristics of the existing site. The semi-private areas bounding the buildings are broken and interwoven with the surrounding public space. Depending on the situation public space invades those areas, or vice-versa surfaces belonging to the buildings are extended like a carpet into the public domain. This intertwining of private and public sectors is strengthened further by a grid of lines: as drainage channels in paving stone pervade the whole area today, this contextual element is taken up by the project, providing drainage and connecting places. The district court will be the center of the new environment and it must be multifunctional: in the middle of the square a generous flexible area is kept free. However, on northern and southern borders special spaces are created in order to reduce the scale of the place: topographical islands equipped with decks, vegetation and seats. The trees planted there should reinforce the special character of these recreational areas and provide shading. The southern islands also contain a pavilion for studios, which is conceived as a singular volume with an industrial attitude, as a quote to the past. The pavilion works as a hinge, connecting the square with the open green space all along the shore. Unlike the staged emptiness on the court, the streets are characterized by spatial interplay between contraction and expansion, with a more intimate character. Subtle variations in furniture design, surface type or trees quality can emphasize the specific character of each building. The topography is extremely flat as intended to strengthen the flowing and unifying nature of the space: just the required minimum slope to ensure the connections to the buildings and drainage. Exception is made all along the shore, where series of slopes are designed as flood protection measures and green public belt with panoramic promenade.

copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape all rights reserved

Focus on the square as the core of the project

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Longitudinal section on the square

Cross section on the square

copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape all rights reserved

water system

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green areas


paved surfaces

traffic system


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NEW CAMPUS FOR THE INSTUTE FOR MENTAL HEALTH OF C’PSY IN CERY, LAUSANNE Avant projet (Preliminary project) 2010 - 2011

(copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape, all rights reserved)

vi.vo. architecture.landscape Project team: Maria ViĂąe ( project leader Lorenzo Figna: project architect. Design, graphics, terrain studies and modelling, details, visualization.

The starting point for the new campus is to create a large park that connects all the existing elements from different periods and architectural styles and contributes to the cohesion of the territory with its network of paths. The location of the new main building allows the park to have the maximum extent possible within the site. The site is characterized by very steep topography. The large central area is slightly modified to create a set of slopes, embankments and horizontal surfaces that allow the placement of architectural elements such as water tanks, small walls, banks or vegetation elements, creating small paved platforms for outdoor relief and medical therapies, dealing at the same time with the rigid safety standards of an institution for mental care. The park in front of the old main building is mostly preserved in its original state and character. A network of paths is connecting the various buildings of the campus, creating special nodes (right where the already mentioned paved areas take place) when crossing each other. The whole park is a pedestrian area: cars are only allowed on the existing roads along the perimeter of the site. The network of paths is an important tool to connect conceptually and formally all the various elements of the whole campus, including future extensions. The outdoor space can become a way to give unity to a place characterized from a mix of buildings all different in style, so that the Cery Campus becomes a coherent set of heterogeneous elements. A large belt of forest bounds the site. In the southwest it is decided to fill in the gaps with more trees when needed, to reinforce the idea of a park with clear boundaries. Inside the park, trees are placed in small groups accompanying the cross roads and the various platforms. Inside the meadows space is mostly free from large volumes of trees in order to create open areas and visual release. Cushions with shrub heights from 30cm to 100cm with different types of plants and herbs (lavender, sage, miscanthus, etc..) are accompanying roads and intersections. There are no plantations of shrubs hiding the view at the pedestrians and space is perceived in its fluidity.

copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape all rights reserved

copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape all rights reserved

copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape all rights reserved

copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape all rights reserved

copyright: vi.vo. architecture.landscape all rights reserved

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Lorenzo Figna, a brief portfolio  

Portfolio of works by Lorenzo Figna, Zurich 2011