Openfabric is a young Landscape Architecture and Urban Design practice based in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), founded in 2011 by Francesco Garofalo and Barbara Costantino. It is currently engaging in various countries such as Netherlands, Albania, Italy, China, Colombia and Peru. Responding to the large variety of possibilities that the intersection of city, society and nature creates, our projects cover several fields of action. They range from urban installations through public space design, to large landscape strategic plans; waterfronts, campuses, squares, streetscapes, parks, playgrounds. We cover the many facets of public realm processes with our experience and by involving in our team, for the different projects, specialists from other fields of expertise. Openfabric work has been awarded and widely exhibited, from AIA New York to Materdo Madrid, COAC Barcelona and to the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale ‘Fundamentals’. Openfabric members are invited to lecture internationally on a continuous base, including lecturing and guest critic at MIT (Cambridge MA), Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), RAoB (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), Genoa University of Architecture (Genoa, Italy).
Spontaneous colonisation. The main interest of the office started in the City. Focusing on the complex dynamics and interactions that are part of urban open spaces, our goal is to generate spaces where the city, society and nature come together, addressing spontaneity rather than over-imposing rigid design and planning solutions. The free and creative use of the space helps users, not only children, in the act of playing – to mold their own urban space following their needs and desires. We avoid over-programmed, and over-defined uses in order to elevate the city as the stage, allowing urban life to be the means for space appropriation and personal fulfilment.
Optimistic Resilience. If the general meaning of resilience is ‘the capacity of a system to adapt to change’, urban planning has adopted the term in the sense of the capacity of a system to react to a disturbance, with a special focus on climate change and exceptional climatic events. We believe in an optimistic vision of resilience – changes to adapt to do not only have to be traumatic and negative. Once emancipated, the understanding of the term of resilience as not exclusively the management of threats and dangers, it can become a key to interpret urban dynamics – an instrument for addressing current and future urban changes that is to the benefit of cities and people.
Beyond the City. Our interest expanded towards the urban-rural condition. The two words are only seemingly an oxymoron. In-fact, urban areas depend on ecosystem services which are often far from the city itself. Amongst other services, food production in many cases is located in distant landscapes; gastronomy, for instance, can be key to reestablish a link between food, cuisine, agri-production, people and places, bridging usually disconnected territories. Understanding the relations between territories in terms of these systems of dependencies is critical, in our opinion, to generating responsible plans and strategies that can take in account complex dynamics of cause and effects.
Play is about finding ones place in the world and making sense of that world. We have created a plan that seeks to juxtapose two different worlds. The man made and the natural. The plan has an urban exterior and a wild natural interior, each space contains a different type of play.The formal exterior is a place for sports and structured ordered games, while inside the wild interior children are encouraged and free to construct and destruct their own play spaces using natural materials. A boundary “ribbon” between the two worlds wraps and protects the interior, while adapting towards the exterior to allow games and integrate traditional playground elements. This “ribbon” is the threshold, a place where children learn to move between the natural world and the man made world. The relationship between the man made and natural worlds is the essence of sustainability, forming an understanding of this dialogue through participatory play and creative interaction is an essential childhood experience currently missing in many urban areas.
Project name: Into the Wild
Architects: Openfabric, Dmau
Project location: The Hague, Netherlands
Completion year: 2015
Size: 5.100 sqm
Photo credits: Jacopo Gennari Feslikenian, Daryl Mulvihill, Francesco Garofalo
Team: Francesco Garofalo, Daryl Mulvihill, Barbara Costantino.
Client: The Hague Municipality, Richard Krajicek Foundation
Status: 1st prize (competition), realised
Approaching an island doesn’t mean to approach a defined fragment of territory. An island is part of the larger organism of the river, and is the river the natural element under our spotlight. The dependence of the Osumi Island to its river is so evident that is not even possible to define the shape of the island, continuously transforming with the varying water levels to the extreme of disappearing. In our proposal we consequentially start by addressing a more resilient water system that can absorb risks and vulnerabilities and develop its own cultural and recreational identity. Osumi Island is part of it; its context makes the island unique. The Unesco heritage site and the urban context integrates with the natural system of the river generating a all new range of possible scenarios and a new cultural gravity which is urban, by nature. Our proposal aims to reconnect cities (in our case Berat) to the river, connection that has faded in many situations, if not even lost. Establish an interdependence is the trigger for addressing urbanites to sustainably take advantage of the water resource rather that a careless exploitation. The project redefines the public space of the city of Berat, introducing more space for temporary and fixed uses, related to different programs. Following the logic introduced by the project, the new bridge, the “frame” and the path connecting Bulvardi Repulika are considered “fixed /established” spaces that offer ground to “temporary / mobile” events.
Project name: Lifelines
Architects: Openfabric, Unlab, CoRDA, TU Delft
Project location: Berat, Albania
Size: study area: 250kmq, project area: 9ha
Team: Francesco Garofalo, Emanuele Paladin, Olivier Sobels, Lou Besancon
Client: Atelier Albania
Status: 1st prize (competition), feasibility study
How can agriculture, tourism and spatial planning work together in a circular model, adding maximum value to a sustainable year round local economy? Qeparo, is a village in the southern coast of Albania that has suffered from the diaspora that caused a great loss of human capital. Today the village, as many others in the coastal area, is facing return immigration of the ‘natives’, and has the opportunity to be revitalised with agro-tourism. The landscape with its products, can be the starting point for a new prosperity. Restore the Aqueduct. The old irrigation channel bears the potential of reactivating terraces by providing continuous irrigation. Solving the summer irrigation demand can foster a more intensive cultivation (mixed-farming) of the terraces and consequential better maintenance. By restoring the water inlet the, channel can feed the terraces and becomes a touristic attraction as well. The Perfect Hectare. The agriculture areas of Qeparo, similarly to other villages of the region, are characterised by the monoculture of the olive tree. Although the climate and soil typology allow a broader range of potential crops, there is an extremely low agro-biodiversity. The goal of the ‘Perfect Hectare’ is to create a model, a tool for the farmers, of mix-farming.
Project name: Agro Tourism Albania
Professionals: Openfabric, MVO Nederland, Cityförster, Alterra, Sawadee, BoerBos, GutundGut, Arber Togani
Project location: Qeparo, Albania
Team: Francesco Garofalo, Olivier Sobels, Ekaterina Andrusenko
Client: Dutch Embassy of Albania, RVO, Stimuleringsfonds
Status: Commission, Research
Ringroads are barriers that separate the city into an internal and external part; they reduce physical connectivity between parts and they disconnect functions.
On their own, the leftover areas and large recreational spaces next to the ring road, are valuable landscapes. By creating a system enabling accessibility based on active mobility, these landscapes can finally become usable by citizens. Overlapping these landscapes with the existing urban green network generates the ‘Rotterdam Necklace’, a system of public and accessible open spaces centred around the principle of reclaiming leftover spaces for urban communities. The forthcoming by-pass will lead to a decrease of traffic on the A20, and, with time, smart mobility technologies will reduce the space needed by vehicles, decreasing the environmental disturbance of the motorway. The new condition will bring possibilities for the reuse and reprogramming of infrastructures which will have become redundant. We propose repurposing the highway as an urban road allowing the downgrade of the road at city level, that can be eventually transformed into a park. In the past, top-down processes associated with large infrastructures were detached from small scale community-lead initiatives. There is a need to connect the large scale with the small scale – government decisions with local community needs. Re-thinking infrastructural spaces can increase quality and generate opportunities for the inhabitants, while providing a larger urban and regional service.
Professionals: Openfabric, Mauroparravicini, Kartonkraft, Move Mobility, Noha
Project location: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Team: Francesco Garofalo, Jacopo Gennari Feslikenian, Ekaterina Andrusenko
Client: BNA, City of Rotterdam, Ministry if Infrastructures and Environment
Status: Commission, Research
Inverse Urbanism is a strategy that aims to address the post-expo without arbitrarily imposing the program; accepting the indeterminacy of the future of the area is essential to envision new scenarios. The goal is to create fields of potentials that like magnetic fields are able to attract quality investments and sustainable development. A grid of paths, that follows the Expo structure of the Cardo and Decumano, overlaps with 5 defined areas where a variety of natural processes are activated. Those natural processes define through time 5 different ecosystems: forest ecosystem, wetland ecosystem, agriculture ecosystem, landfill ecosystem and vacant ecosystem. The ecosystems and the grid weave a new urban fabric that doesn’t impose itself over the uncertain future of the area but generate a multitude of possible scenarios, where the program is linked to the sustainable exploitation of ecosystem services. Inverse Urbanism propose a symbiotic city model where nature is not only seen as romantic neo-pastoral landscape nor as a mere ecological network but rather becomes integral part of a new system where city and nature are inseparably linked by mutual benefit and dependence.
Project location: Milan, Italy
Size: 110 ha
Team: Francesco Garofalo, Barbara Costantino, Olivier Sobels
Client: Venice Biennale 2014
Status: Commission, Exhibition