Casarico Park

Casarico Park is located in southern Switzerland, at the intersection of alpine and Mediterranean environments, which results in a wide range of plant communities. The mild climate and rich geology of the region generate lush landscapes that juxtapose the anonymous urban sprawl characterizing the valleys. Within this context the new neighborhood sits at the threshold between the fragmented suburbs of the city of Lugano and its protected natural areas of forests, mountains, and lakes. However, recent research on climate change indicates that within the next decades the city’s climate will be closer to the average climate of Naples, Italy. This is the premise for the ecological strategy of the project and for the definition of resilient plantings for climate change.

The planning of the residential area is conceived through the landscape perspective and is the result of a collaborative effort between architects and landscape architects from the very beginning. The project aims to define a sustainable way of living in housing units that are immersed in an extensive, performative and interconnected park system, reducing the environmental impact on the surrounding context. Consisting of 5 four-storey residential buildings placed at different elevations across a 4-hectare sloping site. The landscape of Casarico Park includes a playground, a central lawn overlooking the lake and a public square, as well as intimate tree groves and nooks for quiet contemplation.

Three main ideas drive the landscape design concept: ecological continuity, on-site stormwater management, and public accessibility across the site. All the different landscape layers converge here into a central pathway that allows for public circulation within a mostly private neighborhood, while guaranteeing the management of surface water up to 100-year storm events and the integration of a regional-scale forested ecological corridor. This diagonal path, called Oak Path and characterized by a consistent canopy of holm and cork oaks, which ties together the buildings and the open spaces.

The uninterrupted plantings and water collection system along Oak Path establish a continuous ecological corridor for insects, small mammals and birds that connects the woods to the North with the protected wildlife reserve of Lake Muzzano. The key strategy for the redirection, collection, and retention of all the surface runoff lies in the topographic modelling and the creation of three water retention basins along the main path. Stormwater from the site and roofs of the buildings converges to the central basins where it is filtered and cleaned through phytoremediation, creating a wildlife habitat at the core of the neighborhood.

Similarly, all material and texture choices for the design of Casarico Park respond to a common theme of weathering, simplicity and seasonal change. This is visible in the deliberate use of rough pigmented concrete which blends with the natural rocky outcrops present on the site and in the furniture made of reclaimed black locust wood, sourced from local forest management. Discarded black limestone blocks are placed for slope stabilization and foster the growth of alkaline-loving vegetation. Likewise, across the park the green tones of the leafy vegetation stand in stark contrast with the black concrete volumes helping with the mitigation of the urban heat island effect, as well as providing the necessary level of privacy and shade for the residents.

Lastly, the upper portion of Casarico Park is designed as a landscape-in-waiting, which has been temporarily made available as a public park to the community while remaining privately managed. This is where the old farmhouse stands and its renovation and tranformation into the local community center is bringing new life to the broader neighborhood. The garden surrounding the center includes a café terrace, a bocce court, an open-air theater carved in the hillside for public events, an olive-dotted mound with lookout, a public orchard and community vegetable gardens. This higher part of the site will be intentionally left undeveloped for the next couple of decades, in order to create a low-maintenance wildlife area that adds biodiversity for the benefit of the entire neighborhood.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Attilio Panzeri & Partners Architects

Project location: Via Cremignone 4, 6924 Sorengo (Switzerland)

Design year: 2015

Year Built: 2017-22

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