592 – Giardino della Pace Italiano

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The project intends to enhance the topography of the site, produced by the bombing, which today presents numerous gaps in the soil, in the form of craters of various extension and depth, among the most significant signs of the dramatic memory of this war theater. At the same time, a value is recognized in the naturalistic system which from the war time has partially reconfigured the site: hence the desire to react the morphology of the soil with the qualities of the forest, in particular its more ephemeral and variable characters linked to the cycles of the seasons.

The valleys are therefore covered by a bentonite sheet, which faithfully follows the concave shape. The craters will therefore tend to retain the surface water and, after the rains or after the melting of the snow, they become small water basins, like tears on which the surrounding trees, the sky and the visitors are reflected. The interaction with the seasonal cycles is also achieved in the relationship with the vegetation: the sheet which is composed of three layers – sheet, a clay film, non-woven fabric – will hinder the rooting of the undergrowth grasses, thus remaining recognizable their quality of interruption or scar in the original soil, which immediately outside them lets itself be colonized by the vegetation.
This contrast introduces a reflection on the different qualities of time: on the one hand the time of memory, permanence, the immutability of irrevocable events, on the other the time of biological life, natural phenomena, seasons, which speak of rebirth but also of the value of the instant, of the ephemeral measure of existence.

The second element of the project consists of a regular weave of poles that overlaps the topography and mixes with the rhythm of the trees following a geometric pattern based on a rigid square mesh. These memorials – stakes about 65 cm high, with a diameter of 6 cm – are poles that evoke the deployment of a battalion, giving measure to the space and making the massive presence of armies perceptible.
They want to suggest the memory of the individual soldiers who fought on this field, at the same time their confusion with the wood to which they belong. The wooden stakes fixed in the ground are an element already present on the site. The head was painted red. Red tulips (Tulipa ‘Big Chief’) flank the stakes along the grid, whose number is 592, a symbolic number, in memory of the 592 Italians buried in the nearby Soupir Cemetery.

The third element of the project is a dense weave of blooms, which are almost entirely made up of geophyte plants. Bulbs of different types have been positioned according to a spot pattern, these further blooms will tend to naturalize over time and become part of the undergrowth (Muscari, Anemone and Viola).

The garden will therefore change over the seasons, turning the different levels on and off: water, bulbs, blooms, foliage. The only level that remains ever present will be the memory of the 592 fallen.

Project details

Designers: Lorenza Bartolazzi, Luca Catalano, Claudia Clementini
Project location: Craonne, Chemin des Dames, France
Typology: Memorial garden
Built: 2018
Artistic direction: Gilbert Filinger
Construction: Nathalie Vallée, Gaël Chabin, Severin Leborgne
Realization: Atena Paysage
Photo credits: © Gaël Chabin, James Basson, Thilo Folkerts, Anselme Richalot

Lorenza Bartolazzi, Luca Catalano, Claudia Clementini