Notturno is a lush garden in which plants, with their ornamental value and primary role in the biological cycle of the terrestrial ecosystem, are the main protagonists. In a space defined by four perimeter walls, mostly continuous, a dense sciaphilous vegetation is arranged in such a way as to recall the image of a forest. Maples and privets represent its ‘structure plants’ because, with their tree shape, they mark the space in its entirety. Plants such as heuchera and hosta, also needing little light, are variously combined to create a dense and fragrant ornamental undergrowth. A layer of natural mulch mixed with the ground composes the walkable surface and leads to a slow crossing of the space, aimed to focus all the senses of the user. The perimeter walls and the horizontal cover close the vegetation in a shady, almost humid environment, completing the image of the forest.

Silence, the scent of earth, fresh air: Notturno is a multi-sensorial journey that invites us to reflect on the relationship between man and nature, urban life and vegetation. It is a stimulus to revive cities to generate a healthy urban life model, with sufficient quantities of oxygen and fresh air. Greater the number of plants, greater the leaf surface, greater the amount of oxygen produced. Notturno, therefore, enhances the breath as the first act of life, as a mutual exchange between living beings in which the input role is played by plants. It is an emphasis on an action that we carry out without even realizing it and that unites us to all other living beings.

The delimitation of the space with high cardboard walls closes the vegetation in a box which, in addition to the creation of a dark atmosphere typical of the forest, resizes it, giving the characteristics of a garden. On the other hand, the selected plant species and their positioning in black pots, which accentuate the nocturnal setting, are typical of an enclosed space such as that of the garden. Notturno, therefore, is not only a wood, but also a garden, a patio, a terrace, a generic green space. The well-being produced by plants is also applicable to smaller scales than the urban one and is not only physical. The combination of species following different compositional criteria, linked to the different characteristics of the plants, in fact, stimulates the perceptive senses of those who use them, generating mental well-being. And it is during the night, and with the darkness that it brings, that vision is attenuated and the other senses are activated.

With this aim the plants have been chosen to be touched, smelled and listened to, as well as seen. Hydrangea paniculata, for example, is a particularly fragrant sciaphilous plant; the Hosta ‘Undulata’ is characterized by large leaves with a silky consistency; the lanceolate shape of the leaves of the aspidistra causes, with a gust of wind, a movement and therefore a light sound.

To accentuate the multisensory nature of the garden, it was decided to equip the walls with a series of openings that put the internal and external spaces in communication. From some of these windows leaves of plants come out with particularly interesting textures, from a visual and tactile point of view. Pipes emerge from other windows, suitable for breathe the scent of vegetation. The breath, in Notturno, is therefore the act that allows you to appropriate of a smell.
The openings with which the walls are equipped, in addition to ensuring a sensorial interaction between inside and outside, allow light to penetrate, entering an almost totally dark environment, acquiring material peculiarities. The cut of light is almost palpable. As in the alleys of historic villages, often embellished with potted sciaphilous plants, the light pierces the darkness.
Light is, on the other hand, an indispensable element for activating the chlorophyll photosynthesis process. Its first phase is called the light-dependent phase and is that in which solar energy is absorbed by chlorophyll. This is followed by a dark phase in which carbon is transformed into glucose and which can also take place in the absence of light.

The name Notturno was chosen to emphasize this little-known phase of the photosynthesis process and, more generally, to deny the association dark = absence of life. Unlike what is commonly thought, it represents a necessary condition for the growth of vegetation and is not an obstacle to the creation of green spaces of high aesthetic value. Notturno is therefore a balsamic garden with a double value: ethical-biological and psychic.

Project details

Designers: Martina Solli, Stefania Monaco, Mirko Siconolfi, Lorenza Di Marco
Location: Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, Italy
Typology: ephemeral garden
Built: 2019
Client: Creative Adventures: Respiro, Festival del Verde e del Paesaggio – 9th Edition
Sponsors: Vivai Barretta Garden SRL, Vivai Manfrica, Giardino officinale

Martina Solli, Stefania Monaco, Mirko Siconolfi, Lorenza Di Marco