Giardino Aristide Calderini, Milano, 2021
Inspired by the cosmatesque style of the Roman basilica pavements, the Living Chapel is set in the Calderini garden as a continuation of the remains of the portico of the Casa dei Cori. Here, in fact, once stood a 15th-century residence, probably the work of Bramante and owned by the Corio family.
Unfortunately, the building was lost in the bombings of the Second World War and only a facade remains to stand, carried with columns and statues, forming a sumptuous opening leading to the garden, greatly embellished by this archaic presence.
Once beyond the entrance, the project follows the radial symmetry of the circles, drawing a path that underlies the urgency of an "ecological conversion". This space, a discursive symbol of the encounter between the different religious viewpoints on the globe, embodies in its essence the peaceful logic of interreligious dialogue, a natural impulse aimed at "taking care of our common home" leading to spiritual reflection and the intimate need for a harmonious connection between Man and Nature.
In entering the project we reach a sheltered space defined by columnar trees, in an enclosed garden, where we can sit on a large circular wooden bench in the shade of a maple tree to refresh the soul and restore the body.
The trees marking the perimeter of the project, which follow the design of the paving, are 12 Prunus serrulata 'Amanogawa', Japanese flowering cherry trees which bloom spectacularly in spring, and 7 Ginkgo biloba 'Blagon', a selection with a fastigiate habit, which in autumn offer a natural spectacle of leaves tinged a deep yellow before shedding. In the centre of the seating area, an Acer griseum, the grey maple, provides shelter from the sun in summer through its expansive foliage, which turns orange at the end of the season, creating a contrast of colours with all the trees in the garden. In winter its bareness lets in the sunlight. There is also a single evergreen species present: the bulbous Agapanthus africanus, which blooms beautifully in summer.
The power of colour, just as in the Cosmati floor decorations, is a major feature of this Living Chapel, and it’s present not only in the vegetation but also in the alternation of the stone granules, with their orange porphyry, Siena yellow and brown porphyry, in the paths and the mulch in the spaces under the trees, emphasising the colour contrasts through the vegetation alternating during the different seasons.
The ecological/integral drive which is behind the project ensures that it is designed using only natural materials.