New life in the garden of Villa Spada, in Bologna


Emma Potter

The redevelopment project

The executive project for the redevelopment of the garden in the park of Villa Spada was entrusted by the client, the Municipality of Bologna, to the temporary group constituted by MARSIGLILAB studio by Filippo Marsigli who developed the softscape project of the garden together with the architects Antonio Spena, Simone Zinani and Anna Dragone and the agronomist Alessia Ferri; from the geologist Silvio De Nuzzo and engineer Laura Gennarifor the general design, and from HELENA RESTAURI srl for the planning of the restoration. Responsible for the procedure, the architect Benedetta Corsano AnnibaldiManager of the intermediate road and green maintenance unit of the Municipality of Bologna.

MARSEILLAB, Landscape Architecture Bolognais a landscape architecture company that designs and transforms outdoor spaces in a tailored and unique way, creating a natural dialogue between man and landscape, according to the client's needs.

As part of the framework agreement for the maintenance service and redevelopment of the municipal green heritage, stipulated with the BVS consortium company (Green and Sustainable Bologna), Avola Coop, a cooperative company from Castel Maggiore (BO) part of the BVS consortium, carried out the work on Villa Spada. The society Avola Coop has been operating since 1978 in the field of design, construction and maintenance of parks, gardens and green areas, in the specialist activities of naturalistic engineering, reforestation and environmental redevelopment, as well as in the field of furnishings, playgrounds, flooring for pedestrian and vehicular roads and sports facilities and road works.

The intervention had as its object the recovery of all elements, vegetal and architectural components, of the garden with the main objective of carrying out a general recovery of the green area. In particular, specifically in relation to the Italian garden, a conservative and restoration intervention was planned, which was associated with some decisive changes for a reduction in maintenance and for the improvement of usability and safety.

In detail, the redevelopment works included the fixing and securing of the architectural and monumental stone parts such as the statues and the fountain, as well as various stone elements. The flowerbeds were freed from incongruous bushes and shrubs to make room for low plants in order to open up the view and make the whole more pleasant and the safety fences surrounding the small temple which houses the “Monument of the Dog” and all the other fences in the garden; the paths inside the garden terraces, previously made of uncultivated grass, were made of gravel. The structures that delimit the area have also been renewed, in particular the fence and the metal entrance gate on Via Saragozza.

The project also made the park more functional; following a long analysis phase, a main ring route was identified within the entire park which starts from the entrance gate on the corner of via Saragozza, proceeds and passes the Tapestry Museum housed in the late 19th century neoclassical villa 700, surrounds the entire Italian Garden up to the horse chestnut path and ends with the staircase that crosses the green slope of the hill to reach the starting point again. For the stretch that runs from the library along the Italian Garden, to reach the horse chestnut driveway, a resurfacing of the flooring with the “washed” concrete MOSAICO. The concrete path extends for approximately 125 linear meters and is 2.80 meters wide. The product used for the surface finishing of this section of the route is part of a line of concretes with guaranteed performance Heidelberg Materials, suitable for the creation of architectural flooring with high aesthetic content for interiors and exteriors, specifically designed for architects and designers. Thanks to the use of “washed” architectural concrete, it was the accessibility of the garden to disabled people has been improved.

They were the furnishings and lighting system of the garden were also renewed and near the library housed in the former stables, new racks have been provided. With these interventions, which are the natural completion of the restoration of the neoclassical villa from the end of the 18th century, the client also wanted to underline the important role of Villa Spada in the panorama of the cultural, landscape and environmental heritage of Bologna and to guarantee the full use of this collective good by enhancing its functions, safety, hospitality and ecosystem services.

A new rainwater system

One of the most significant interventions concerned the creation of a new rainwater collection and disposal system from the hill down to Via Saragozza and Via di Casaglia, to convey the enormous influx of water that discharged in cases of heavy rainfall to the point of invading Via Saragozza with mud and dirt, thus avoiding flooding and landslides.

“A renovation that it goes beyond what you see on the surface, it is above all an impressive work of water regulation which was carried out to avoid repeating episodes of mud spills on the roads”explained thearchitect Benedetta Corsano Annibaldiwho spoke at the inauguration together with the mayor Matteo Lepore, Valentina Orioli, councilor for the protection of cultural heritage and historic gardens, Simone Borsari, councilor for public works, and Lorenzo Cipriani, president of the Porto Saragozza district.

“There have been inserted, below the ground level, some lamination tanks with accumulation tank for irrigation, deplasticizer and sand trap, starting from the curve of via Casaglia, as well as ditches that run throughout the park and collection pipes. The renewal of the route then favored and improved accessibility to the park, thus facilitating the passage for people with disabilities. A work therefore that has given back to the citizens one of the city's most beloved parks, within which there is also the Tassinari Clo municipal library and the monument to the 128 fallen partisan women”, declared the architect. Some funds intended for the state of disaster were then used for an extraordinary intervention to restore the slope that collapsed during the floods of May 2023.