Italian architect Carlo Ratti has revealed plans for a covered garden in Milan, which would use climate-control technology to allow visitors to experience spring, summer, autumn and winter at any time of year.
Carlo Ratti Associati designed The Garden of the Four Seasons to offer city-dwellers a closer glimpse of nature's cycles. Summer, winter, autumn and spring are represented by four pavilions beneath a huge curved roof in the designs for the 2,500-square-metre garden.
The project was commissioned by the property developer Citylife for a park located in the north-west of the Italian city that was masterplanned by Zaha Hadid, Daniel Liebeskind and Arata Isozaki.
To achieve the different climates, The Garden of the Four Seasons will employ a zero-net-energy climate control system based on a concept developed by Barbara Römer, founder of creative consultancy Studio Römer.
Photovoltaic panels on the roof will collect solar energy and redistribute it to the different pavilions accordingly.
A heat exchanger will cool the winter area and heat the summer space – the team describes the system as like a refrigerator, offering hot air out one side and cool on the other. Heat will also be transferred between the pavilions.
The roof membrane, which is made of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) – a transparent fluorine-based plastic – will respond to sensors and opens and closes to help maintain heat levels consistent to the seasons.
The spring pavilion will be located at the entrance, followed by summer, autumn and ending with winter, so that the pathway around offers visitors a natural progression through the seasons. Carlo Ratti Associati also imagines the pavilions to host a range of activities.
"In the garden, people can interact with nature in many ways – from working within nature, to eating al fresco during Milan's cold winters, to celebrating a wedding in the Eternal Spring area," said Carlo Ratti.
Other features in The Garden of the Four Seasons include digital sensors that will measure the levels of water, temperature, humidity and nutrients needed by each vegetable species and display them in real time. It is intended create the impression that the plants themselves are tweeting about their conditions.
The Garden of the Four Seasons forms part of a series of projects that play with climate control and remediation that Ratti has developed in response to climate change, including the Cloud Cast, which offers an energy-efficient cooling system for tropical desert climates and an office with a personalised "environmental bubble" to avoid thermostat wars.
"As climate change might become more extreme, the importance of envisioning strategies for climate remediation will increase dramatically," said Ratti.
"This was our inspiration behind the Four Seasons Garden – in which we usher in a technique for a sustainable and emphatic Internet of Plants."
Project team: Andrea Cassi, Peter Magnus, Chiara Borghi, Gary di Silvio
Environmental sustainability: Ai (Carlo Micono e Giulia Guglielmo)
Construction consultancy: Studio Ceruti