La città del ventesimo secolo, Bernardo Secchi
Translated from italian.
The countryside was very close to the ancient city; the historical opposition between city and countryside did not prevent contact. (…) The countryside was always present in the imagination and experience of the inhabitant of the city of ancient regime. (…)
The modern city separated the countryside from the city. Since the mid-19th century, under pressure from evident phenomena related to the hygienic and physical conditions of the urban population, it has had to replace the experience of nature and rural space with that of parks and public gardens, tree-lined avenues and playgrounds, expanding or inventing a series of social practices previously non-existent, only sketched out or reserved for a small minority. With them he had to invent, re-interpret and separate the materials dedicated to them: among them gardens, parks, avenues, promenades and grounds for sport, rest and entertainment.
It is a widespread idea that town planning and architecture of the twentieth century were fundamentally hostile to nature; that the Modern Movement, in particular, led to a divorce between nature and architecture; that the century, focused on the problems of housing and public facilities, did not deal with parks and gardens (…). But perhaps this opinion is the consequence of a historiographical strabismus that led to write the history of the city in the twentieth century paying almost exclusive attention to the architectural object (…).
In reality the twentieth century has tried to bring nature and the city closer together even if it did so in different ways from previous centuries.
In 1937, in Paris, at the first congress of garden architects, Achille Duchêne affirmed that “the public park must educate the masses in nature and beauty…the only condition for giving the working class an impression of serenity and order.
In the twentieth century there is a denial of the distinction between artificial and natural and, in particular, of the separation between the three landscapes of garden, agriculture and wilderness. Through this separation the authors of many of these projects, in particular the Scandinavian school of landscape, have tried to reconstruct and represent an idea of nature; to propose “the immense evocative capacity of the great modern green space as a representation of a specific feeling of nature. Great unitary representation, the green carpet of the city of the Modern Movement, a garden as large as the entire living space, constitutes the logic put in the form of a feeling of nature that had crossed Romanticism and Hygienism, Utilitarianism and Symbolism”. (Paola Viganò, 2005)
The parks and gardens of the twentieth century, when they are not trivial uncritical repetition of the design of those of the nineteenth century, have new and different purposes and characters from the past.