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Victor Civita Plaza: living with a site’s history

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 9th, 2009

Source: MetropolisMag

Image: Victor Civita Plaza via treehugger

An urban park in São Paulo, Brazil, has taken a different approach to addressing site contamination.  Victor Civita Plaza opened last year on the site of a former municipal incinerator.  The facility had been used for hospital waste disposal, among other things, and the city authorities decreed that the contaminated site would need to be covered by about half-a metre of clean soil to protect the public.  The cost of doing so would have stopped the project altogether, if not for the park’s designer, Anna Dietszch. Instead of covering the site with soil, she covered it with a floating timber deck which allowed the “landscaping” to be designed into the form.

From Float On , by Martin C. Pedersen…

“The idea for the park was actually the opposite of what this decree was saying,” explains Dietzsch, who runs the Davis Brody Bond Aedas office in São Paulo but worked on the park independently with Adriana Lev­isky, a local architect who specializes in zoning and planning. “They were going to hide the contamination. What I proposed instead was to land a structure over the site. Everything for public use would occur above the contamination.”Supported by a steel framework, the deck floats about three feet over the toxic ground and covers only a portion of the site. Made of recycled Brazilian hardwoods, it cuts across diagonally, creating public space around a number of preexisting elements, including a grove of mature trees (off-limits to park visitors), a center for the eld­erly, and a decontaminated cobblestone plaza connecting to the former incinerator, which is now home to a sustainability museum.
Elsewhere on the site, the landscape designer Benedito Abbud installed the Tec Garden on a series of elevated trays capable of har­vesting and storing rainwater. Dietzsch calls it a “low-tech Brazilian system,” because coconut-fiber–lined tubes in the trays allow plant roots to draw water when needed, making the garden self-irrigating. Abbud selected plants that would be educational, demonstrating concepts such as soil purification and hydroponics. “There are panels along the deck that explain everything,” Dietzsch says. “The idea was to create the whole site as if it was an open museum.”
Victor Civita is the result of a unique public-private partnership between the city and Editora Abril, a large Brazilian publisher with headquarters located nearby. A large portion of the credit here goes to Levisky, whose adroit political skills helped pull the various stakeholders together. “She was able to attach the project to the original public-private-partnership agreement so that it couldn’t be signficantly changed,” Dietzsch says. “This is what saved it, because it was a radical project for Brazil, so she was very smart that way.”

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