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The Old and the New: Designs to Enhance Cesano Maderno Old Town through a Regenerative Structure

Laura Anna Pezzetti

Department of Architecture, Built Environment and Construction Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy

ABSTRACT  The relationship between the old and the new is a specific theme of architecture that bears witness not so much to the original appearance of the old but to its enduring meaning in historic Italian and European cities.
The complex palimpsest of signs, memories, and overwriting that time has layered on built forms opens questions of meaning that can be untangled only in the relationship between history, site and design. The investigation of structural characters of places and their relationships with cultural assets and heritage provides a layered set of readings, which is itself the forerun of an urban landscape design action. Beyond preserving the integrity of the material traces, there can only be the new. The test bench is therefore the project as a cognitive act around which to build ‘case by case’ the strategies for recovering urban identity. The series of projects for Cesano Maderno old town, north of Milan, exemplifies a design-led approach to the built heritage and historic urban landscape in which reading tools, conservation and design are shown in their mutual relationship. In this dialectic between the old and the new, the design is part of the architecture of time where the new, working through light reversible overwriting and measured grafting, becomes a further layer in the historical palimpsest and the authentic form of its enhancement and reuse. Integrating project strategies—from pure conservation to new architectural grafting, from reuse to overwriting—the sequence of designs give shape to a ‘regenerative structure’ that enhances as a system and for public use a set of introverted Baroque buildings and spaces along a historical promenade, re-centring the city around its brownfield core.

KEYWORDS urban interpretative tools, historic public spaces and building, enhancement and reuse, insertion, overwriting, grafting, historic urban landscape

Received October 16, 2017; accepted December 17, 2017.

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