Garden of Encounters

Place: Sollicciano (FI), via G. Minervini, 2r

Authors: Giovanni Michelucci and collaborators

Chronology: 1990 | 2007

Itinerary: Architecture for the community

Use: Public spaces

The Sollicciano prison was built in the mid-1980s following the prison reform, with the intention of being not a punitive place for those who made mistakes, but a structure for their recovery. Inmates, mostly political prisoners, would have stayed inside the building only at night. By request of the prisoners, the Garden of Encounters was designed by Giovanni Michelucci and became the last work of the architect from Pistoia. It was conceived as a kind of urban space, although circumscribed by walls.

The aerial walkway goes out onto the actual garden, which has colorful benches and an amphitheater where the inmates can attend performances or conferences of actors and personalities from outside. Michelucci wanted to think of it as a space belonging to the city, where it was also possible to hold a flea market, an exhibition, or a conference.

The pavilion structure has a curtain roof, which covers a fluid, unconventional space, characterized by the search for color and the vitality of organic forms. The light reflects on the ceilings and falls downwards assuming warm tones.

The large room with tree pillars and the garden’s whole structure may seem almost a provocation, an artwork in an otherwise anti-humanistic place. Recalling a public space inside a prison space, Michelucci tried to offer the inmates the opportunity to experience quiet moments with relatives; above all, he thought about the children, the weakest point of the prison system. The children, he said, would know how to experience that space.

The Garden of Encounters is the latest project by Giovanni Michelucci. The pavilion hall holds, in addition to the branched pilasters, concrete seats covered with colored tiles, in the manner of the Park Güell in Barcelona. It also contains a service corner with bathrooms and a small bar.

Text Donatella Scatena
Photos by Emanuele Piccardo