Author: Nicola Paltrinieri

A city’s fabric is composed by an alternation between emptied and built spaces, of public space and private space. Common sense identifies in the open space - the plaza, the streets - the heart of public life, which in the end constitutes the very essence of the city. But public life is also reflected inside buildings, and it is one of the most important ingredients in the creation of healthy spaces.

“I believe that architecture is fundamentally a public space where people can gather and communicate, think about the history, think about the lives of human beings, or the world”, said Pritzker Prize Tadao Ando. “All architecture has a public nature, I believe, so I would like to make a public space.”

The importance of creating healthy and open architecture, capable of assessing a positive impact on its users and the community, is a matter widely shared among professionals involved in the development of buildings of a certain size. However, many times this need has to deal with market pressure, which tends to obviate the hidden social costs that the most aggressive real estate operations can cause.

The tension between the commercial needs of the client and the needs of the community has originated episodes of hostile architecture, where the public space facilitated by new buildings, under the impulse of urban regulations, is privatized and rendered useless by means of appropriate architectural or design devices.

In the design of any kind of architecture, the architect is called to comply with a program, which includes a respect for physical and regulatory links, according to the clients’ requests. However, it is the responsibility of the designer to find the building public dimension, and to make it interact with the city.

In her "Freespace" presentation, the theme proposed for this year Venice Biennale di Architettura, Yvonne Farrell, Shelley McNamara’s partner at Grafton Architects, underlined how the architect always navigates between a building under commission and art, and any imbalance between these two dimensions constitutes a capital error. It is necessary that the project always has an element of generosity towards its users and to the city, so that good architecture can be talked about.

In this context, the architect role is fundamental in the process of finding the balance between public and private spaces, in order to give shape to an architecture where users do not feel invaded and, at the same time, the community can, at least in part, enjoy spaces otherwise alienated to the city.

Embracing the idea of architecture as an eminently social art, already theorized by Giovanni Muzio in the 1920’s, the development of the professional activity in Pinearq – very much concentrated on healthcare architecture - has put us in front of a challenge: what does "public space" mean for these particular architecture? And what opportunities can offer the opening to the civic life of a traditionally closed environment like that of a hospital?

The hospital is a building that responds to the needs of a very vulnerable part of the population. The idea of improving the public space in this context allows us to extend the notion of healing beyond the treatment, towards a broader social program: instead of segregating the patient, we choose to invite the citizen to use the building and its public areas, to turn the act of healing into a social activity.

* Just one click here to read the full article in Hospitecnia.