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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

A Garden With Four Seasons in Turin, Italy by Carlo Ratti Associati

August 22nd, 2017 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Carlo Ratti Associati

International design and innovation office Carlo Ratti Associati, together with property developer Citylife, has unveiled the “Garden of the Four Seasons”, an enclosed garden in Milan where all four seasons coexist with each other concurrently throughout the year. Based on a concept by Dr. Barbara Römer, founder of the creative consultancy Studio Römer, the project leverages a new system for high-precision climate control, by which incoming solar energy is partially collected through photovoltaics and partially redistributed among the different seasonal areas, with zero net energy consumption. The project aims at reclaiming a closer relationship between urban dwellers and nature’s cycles. It was commissioned by Citylife, a new neighborhood under development in the north-west of Milan based on a master plan by Zaha Hadid, Daniel Liebeskind and Arata Isozaki.

Image Courtesy © Carlo Ratti Associati

  • Architects: Carlo Ratti Associati
  • Project: A Garden With Four Seasons
  • Location: Turin, Italy
  • Team: Andrea Cassi, Peter Magnus, Chiara Borghi, Gary di Silvio Based on a concept by Barbara Römer
  • Construction consultancy: Studio Ceruti

Image Courtesy © Carlo Ratti Associati

Hundreds of vegetable species live in the Garden of the Four Seasons, housed under a transparent, responsive membrane of EFTE that uses sensors to open and close, allowing an accurate regulation of the environmental conditions underneath. By constantly adjusting two key components of plant growth – lighting levels and heat – the system allows plants’ metamorphosis to follow the different seasonal cycles. Visitors can walk through four seasonal areas, starting with spring and ending with winter, observing nature’s transformation through time, as it unfolds in space.

Image Courtesy © Carlo Ratti Associati

The EFTE membrane structure is covered with photovoltaic cells, permitting an allyear- round production of clean energy. Thanks to a heat exchanger, such energy can be used to cool space in the winter area, or to heat the summer space. The system works much like a refrigerator would do, with cold coming out from one side, and heat from the opposite one. Further heath transfer between pavilions, when necessary, allows each pavilion to achieve the desired intermediate environmental conditions.

The Garden of the Four Seasons also touches upon the issue of climate control and remediation, an issue that Carlo Ratti Associati has explored in several projects over the last few years – including Cloud Cast and Sun&Shade. “As climate change might become more extreme, the importance of envisioning strategies for climate remediation will increase dramatically”, says Carlo Ratti, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founding partner at Carlo Ratti

Image Courtesy © Carlo Ratti Associati


“This was our inspiration behind the ‘Four Seasons garden’- in which we usher in a technique for a sustainable and emphatic Internet of Plants.”

In the garden, people can interact with nature in many ways – from working within nature, to eating al fresco during Milan’s cold winters, to celebrating a wedding in the Eternal Spring area. Furthermore, a series of digital sensors measures the quantity of water, temperature, humidity and nutrients needed by each vegetable species. This information is then made visible in real-time – as “tweets” coming from the plants about their status.

“The Garden of the Four Seasons is inspired to the historical Quattro Stagioni fountain located nearby in the neighborhood. Our aim was to create a symbolic parallelism with the past, projecting the old theme of the four seasons into the future, thanks to the adoption of new sustainable technologies”, says Andrea Cassi, Project Manager at Carlo Ratti Associati.

The project extends over an area of more than 2500 square meters. It is located within Citylife’s new park.


Carlo Ratti Associati is a design and innovation office, based in Turin, Italy, with branches in Boston, Massachusetts, and London, England. Drawing on Carlo Ratti’s research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the office is currently involved in many projects across the globe. Embracing every scale of intervention – from furniture to urban planning – the work of the practice focuses on innovation in the built environment. Among recent projects there are the Future Food District thematic area at Milan World Expo 2015, the redesign of the Agnelli Foundation HQ in Turin, the master plan for the requalification of the Patrick Henry military village for IBA Heidelberg, the Pankhasari retreat in India’s Darjeeling, and the concept for a human-powered ‘Navigating Gym’ in Paris. Carlo Ratti Associati is the only design firm whose works have been featured twice in TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of the Year list – respectively with the Digital Water Pavilion in 2007, and the Copenhagen Wheel in 2014. In the last years, the office has also been involved in the launch of start-ups, including Makr Shak, a company producing the world’s first robotic bar system, and Superpedestrian, the producer of the Copenhaghen Wheel.


CityLife is the company engaged in the redevelopment of the area where Milan’s old complex of exhibition halls was located (Fiera di Milano) and with an overall area of 366,000 square metres, it is one of the main projects of this kind in Europe. It includes the world-renowned architects Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki, Daniel Libeskind. It is a balanced mix of public and private functions including residences, offices, shops and the third largest public park in the centre of Milan and it includes the first Golf Driving Range in downtown in Europe. An innovative Business and Shopping District formed by three towers and the Tre Torri Square with quality shops, services, restaurants and entertainment facing the Park, will be the heart of the CityLife project. The area is distinguished by a very strong attention to the environmental sustainability: the Residences are Class A certified, and the three office towers have already obtained Leed™pre-certification with rating Gold. Moreover, CityLife will be the most extensive pedestrian area in Milan, thanks to the decision of moving all the vehicular traffic and parking underground. CityLife S.p.A. is a company 100% owned by Generali Group.


Dr. Barbara Römer is a strategy consultant who specializes in developing cultural visions for cities, with clients ranging from Miami to Riyadh. She is currently developing the arts & culture strategy for Dubai Creek Harbour, one of the world’s largest masterplans under development (6.2m sq.m.), for Emaar Properties. Born in Germany, she was educated at Princeton and received her PhD at Cambridge University, worked in museums in France and Japan, directed theatre in Germany, produced two feature films in the USA, and consulted with McKinsey & Company in the Munich and New York offices, where she conducted management studies in the cultural sector and the Media & Entertainment industry. As senior consultant, she was an integral part of creating the Nonprofit Practice in McKinsey, and appointed to the Nonprofit Leadership Council and elected the US representative for the Arts & Culture Sector. She is the former Membership Director of Soho House NY and consultant to the Soho House Group. She is the Founder of the Globe Theatre, a project to build an international 21st-century mobile theatre designed by Foster + Partners; a board member of Farmstand, a healthy + sustainable food company in London; and a trustee of the Deutsches Museum, the largest science museum in the world.

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