Italian scholars encourage green integration into Shanghai architecture


On Saturday, two Italian scholars, Marco Sala and Fernando Recalde, were invited to share their thoughts on sustainable architecture design with Chinese audiences including local architects, engineers, designers and architecture students in Shanghai.

The two-hour event, organised by cultural and creative hub DoBe WE” and ABITA green, a group focused on contemporary designs of cities and hinterlands, consisted of two themes: The New Silk Road Green Design for China Sustainable Development by Sala and BIOS: The Green Belt East-West Alliance – From the Cradle of Renaissance to China by Recalde.

According to Sala, as the supporting role of agriculture in national economic development has been replaced by modern industries, the income gap between rural and urban areas is getting bigger. It is critical to help narrow down the discrepancy and encourage sustainability in rural areas.

To achieve this, he has come up with several solutions: utilize advanced hydroponic technology in agriculture to better use, save and protect land resources, explore farm stay to appeal for urban customers, encourage agriculture produce selling, build up accommodations to develop tourism and organise activities to care about the elders.

Sala thinks that modern architecture shall be an integration of arts such as feasibility, functionality, engineering, design, maintenance, sustainability and green. Sustainability and green shall be given more emphasis.

Marco Sala

Recalde is executive CEO of ABITA green and professor and senior research scholar at ABITA Inter University Center of the University of Florence in Italy. At the event, he presented BIOS, a project which aims to set up a network among Chinese and European institutions and enterprises to move forward information and innovative technologies exchanges and achieve sustainable growth on both sides.

To illustrate the concept of combining economic development with green design, Recalde also introduced the design of the health gardens in Yangcheng Lake area. According to him, the gardens, different from traditional resorts, integrated eco-villages, green lands and tourism communities and embodied green innovation in each and every detail.

The two also talked about their understanding of the influences brought along by the Italian Renaissance to current architecture. Recalde contends that one of the main ideas of the Renaissance was the relationship between arts and nature.

“Nature has rules which are related to mathematics, to proportions and to geometry,” he said, “so the great people like Michelangelo Buonarroti learned about that and they applied those concepts in all the arts.”

Fernando Recalde

“But they didn’t talk too much about it; instead, they put the art outside,” he said. “So now if you analyse each piece of art, it is not only well-designed, but also presents perfect proportions, perfect numbers and perfect geometry. It reflects the rule of what we are and what the universe is.”

Sala thinks that another important aspect of the Renaissance was well explained in the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. “Besides the art of geometry, the symbol of the Renaissance concept is that humankind is the center of the world,” he said.

“Human is the measure of the things essential to the universe, which is still valuable today,” he said. “And this is why we focus on green architecture.”

Sala believes that the importance of human beings is in the relationship between man and the surrounding nature. “However, this is unfortunately not well followed now,” he said.

“The most beautiful architecture is what could be integrated into the outside. All of the buildings, forms, lines shall be in good relationship with its surroundings,” he explained. “If you build the same buildings in Shanghai and Beijing, there is no more identity which is just the most important aspect of architecture.”

When it comes to the consistence between innovative green and art, Sala said that all elements are necessary. Architects have to integrate arts into architecture and take green, structure and technologies into consideration.

“To achieve this, we can do it by hybridising our culture and your culture; I think the truth is in between the two different civilisations,” Recalde added. “I am fascinated about the ancient design principles of China. We hope we can develop a joint brand combining both Italy and China.”

Recalde agrees that contemporary buildings have overlooked the social needs of people. “This is why it is possible to encourage sharing and reciprocity by the hybridisation of design,” he said.

Sala lamented that building construction is being used as a stock market now. “People produce it only for investment’s sake, instead of real demand. It is a pity that more buildings are constructed than necessary. So what we need to do now is to rehabilitate these buildings based on green purposes,” he said.


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