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Carlo Ratti Associati designs elevated bicycle path among treetops in Italian countryside

Italy Architecture News - Apr 05, 2022 - 12:52   1037 views

Carlo Ratti Associati designs elevated bicycle path among treetops in Italian countryside

International design and innovation office Carlo Ratti Associati has designed an elevated bicycle path amidst treetops in Italian countryside, which will lead to Italian town Sabbioneta, one of the country’s best-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Called The Tree Path, the project, commissioned by GAL Terre del Po, will connect the VENTO Cycle Route, a 700-kilometer-long bicycle path that parallels the Po river across north Italy, with Sabbioneta, via the neighboring town of Casalmaggiore. 

The town of Sabbioneta is located near the city of Mantua and was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008 for its practical application of Renaissance urban planning theories.

Designed for non-profit organization GAL, Carlo Ratti Associati works with Baubotanik consultant studio OLA - Office for Living Architecture on the project. OLA is the leading experts in a construction technique that employs trees as architectural and structural elements. 

Carlo Ratti Associati designs elevated bicycle path among treetops in Italian countryside

The Tree Path is an elevated route which will serve for both pedestrians and cyclists, the path is supported by more than a thousand trees with lateral supports. The route is formed on two parallel rows of plants that act as pillars.

The Tree Path will be sensor-augmented pathway

The Tree Path is set to be completed as "a sensor-augmented pathway" with embedded sensors within the greenery track and will monitor environmental conditions in real-time. 

While people can walk or cycle on a lifted platform amidst treetops, the project will explore sustainable mobility and blend the natural and the artificial together. 

Carlo Ratti Associati designs elevated bicycle path among treetops in Italian countryside

In the project, trees will act as ever-evolving architectural elements. "The project envisions planting roughly one thousand trees, whose growth would be a central element of the design process," said Carlo Ratti Associati. 

"The plants would grow around a stainless steel handrail, building and transforming the path structure over the course of several years."

The Tree Path is formed vertically on three different levels, rising up to 6 meters above the ground, bypassing road traffic and waterways. Incorporating digital sensors, the system will measure multiple factors in the atmosphere, from air pollution to the health and growth status of individual trees and show these information to cyclists. 

"What if one day we could grow architecture like a tree?"

Carlo Ratti Associati added that "The sensors will also help ensure that all the living organisms along the path can respond to changing environmental conditions or structural loads – realizing a vision of an “Internet of trees”." 

The pathway will also use the artificial intelligence system provided by the Mindicity Urban Intelligence platform, a platform focuses on next generation technologies, to provide intelligent tools for urban planners, policy makers and city managers. 

"What if one day we could grow architecture like a tree? We are still very far from that future, but we can start exploring the convergence between the natural and the artificial," said Carlo Ratti, founding partner at CRA, and director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT. 

"We can use trees as elements of construction, while leveraging the data from digital technologies to get a better understanding of the surrounding environment," Ratti added.

Carlo Ratti Associati designs elevated bicycle path among treetops in Italian countryside

CRA has been investigating the convergence between the natural and the artificial with projects on different scales.

In 2021, the studio completed The Greenary, a private residence in the province of Parma, Italy that revolves around a ten-meter-tall tree placed at the center of the house.

In the field of mobility, in 2019, CRA developed future scenarios for New Deal Paris, a speculative vision that would transform the main highways around the French capital through the large-scale adoption of autonomous vehicles and other forms of shared mobility.

The office is also working a comprehensive plan for sustainable mobility for the city of Prishtina as part of the Urban Study commissioned by Manifesta 14, the Biennale of contemporary art and culture opening in Kosovo in July 2022. 

Project facts

Project name: The Tree Path

A project by: CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

Client: GAL Terre del Po

Creative Lead: Italo Rota

Baubotanik consultant: OLA - Office for Living Architecture 

Tech consultant: Mindicity S.r.l. S.B. – Urban Intelligence platform

CRA team: Carlo Ratti, Andrea Cassi (Partner in Charge), Alberto Benetti, Gizem Veral

Renderings by CRA Graphic Team: Gary di Silvio, Pasquale Milieri, Gianluca Zimbardi

All images © Carlo Ratti Associati

> via Carlo Ratti Associati