The city of Prato will re-naturalize some neighborhoods in a sustainable and socially inclusive way through the development of urban jungles. In the Tuscan city, areas of high residential and building density will therefore be redesigned in a green key, using the natural ability of plants to reduce the presence of polluting substances, to restore soil and space for use by the community, and to transform the marginal areas into real green hubs.
"Urban Jungle", this is the name of the project, will be co-designed with the help of citizens, through a shared urban planning facilitated by the use of digital platforms, which will open the management to the community.
The project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), through the Urban Innovative Actions programme (the project won the call in 2019), with a financial contribution of almost 4 million euros. Urban Jungles is the result of the collaboration between realities engaged in research about plants, design, urban planning, communication, and coordinated by the Municipality of Prato. The general project bears the prestigious signature of Stefano Boeri's architectural firm and, among the main partners, there is also Pnat (Project Nature), a spin off of the University of Florence, which can count on the experiments carried out in one of the most important research centers about plants in the world, the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology (LINV), under the direction of the esteemed scientist Stefano Mancuso, who is also co-founder of Pnat.
The regeneration with green areas will concern urban architectural elements that belong to the collective memory and identity of the city, for example old industrial buildings, surroundings of social houses, historic buildings, etc …
Three pilot areas in particular. The first is the ESTRA building and its surroundings, located in a complex urban area overlooking the busiest public street in the city, with the daily passage of 50,000 vehicles. The second area is located in an high population density area characterized by the presence of social housing and, sometimes, by situations of social marginality. In particular, the experimentation will concern a very complex building consisting of 152 apartments inhabited by about 500 people. The third area will be in Macrolotto 0, the historic district of the city characterized by underused spaces, in the vicinity of Macrolotto Creative District. A building has been identified there, that will be used for the city's new metropolitan market.
Prato already boasts the presence of over 29,000 trees of public property, which improve city's avenues, streets and parks. The project aims to bring environmental, ecological, economic and social benefits, improve the health, life quality, well-being and safety of citizens, in particular among the less privileged social classes.
The proposed solution integrates radical innovations that have never been used or tested before in the city. The main innovation lies, indeed, in the concept of Urban Jungle, which goes beyond the traditional concept of urban forestry. In fact, vegetation can colonise the targets by “placing” the greenery on as many surfaces/spaces as possible, as close as possible to the place where critical issues are detected (for example, heat island, pollution, or the need to create socially useful and usable spaces).