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Viola Park

text Matteo Parigi Bini photo Pietro Savorelli e Associati

October 12, 2023

Curiosities and anecdotes about the Viola Park created by Marco Casamonti

Florentine architect unveils Fiorentina's new home wanted by president Rocco Commisso

The road from Florence into the Tuscan hills is one of the must-do routes for those wanting to fully discover this land. If you take Viale Europa and head towards Bagno a Ripoli, on the Arno plain to the south, you will see a brand new park that sits perfectly among nature, where you will notice slender Corten steel structures splitting into a V shape, and some football pitches where kids and young men are intent on chasing a ball. This is the new Viola Park, commissioned by Rocco Commisso and designed by architect Marco Casamonti, who awaits us at the entrance on his golf cart to unveil this incredible place that spans over 31 hectares.

Viola Park

Viola Park is not only one of the most avant-garde sports complexes in Europe, it is also a campus and the new ‘home’ of Fiorentina. How did the idea of creating such an ambitious project for the city come about?

The idea came from the Commisso family’s immediate desire to build the new stadium and a new sports centre as soon as they arrived in Florence. After many proposals and discussions with the administration, the idea for the stadium was that since it was considered a monument, it should be taken care of by those responsible for protecting and enhancing historical assets and not by a sports club. For the training centre, which was also conceived as the headquarters and home of Fiorentina, the most beautiful terrain and the most fascinating setting in the Bagno a Ripoli plain were chosen, excluding the areas in Campi Bisenzio chosen by the previous owners. From the outset, the demand was to come up with one of the most innovative and inclusive sports venues, designed to bring athletes together with fans, supporters and sponsors with the team. The fact that this is an ambitious and significant project for Florence is highlighted by the dimensional data alone, since the entire Campo di Marte area including the stadium, the Mandela Forum, the Ridolfi athletics stadium and the Affrico complex cover almost the same area: 32 hectares for Florence, 31 with the latest acquisitions in Bagno a Ripoli.

Rocco Commisso really wanted this project. What has it been like working with him and his staff over the years? And how satisfied do you feel when you see him standing on the sidelines to watch the young purples play?

Working with Fiorentina has been a very beautiful, intense and exciting experience, which immediately began with a tour de force, in the company of Joe Barone and Joseph Commisso, to visit the most avant-garde projects in Italy and Europe, with the ambition and hope of creating a Fiorentina model that is repeatable but also scalable, useful even for other clubs. In fact, as I have always said, it is a totally new model of sports centre where different people and generations meet; a project whose main objective was not to build a simple training facility for the first team but a real campus for learning the values that sport conveys, such as respect for nature and the environment. One of the most beautiful aspects of the whole project is seeing hundreds of young ‘hopefuls’ train, run and study on pitches at Viola Park. It is really exciting and I think I share that with both the president and Joe Barone, the moment you see the satisfied looks on their faces when they are surrounded by purple shirts inside the centre.

Marco Casamonti by Alexander Dobrovodskyě

The first team, hopeful youths, and there is also an area dedicated to female athletes. It is an ‘inclusive’ project that will host not only many activities but also thousands of fans and guests. How did you manage to combine so many aspects?

From the design point of view, we were helped by history and the ancient traces of the original Roman centuriation that are still clearly visible in the agrarian fabric, an anthropic design from which we have identified two diverging directions that draw a large ‘V’ at the apex of which we have placed an artificial hill that covers the true heart of the sports centre: the events pavilion and the chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine designed by Gianpiero Pugliese. All the pavilions dedicated to players and sport can be found close to the pre-existing buildings and lie on the boundaries of the area in such a way that the centre is still green, or dedicated to playgrounds, but still free of any buildings. The stadium, with its terraces filled with restaurants and bars, creates a natural division between the private and public elements where the large public that comes to watch matches or attend events like first team training sessions sits.

We are in Bagno a Ripoli, on the outskirts of Florence, in an area that links the city to the Tuscan hills. How did you manage to integrate 12 sports fields, 2 stadiums and 12 pavilions so harmoniously?

The theme of the landscape constitutes the horizon towards which the entire project is oriented, particularly the search for integration between nature and architecture, which is at the centre of what we do and much of our work. On this occasion, there was an assiduous and constructive dialogue with the authorities centred on three main aspects: the height of the buildings, which always remain below that of the tower in the pre-existing villa thanks to the insertion of a level of each pavilion in the ground, so as to create a basement floor that is in any case always illuminated by a grass slope; the transparency of the glass façades with a wooden structure; a lengthy and essential study into colour schemes so that the shades of the buildings belong to the nuances of earth, with browns and greens according to a studied colour palette.

The ‘V’ is one of the recurring elements in the park’s impressive architecture. Besides your passion for the Fiorentina team, what have been your sources of inspiration?

The recurring ‘V’ theme, from the territorial scale to the shape of the pillars supporting the flying roofs, and the outline of the roof, has been talked and written about since Fiorentina is known and marked by everyone for the purple colour of its shirts; however, it must be emphasised that it was a design and creative process that was completely natural since we have always designed columns and pillars that split off like tree branches, while for the roofs the aim was to transform the surfaces of the roofs into compluvia to collect water to flow into the lake to irrigate the fields.

Viola Park

Everything is about environmental awareness, from the materials used for the structures, to the reduced light impact of the sports facilities, and the thousand trees planted in the park’s 26 hectares.

The relationship with the environment (but more generally the attention to environmental sustainability issues) is not a note of merit but an obligation for any quality project. In particular, the use of recyclable materials, such as steel for all vertical structures (with the exception of concrete for foundations and lift shafts), wood for façade structures and all acoustic ceilings. It is not a question of individual technologies but rather of a general approach that requires, as we always do, to study and design every detail, from the lighting portals to the park’s design.

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