HIVE Awards

Los Angeles, CA
6-7 Dec 2017

Hello, Robot
@ Design Museum

Gent, Belgium
27 Oct 2017 - 15 Apr 2018


Garden of the Four Seasons



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.


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.


The EFTE membrane structure is covered with photovoltaic cells, permitting an all- year-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


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 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.

CREDITS A project by Carlo Ratti Associati for Citylife Team: Andrea Cassi, Peter Magnus, Chiara Borghi. Images by: Gary di Silvio   Based on a concept by Barbara Römer   Environmental sustainability: Ai (Carlo Micono e Giulia Guglielmo)   Construction consultancy: Studio Ceruti