Sheffield professor designing wildflower meadow in middle of Italian city

A Sheffield professor is designing a stunning urban garden that will transform the centre of an Italian city into a wildflower meadow.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 12:01 pm
Nigel Dunnett, Professor of Planting design at Sheffield University department of Landscape, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NSST Grey Green MC 2

Professor Nigel Dunnett is leading this year’s Green Square project as part of the Landscape Festival 2021, a green reinterpretation of Piazza Vecchia, in Bergamo, close to Milan.

He and a team are in the city currently creating the attraction, expected to bring a tourism boost to the city, after spending months designing it through the year.

Professor Dunnett told the Telegraph: “The festival happens every year and the local Government works with a designer and local plant nurseries to transform the main square into a different garden every year – I am the designer this year.

The project in progress. Pictures from Professor Dunnett

"The design is about bringing nature into the city, The square is about the size of a football pitch and the idea is to fill it to make it like a huge wildflower meadow experience.

“There is space in the middle for people to use with cafes, tables and chairs. The whole idea is that people will come and feel they are surrounded by an amazing nature experience in the middle of a city.

“It is really interesting because the council and local businesses here are really supportive, it is a big tourist thing. The tourists come and spend their money in the cafes and the bars, it makes a big difference to them economically.”

In Sheffield, Professor Dunnett is known for the Grey to Green planting scheme along Castlegate and Exchange Street.

The project in progress. Pictures from Professor Dunnett

It is the UK’s largest inner city ‘green street’ and has transformed a grey dual carriageway into a bright flower meadow.

Professor Dunnett said the Green Square project in Bergamo was something that could also work in Sheffield city centre, currently undergoing major regeneration to attract more visitors.

He said: “I do think so because Sheffield is known as the Outdoor City but that all happens outside the city in the Peak District or parks and there’s not so much in the inner city.

"It could be a way for Sheffield to make itself different from places like Manchester or Leeds. Imagine it transforming Fargate or The Moor or Barkers Pool outside John Lewis – it could be incredible because it is all about bringing people back into the city centre.

Part of the Grey to Green scheme in Sheffield City Centre.

“Of course it costs money to do it but you get that money back.”

Professor Dunnett has also worked on the Chelsea Flower show and the Buckingham Palace Diamond Garden, as well as the Olympic Park Meadows.