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Interviews

in praise of sustainability

July 2020 - Number 20
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in praise of sustainability

Green spaces to enjoy in any season. Flowered meadows and trees of every species for the delight of children. It looks like Forte but it’s Milan, wagering its future on environmental regeneration and the quality of its territory. Kelly Russell, General Director of Fondazione Riccardo Catella, tells us all about it

Interview by Silvana Rizzi - Photography Giulio Boem

Fully-engaged but well-organized – as Americans tend to know how to be – Kelly Russell Catella manages a large family and is also General Director of Fondazione Riccardo Catella. The institution, founded in 2007, is named after her father-in-law; her husband Manfredi Catella is the courageous “requalifier” of Milan’s Porta Nuova quarter, the entrepreneur who transformed the Garibaldi, Varesine and Isola neighborhoods from abandoned areas to functional centers. All with a single aim in mind: to attain sustainability based on territorial development compatible with environmental protection. The Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano (better known by its acronym, BAM) was founded for just this reason: to contribute to bettering quality of life in the city and to improving its public green spaces. With its imaginative name, this “Library of Trees” evokes visions of elves, forest glades, and flowers; today, it is a spectacular, contemporary, 10-hectare botanical garden planted with trees of every species, a space that is redrawing Milan’s landscape. In May, released from their lockdown restraints, the city’s inhabitants again strolled and met on meadows in flower with buttercups, daisies, and poppies in all shades of red and pink. The support of 400 BAM Friends and the Fondazione keep the public park alive and promote its high-level cultural programming: events, meetings on botanical themes, and many activities just for children such as MiColtivo, Orto a Scuola.

“The foundation,” Kelly Russell tells us, “is a passion my husband and I share. Each of us has a family history linked to nature.” Kelly’s can be traced to Alabama, where she spent a great deal of time at her grandfather’s farm. “It was he,” she adds, “who taught me that if you fell a tree you must plant another one, right away.”

Kelly has lived in Italy for more than twenty years. “The U.S.,” she says, “has immense spaces but Italy won my heart with what is most dear to me: nature and culture.” And when she landed in Forte dei Marmi for the first time, she fell hopelessly in love. “The pines,” she says, “green umbrellas against the sky; the Apuans, pink in the sunset, sparkling in the sun; the always carefully-tended beach, the neverchanging wooden cabanas, and a bicycle for going . . . everywhere: this is beauty pure and simple.” Since then, she hasn’t spent a single summer without coming to Forte. Waiting for her and her family, the beach and the laser on the sand, waiting to fly toward the open sea; the tennis club and games played to the last gasp with friends; the Apuans and the climbs that are the Catella children’s favorite pastime; Pietrasanta with its artists . . . Could there be any place better for a family whose middle name is sustainability? 

...Italy won my heart with what is most dear to me: nature and culture...