The Sluice gates
| Interventions

The present-day appearance of the plain to the north-west of Florence is the result of extensive land reclamation work, which has been carried out in an organised way since at least Etruscan times, and the more recent occupation of the land with buildings.


The construction of the new Lake Acqualunga wetland area (the work-site where this work-element is located) took place in 2003 with the excavation of an agricultural field, the shaping of the lake’s banks and bottom, construction of islets and islands, and the creation of public observatories. To complete the intervention, the work-element in question was placed in front of the main observation point.


The main material used for the intervention is “pietra serena” stone. These slabs had been removed from the “mother rock” of the nearby mountains and transported down onto the plain to complete the reclamation of the marshes. They were placed in pairs alongside the ditches and, thanks to wooden planks placed in the central grooves, they guided the irrigation of the fields. Today, these types of irrigation systems have been abandoned in favour of more mechanised techniques and more intensive cultivation.


After decades of neglect, these large slabs have been brought back to light. Erected in a random order, as if they might slowly advance towards the observer, they emerge from the surface of the new marsh in a kind of “newfound serenity”. They are arranged in such a way that they can no longer be used as supports for wooden boards, and thus they can never again be used as “tools of constraint”. And so today the quintessentially free element of water once again pervades the entire area, and the sluice gates are the first witnesses of this rediscovered natural atmosphere. The slabs have also acquired an ecological function as privileged perches for dozens of aquatic birds.


Although the sluice gates date back to a not-too-distant historical period, they now belong entirely to the past. In this artwork, they have been chosen as a symbol of the radical changes that have taken place in this territory over the centuries. With the use of enormous resources, humans have always tried to remove water from the plains (first to cultivate it, and more recently to allow the expansion of towns and cities). Today, realising this error, humans are forced to take immediate action due to the increased risk of flooding, but also because these environments are being reassessed from a naturalistic, landscape and cultural point of view. Major new resources are therefore being invested to recreate open spaces that act as controlled overflow basins during floods. Of course, in the past this function was naturally performed by marshes.


This artwork highlights how senseless it is to fight “against” the land instead of learning to coexist with its natural features. The sluice gates have therefore been elected “witnesses” to all this. Whoever observes them will in turn feel observed by these stones. They seem to ask us the reason for all these hundreds of years of hostility towards the water, and then they try to return to the original state of the territory.






Carlo Scoccianti


Area of intervention

Protected area of the WWF Oasis Stagni di Focognano, Campi Bisenzio (Florence).
The area is located within the Site of Community Importance (SCI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA) of the Stagni della Piana Fiorentina e Pratese (Natura 2000 code IT5140011).


Status before intervention

Typical suburban area characterised by an extremely simplified landscape, with intensively cultivated fields and old country roads littered with small illegal dumping sites. The area was also marked by a scattering of illegally built shacks and hunting hides, in some cases erected with reinforced concrete.


Type of intervention

Search for and preparation of the stone slabs (old sluice gates). The slabs were positioned on the lake bed with the use of mechanical equipment (tractors) and the involvement of dozens of volunteers (social art intervention).


Work status

Completed (September 2007).


Authorities/agencies involved

- Committee for the wwF Oases of the Florence area


 Main bioindicators used to monitor the ecological functionality of the work-element

- Herons, with particular reference to grey herons (Ardea cinerea), little egrets (Egretta garzetta) and night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax): perch.

- Common kingfishers (Alcedo atthis): perch.