People Watching in the Piazza

This week I sat in Piazza IV Novembre and observed the crowds of people circulating through the city’s center. Keeping Jane Jacobs’ writings in mind, I noted how people tended to avoid the most open areas of the piazza. The places with the most space were avoided like the plague. People flocked together on the steps on either side and hardly any single person was left alone. Everyone seemed to be with at least one other person and most people were in larger groups. Since the weather was beautiful, there were hoards of people, though walking at the same time on a cloudier day I’ve seen far fewer people and nobody lingering and talking on the steps or in the walkways.

In tune with our discussion last week, people tended to gather in the middle of the way. Since that is the busiest place, people often are concentrated enough to bump into one another and socialize. In more open spaces this phenomenon is very rare if not obsolete. The most concentrated areas of standing people conversing was along the walkways close to intersections and corners where the open shops lie. Few teenagers and young kids were out, while the majority of the young adults in the center were sitting on the stairs conversing and meeting with friends. The older generations, mostly 60s and up were walking in large groups through the walkways. Most of the middle aged people in the center were conversing in areas in the middle of the way, like just outside of shop doors and on street corners.

An example of one of the cat hotels that bring together cats with a common resting place, much like the stairs provide in the piazza.

In order to make a place, people need to be in close enough quarters to bump into one another. A downfall of some areas is simply the lack of people and the lack of confinement. Like the cat hotel we saw on our walk this past weekend, a resting place in the middle of an area frequented by common people can provide a place for socialization and conversation.

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Parco Sant’Angelo Clean Up

This past weekend we participated in the clean up at Parco Sant’Angelo. Our class worked together with some community members to remove trash and dangerous items from the area. While it was not a huge crowd, the people who attended seemed motivated to help improve the park.

The attendees collectively put together four lists of things to keep and change about the park. Together the consensus was that the park has good green spaces that should be maintained, and that the view, amphitheater, and trees are assets. Most people also noted that events utilizing the amphitheater would help draw people to the park. The suggestions included events like music, cinema, theater, kids activities, cultural events, etc. Other suggestions included things like environmental and nature activities like community gardens and recycling.

Discussing the M.O.V.E. suggestions from community members and students

Some suggestions for improving the already-existing features include making the park more accessible and provide more engaging seating areas. Participants thought it important to avoid leaving the park abandoned without trash clean-up. Since certain areas of the park are frequented by illicit  drug-users, it is important to maintain the area to the point that it is safe, especially for children and pets to play.

The reading discussed how the success of a space in becoming a place is often its vicinity to some sort of busy area. A bench alone may not attract people but a bench close to a bustling area can give passerbys a place to sit and enjoy a space. The challenge that Parco Sant’Angelo has is that it is in a more secluded area. It isn’t close enough to an area like a piazza to bring people in. Making the park more well known and accessible can improve this factor. A place will not bring in people unless others are there too. Perhaps the involvement of community members in the area will serve as that kind of attraction.

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A Playground Transported

This week we read about the importance of children in urban space planning. Children benefit greatly from community engagement and having their voices heard. Children are also the most impacted when city communities are lacking. In this age, kids are not engaging as much with the outside environment due to sheltering and modern technology and ‘connectivity’. The perceived dangers lead to a self-fulfilled prophecy where the streets are more dangerous because nobody is inhabiting.

When children are put in over-structured spaces, which is the general trend, they lack space to create their own worlds or create imaginative spaces. What we should strive to do is create a space for children to meet and socialize without telling them how to use the space.

The common playground is a very mundane structure. Of course kids love and utilize them, but it’s not the actual structure that makes it fun. It is the way they use their imagination to transport the playground. 

In general a highly requested space by kids is green spaces. They seek interaction with nature and the real world. Between home and school and structured play time, many kids do not interact with natural and real-world spaces which is very artificial.

Kids playing on a sausage-looking sculpture. Retrieved from https://mapio.net/pic/p-8113059/

What we can do with this information is engage with children in our community to see what would make their spaces better. Parco Sant’Angelo is an interesting place because it is generally free of car traffic and has a beautiful view and plenty of green space. To improve we need more eyes in the park, along with enough structure to draw people to the park. I think that an open air gallery that includes play-able sculptures would cater to both adults and children. Kids love to engage their senses with tangible objects and they also love art. There’s already a run down playground in the park but I don’t think that a revamp of the structure would necessarily make a positive impact. It is nothing without the safety in numbers and eyes on the park. I think the park could be really successful if it became a sort of art walk. Using technology to our advantage, people love to take pictures for social media. Give them something to take a picture of that isn’t just the view!

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A Breath of Fresh Air

There is something to be said about the effect a child has on not only their loved ones but their community. How their lust for life and sparking creativity is contagious. I think it is safe to say that when you have a child in your life, you learn from each other all the time. It is important for the community to have a strong relationship with their children because these kids are the future. They are a breath of fresh air the city longs for. 

Paul Goodman says “For green grass and the clean waters of our rivers, for the bright eyes and colorful, happy faces of our children… I am willing to give up every other privilege.” Children have a natural tendency to perceive the world in a different lens that adults loose overtime. As green grass and clean water are refreshing, the smile and hopeful eyes of a child are necessary. 

Camp I worked at at home

Once I was a camp counselor at my towns summer camp. I loved that job because it didn’t even seem like I was working. I was teaching the kids as I was also learning from them too. Their minds were so simple and frank it was admirable.  I think children are so important to the community because they are the future of the community. 

In Perugia, I think it would benefit the community to have the children’s voice more present. For what we pass down to them will determine how, when the day comes, will lead the community of Perugia. They will be the breath of fresh air the community needs.

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What is More Dangerous? The Sidewalk or the Internet?

The only way a child can truly understand limits is if they find them out for themself. If a child is taught too young that everything is limited, that they can’t raise their voice here, or no running there, or no art there, their experiences of life and maybe more importantly, the experiences that they think life has in store for them, is restricted.

I am not saying let your child run around without supervision. There are very tangible dangers in the world, and children must be protected, but how much protection is too much protection? For this week’s readings it talked about how children are the first to suffer when a city is not built the way it is supposed to be. But, they are also the last to be involved in any sort of planning. In order to create an area that allows children to use their imaginations freely, and to explore unhindered, we have to actually know what would be appealing to the children themselves.

Something that I have noticed, personally, is that with the rise of technology and social media and electronic games, parents are more willing to sit their child in front of an Ipad or tv instead of letting them go run around outside unsupervised. This could speak to many different things. The lack of trust of your neighbors, the lack of “eyes on the street”, the influence of technology, or the idea that maybe the internet or tv is safer for your child than the sidewalk right outside. Is it though? What about brain development? What about imagination? Is it worth it, do you know what you are sacrificing?

In order to create cities where the trust between adults and children is strong and where parents can feel safe in letting their children play outside recklessly, there needs to be much more communication between all members of the neighborhood, including the children.

https://www.google.com/search?q=children+don%27t+go+out+to+play+as+much+as+they+used+to+because+of+technology&sxsrf=ACYBGNRyqFxjhY-Y1mw3OHYuOxRKXmLt-w:1571207890826&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj1r83BlaDlAhXDzaQKHbGiDZgQ_AUIEigB&biw=1363&bih=682#imgrc=OP6pBGFQ_W4MxM:

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Where are the children?

A common trend we have seen through this course so far is how to develop spaces for all kinds of people. We have met with farmers, activists, city officials and local residences to address what should be done with the Parco Sant’Angleo. However, we have neglected to include a target audience in the discussion: the Italian youth.

Image preview

The illustration above is a drawing done by one of the children present at the park clean up we participated in. As one can see, she did not desire to turn the park entirely into a giant play area. Rather, she wanted many of the same things we (the adults) did. As a child, however, her ideas and contributions would not be taken seriously. We mainly regard kids as innocent and naive. Their answers to solutions may be ridiculous, and this is reflected in modern city planning and urban design. The readings have demonstrated that kids are disappearing from the city landscape and are misrepresented. The data show that children do not want large isolated play areas, but instead prefer open, natural, multi-functional zones. But we think we know better. We use the claim that safety is top priority in order to plan cities the way adults wish to use them: fenced-in schools to keep kids away from the street, dismantling playgrounds to safeguard from broken bones and bruises. But in doing so we are limiting imagination and removing risk-taking from each child’s development. It mitigates physical well being as well as emotional.

Image result for safe playgrounds

The picture above is a new-age playground in the UK that has been deemed as “safe.” And one would be right to think so at first glance. However, in this setting a child cannot be child. They cannot climb, dangle, flip, spin, etc. So could youth-orientated architecture like this really be considered child friendly.

This is something I wish I had thought about during our neighborhood meeting last week. We all got to speak up on what we would like to see in the park. Even we, the students who will most likely never see this city again post-December got to way in. But the youth, who seemed to be the target audience for the park, were not involved in the decision making process. No child was there to say what they think would make the park better. And yet we all were appalled by the playground and wanted it fixed immediately for the kids. It’s our responsibility as Placemakers to make a room for all people. This includes the ones whose future we are constantly fighting for.

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Give the Children What They Want – Kim Hernandez

This week’s assigned readings recall memories from my own childhood. I think about how the children interviewed for the proactive process would now be my age or even my older brother’s age. I suppose that not much has changed: children still value diversity, equity, and the trust of those who are older and hold power in society. 

Growing up in a suburban area, my mother would hardly ever let me play in the street where cars often go by. I cherish the memories of playing in my backyard or large open parks. Sometimes, these places come back in my dreams, and I realize that I can hardly recall being a child in spaces that weren’t conducive to letting me adventure and have fun with my friends. Like the children in Bologna, I wanted my hometown to have spaces within my immediate vicinity to play, but my mother was overly cautious about letting me do so. The children’s manifesto emphasizes the need for children to gain the trust of their elders, and including them in the participatory process of community development is one way to do so. The reading makes a good point about how children are the first to suffer when streets are not build to accommodate their needs and development. 

Growing up, I would spend my summers with my godparents in Mexico who were more relaxed and trusting of me. They had a large home on the outskirts of the city, but also had a large ranch in the countryside. Both were spaces where I could let my imagination run wild, and where I had the most autonomy to meet other children. My brother and I always had permission to go out and explore because the neighborhood and the countryside were places with wide streets, few cars, and open green spaces. In the countryside, my brother and I would venture out for what felt like miles to where we could see burnt trees standing in the distance, and we would tell stories about what the trees looked like from a distance. We did not need much to entertain ourselves, but we still had fun. 

Last semester, I volunteered at a children’s summer camp and helped clean up the space for the summer season. We cleared old leaves and swept the cabins so the children would have a safe place to sleep and play. Signs like these empower the kids who stay at the camp, and emphasize their ownership of the space.
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What About the Kids?

Clean up and pot-luck of Parco Sant’Angelo

Last Thursday night, our placemaking class held a workshop regarding the revamping of Parco Sant’Angelo, where community members could drop in and share their opinions of the park and what needs to be improved. One of the activities we participated in was sharing your opinion of which of the 6 projects that were mapped out were most important to you. After this exercise, it was evident that one of the most important projects was the restoration of the children’s play area.

This thought got me thinking about this weeks readings, regarding children’s participation in cities. In the first reading, Children and City Design: Proactive Process and the “Renewal” of Childhood, Francis and Lorenzo explore the culture of childhood in this day and age and how it impacts children’s participation in cities.

It was stated that there has been a change in childhood, where it has become less child-centered and more controlled by adults. This then has lead to a lack of children’s exploration of streets, parks, or natural areas. In turn, the ability to incoroporate children’s participation in city planning has become compromised.

The play area of Parco Sant’Angelo seems to be neglected, and one of the projects that people found to be important was the restoration of this play area. This neglect may be in result of this change in childhood, where children are going outside and exploring less and less as the years go on.

If this area was to be improved, it could also in turn improve children’s participation in the neighborhood. This area could be a great attraction for families, and would have the ability to encourage children to explore the city and nature that surrounds them.

Another project that seemed to be important to people was the creation of a garden in the park. This project could improve children’s participation in the park as well, as it could bring families in and get children excited about nature and how to care for it. Giving children a sense of responsibility in caring for a garden helps them develop, as well as keeps them as an active member of the park.

Looking back at all of the choices of projects to improve the park, I personally believe that the ones that improve children’s participation would be the most beneficial to the development of this park. Children will bring life back to this area, and it would be incredible to bring families to this park and get children excited again about being outdoors, rather than being indoors using technology.

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Perfect Parks

Throughout this semester, I’ve been thinking about an article I read in my human geography class last year called Between places and flows: towards a new agenda for neighbourhood research in an age of mobility (Van Kempfen & Wissink) that explores the decreasing importance of physical neighborhoods, and suggests instead that communities are more significantly shaped by the family, schools, work places, and digital “neighborhoods” such as social media. My experience growing up in Roanoke, VA somewhat supports this new understanding of neighborhood. While we are friendly with some of our neighbors, overall, we do not have a very walkable street (steep and no sidewalks.  In the past fifteen years, we’ve gotten maybe one trick-or-treater. We usually have to drive to social events.

Being involved in Sant’Angelo, I was surprised by how traditional the neighborhood was (eyes on the street Jane-Jacobs Style) and how there was an active association (maybe we have these at home, too?). Even though the trend is to move away from a less geographically-grounded neighborhood, I think there is much value in trying to my not just your home, but your street, a welcoming community place. I’m also remembering that evidence of traditional neighborhoods do still exist in the US. Take 

Take for example my grandparent’s home in Roanoke just ten minutes away and Nana’s house in Farmingdale NY. Both live in quiet, flat neighborhoods with a wide range of ages. At my grandparent’s house in Roanoke, we always play football in the street after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s much more fun than being in the yard. By playing in the street, the street that connects the different houses becomes a place rather than just a connecting piece of asphalt.

In Farmingdale, NY, my nana’s street is also a safe place. There are sidewalks and evidence of people watchers. Last year when my family was visiting, we had to call the fire department because the oven was releasing a suspicious odor (oil from frying two massive batches of struffeli turned out to be the culprit). The best part was watching her neighbor run outside to witness the scene. His expression of disbelieving excitement made you think it was Christmas! (I guess technically it was the Christmas season.) Furthermore, Nana’s house has a park around the corner that my dad used to hang out in when he was a kid. My siblings and I loved the unconventional equipment: a wooden train, big blue slide, comfortable baby swings. I admit we were sad when they renovated the park to include brand-new equipment. It’s safe and meets the safety standards, but do kids still have as much fun, as much room for imagination on standardized equipment? These updates certainly show place-making efforts in which the neighborhood actively maintains the park and creates a safe place for children to play. But I wonder what role (if any) kids had in designing the new equipment? It will be interesting to discuss in class, but on first impression the romantic or proactive approach resonate most with me. Listening to the needs and desires of children will help us create a space that truly promotes a sustainable future.  

Since building the playground seems like a possible first step for Parco Sant’Angelo, let’s make sure to get input from kids. What would their dream playground look like? How can we make that a reality? Are there other playgrounds in Perugia that model an ideal/non-ideal play space?

My favorite park by Nana’s house. This image shows some of the old equipment. (Credit: google maps)
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My Vision for our Project and the Park – By Nicole Flohr

Friday was the first of our official community workshops. After the great turnout at the informal park clean-up and community potluck, I was a little disappointed by how few people came. However, I think the people that did come were enthusiastic and voiced good ideas.

To me, the priority and interest activity highlighted two main projects: the kiosk and the playground. I voted for these two as well, but have some concerns about each.

The community really desires a simple food stand in the park, with the hope that it will draw people in. I agree that this could be a good idea, but worry that initially the kiosk would not be used and therefore would not be profitable. If people don’t use the park now, why would they go just for a food kiosk, when there are plenty of food options available on the street? Therefore, I think the revitalization of the park must occur before a kiosk is established, or the kiosk should only be open for special events.

I think an improved playground could bring families to the park. Whenever I have gone to the temple at the end of Corso Garibaldi, there have been families with young children on the lawn. Giving these families a place to play could really bring new life into the park. However, a playground is a large investment and must be made with quality materials. This project isn’t suitable for us as a Placemaking class, but I think the community associations should prioritize it.

So what can we do as a Placemaking class? I think we should start small and try to raise awareness of the park within the community. My first idea is to paint a map or a picture of the view by the street signs pointing to the park. This would disturb community complacency and make people take notice of the park signs, which are almost hidden on the street.

park sign

It’s easy to miss the park sign, but a painting underneath would draw people’s attention!

My second idea is to host a paint night event in the park. Community members could create their own artwork which is then displayed around the park. Perhaps they could even paint the maps/views I mentioned before.

At the workshop someone mentioned all the musical instrument museums. Another event could bring music to the park, sponsored by the museums. This would be good publicity for both the park and the museums.

Overall, I think what we need to do is something that actively draws people into the park. If people do not know about this wonderful green space right under their noses and all the efforts being made to improve it, they will never use it or the kiosk/playground/relax area/etc, which would be an absolute shame.

 

 

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