Elements of a successful “place”

My apologies in advance for what seems like an unorganized post, but coming up on the midterm, I have some thoughts–based off of the readings, discussions and interviews– about what might constitute the elements of a successful place.

First and foremost, I feel like I cannot move forward without giving due credit to Jane Jacobs. Specifically her concept of the necessities and benefits of a participatory process in designing a city are of great importance to our class: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” The more and more I’ve thought about this, the more important it has become. If the local populace is not involved in the project from the start all the way until the end of the implementation of the project, the needs and wants of the local populace will not be respected and utilized in a way that creates a lively and sustainable space.

Secondly, our conversation with David last week got me thinking (I know, dangerous) about how to get people to come to a place, whether it be a community garden or a terrace. During our conversation he mentioned why they decided to not put the garden closer to the terrace–the elderly people who lived above the proposed area wanted to relax, not work. In other words, there was no need for the garden in that area, or in David’s words (more or less): “A place such as a community garden cannot be successful if only designed well– it must be needed where it is put.” This idea–a place cannot be designed, it must be needed–got me thinking about what needs the terrace is currently meeting in the community. From my two observations, it is meeting the needs of those people who want a quiet place to relax and watch the city in relative peace, and maybe grab a bite to eat while doing it. It seems like much of our conversation has centered on how to increase traffic on the terrace–to get it being used more. In other words, we are trying to increase the necessity of the terrace to the local people.

Finally, on two separate occasions we have been exposed to the idea of commitment within a community: the first with David, and how to retain commitment in a community garden; the second, with Mario, who spoke of the damaging impacts of individualism. These conversations were focused mostly around management, and how to best manage the terrace. While the city definitely has their role to play, the individual has just as large a role (in my opinion). Increased individual commitment to the maintenance of the terrace, will, I think, result in a more sustainable place, as the people of the community work together to maintain and enjoy the terrace, a positive feedback loop of sorts. I think for the Salotto con vista project to be successful, part of what we,need to do is keep these things in mind: the participatory process, the creation of (or perhaps merely retention of) necessity, and a way in which to encourage and maintain individuals’ commitment to something greater than themselves.


Posted in Class Journal, In the neighborhood, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Make the Left

Like William H. Whyte states “A good plaza starts at the street corner.”. The street corner is the open door for any open space like Piazza Novembre IV, it is inviting and it allows a person to explore the next corner. Although the terrace is not a plaza it is an urban space that few enjoy. Someone mentioned earlier in the semester that the sign for the terrace is very appealing but not seen from the street unless you look in the right spot. The sign is found of the left-hand side of Borgo Bello when you walk down the steps near Sant’Ercolano. The colorful sign is a good start to attract people along with the dandelions that tease you to follow them to a hidden place.

Last week my classmate, Morgan, and I went to the Terraza del Cortone for our first observation of the semester. On the way to Borgo Bello we stopped for a light snack so we could eat it while observing the terrace and I felt it helped make us seem like friendly locals of Perugia. We arrived to the terrace a little before 11 am on Wednesday and noticed that it was lonely! However, before making it to the stairs we saw that there was a car blocking them and that alone closed off the area. We walked around a little to see what was moved or used and there were clear signs of use. For example, the benches closest to the stairs had muddy footprints left behind and the cigarette butts laid in groups in between the trashcan and the benches. Unfortunately, we did not see anyone for the whole hour we were there but we were glad to know that there were visits.

It was interesting to see in what manner we were going to observe the terrace. Where do we sit? When should we take pictures? If there are people should we interact with them? We didn’t have to address some of these questions but where should we sit? We situated ourselves on the wall and proceeded to make notes of our observations. However, due it being late morning we didn’t see anyone, perhaps they were still in school or at work.  Our next observation is scheduled at a different time and we hope to see people enjoying the terrace next time. The terrace is such a quiet place, it is a break from the busy center of Perugia, it is peaceful and I am certain many who do visit it use as an escape from their buzzing lives.

Posted in Class Journal, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Looking at the Terrace in Different Lights by Morgan Nash

Last week a fellow student (Giselle) and I went to the Terrazza del Cortone in Borgo Bello for an observational study. We explored the area for a little while – noticing changes in furniture and trash that come with a place being used, then we stayed for an hour to see how the terrace might be used (and by whom) on a typical Wednesday morning from 11:00 to 12:00. To our disappointment, we saw only three people who were getting into their cars at the top of the terrace. I can understand at that time of day there is not a particular reason for locals or tourists to visit as it was before lunchtime and most people were at work or school.

Besides the lack of people, Giselle and I greatly enjoyed being on the terrace with the sun high in the sky. When sunny, the stone becomes warm and very comfortable to sit on while looking at the view and/or talking with friends. I can imagine the atmosphere to be equally comfortable on the weekend during the daytime when more people might take to relaxing in the sun for an hour or so.

Our goal as a class this semester is to bring attention to the terrace and the surrounding area using placemaking methods. To do this we must first understand the current state of the terrace which involves knowing who frequents the area, when they frequent and what they do there. First-hand observations are important to capture a picture of what happens on the terrace at different times of the week. Though this style of research we gain both behavioral and qualitative information about the place. In “When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods” by Christian Rohrer, he explains different types of researching methods that reveal how people feel about a product [place] like eyetracking and interviews. After collecting a few weeks of observational data, my class will have a better idea of what changes need to be made to make the terrace a more attractive place for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Pictured: Terrazza del Cortone during the observation hour, Wednesday 11:00 am – 12:00 pm. Taken 04.10.2017


Posted in Class Journal | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Quiet Amidst the Din: Salotto con Vista

My first impression upon walking to the Salotto con Vista, was how peaceful the little terrace felt. I had just walked there from my last class further up in Borgo Bello, and the streets of the city were full of people out on their lunch break, either walking to restaurants or in their cars on their way home. These crowded streets, combined with the temperature that was unseasonably (for me) climbing into the seventies created a stressful, hot, and noisy environment that made me want to get away as quickly as possible.

My arrival at the Salotto con Vista put these feelings to rest. As soon as I walked out onto the terrace, I felt the hubbub of the city fade away as a cool northern breeze wafted the scent of trees and fresh air towards the terrace. As Rachel and I continued to observe, it seemed that other people felt the same sense of calm that I did.

When we first arrived, there was a man sunning himself on one of the adirondack chairs (an activity that looked quite pleasant to me) and smoking a cigarette (the butt of which he even threw away!). Soon after he left, a young couple came down with their lunch and stayed for almost the same duration that we stayed.

While the couple was seated at the table, a woman came down with her dog. While her dog was peeing, the woman struck up a conversation with the couple eating lunch. It was hard to tell whether or not the these people knew each other previously, but it doesn’t really matter if they did or didn’t; I see one of Salotto con Vista’s purposes  as a place to meet people, and I was extremely happy to see the space fulfilling that purpose.

Soon after the woman with the dog left, a young family with a young boy came down and took some pictures of the view, fulfilling another purpose of the space: a pleasant place to stop and take in the gorgeous Appenine hills rising in the distance.

All this is not to say, however, that the space was not without a few negatives as well. There was definitely an increase in cigarette butts after we cleaned it last week, and there were 4 new piles of dog poop dotting the gravel.

Collectively, though, I would consider the ways we saw the terrace being used to be a  smashing success. The fact that we did not even see 10 people during the hour we observed is what I see as one of the terrace’s main advantages: a place where solitude and quiet can be had in the midst of a bustling city.

Posted in Class Journal, In the neighborhood, Place-making, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Terrace Observations

The last week of class seemed to center around more first person experiences in placemaking. The reading by Wm. Whyte gave a firsthand account on the plaza projects around new York city in the early 1980’s and highlighted some of the more specific influences that create successful public spaces. Similarly, Talia and I had our first observation of the Borgo Bello terrace on Wednesday, which was my first time having a prolonged experience there.

My main take away from the reading this week was much of Jane Jacobs work can be seen in the readings from Whyte. Whyte took a more in-depth approach in his argument than Jacobs, and focused primarily on the aspects of plazas, however the assertions still allign. Some of his main points were that plazas needed to have easy access to the street, movable seating that was inviting and usable for relaxation, and that the presence of snack bars or cafes had tremendous effects on the success of new plazas. For example, Whyte writes, “…if the sight of the line of people for the snackbar gets long, the sight will induce passerby to join” (Whyte, 54). This falls in accordance with Jacobs notion that successful public places need to be easily accessible and have a clear distinction between public and private spaces, as well as explicitly aligns itself with the notion that the sight of people attracts other people.

Watching the terrace with Talia was also a good way to extrapolate Jacobs argument into our own placemaking setting. This being the first time I actually sat and watched the terrace, I noticed several things; one or two people actually passed through the terrace itself, and only a handful of people beyond that even looked down into the space. This was at 6pm on a beautiful day after hearing countless times that it would be one of the better times for watching the terrace. Many of the cars on the parking lot blocked the lower section, making the place entirely secluded. I think this is one of the terraces biggest weaknesses, but could also be one of its biggest strengths too. As Jane Jacobs described, the sight of other people attracts more people, which I have come to realize is the spaces biggest problem. People just don’t know about it because they don’t see other people using it. In proximate space to the terrace this is very true, but I think in general the terrace has very little exposure and is widely unknown in the still small community of Perugia.  Without reason to pass by, many people wouldn’t know it’s there. At the same time, the terrace is oddly charming with its sense of exclusivity and separation from the city itself. Those who do use it seem to have a more surreal experience than in other more touristy parts of the town. I think more advertisement, or at least enticement, to venture off the main street of Borgo Bello would have significant effects on the terrace.

Posted in Class Journal | Tagged | Leave a comment

Terrace Watch by Lana Valente

Terrace Watch, as I’ve taken to calling it, was like a beautiful stakeout. I took an ethnography class my first year of college, and my experience during that semester helped me immensely this afternoon! I was able to record details I may not have noticed or otherwise discarded as irrelevant had I not had previous experience.

As it is, the terrace is a beautiful place, but it’s even lovelier when it’s occupied by people who are enjoying themselves. Veronica and I noted rearranged furniture on the terrace, compared to when we had last seen it. It was not scattered haphazardly. Rather, it looked like it was being used for gatherings, with chairs and tables situated together. It was good to see that the furniture was in use, and in a way, almost personified; in seeing the pieces together in pairs, it was almost as if the chairs people sit in reflect their friendships and the company they keep.

We noted people interacting with the area in different categories. When we arrived at the terrace, one man was pacing beside a woman, who was smoking. They sat together, enjoyed conversation, and generally looked comfortable.

Above the terrace, there were people who walked by without paying attention, but were otherwise distracted: they totaled about thirteen. There was a girl walking her dog, a girl texting, a group of friends, etc., so at the very beginning, I made a general rule that was later proved false: a common trend was that the people don’t study the terrace if they’re preoccupied with something else. As it turned out, however, around 28 people passed by the terrace, without distractions and without looking. Veronica and I concluded that either they’re familiar with the area and have already seen it, or they actually didn’t notice it at all.

About two people stopped above the terrace, but didn’t actually come down, and after the clock chimed at 4:00, the people on the terrace got up and left, but they stood at the top admiring the view for a bit longer. After, it was empty except for us. Around 4:30, a couple came down with their ice cream, but they only stayed for half a minute!

The table was in use, as well as the blackboard and some of the wood stools. The chairs were arranged in like a square. Bottles and other trash (even shoes!) were left behind by the people who were there earlier and/or others… Which means it’s in use for lunch at least, although people don’t take care of their garbage, which was disheartening, to say the least.

In my opinion, after this study, a few things could help bring some well-deserved attention to our terrace. A bright sign signaling its presence would alert it to more people—if they really don’t see it. If they do notice it, then enticing them with a street vendor could prove beneficial, or even a small, interactive garden like Orto Bello.

While the people on the terrace were interactive with their environment, either by way of observing the view or using the furniture and games provided, the people walking by were another story. Often, if there was no noise to draw their attention down below, they passed the terrace with barely a glance. It was unfortunate, because either they didn’t notice it, or they didn’t care.

These observations helped me to understand that the terrace is actually less popular than I initially believed– I was hoping that more people would be around to enjoy it! Perhaps it was the timing, but I’m confident that with a little more attention, the terrace cold become more widely used. Our observations also led me to believe that some advertisement (a colorful street painting or sign) would do wonders for publicity; for those who are walking without a destination, the terrace is a great stop. It’s only a matter of showing the public that this is so.

(Pictured: lunch on the terrace, people interacting! Finds from Oct. 9, 2017.)

Posted in Class Journal | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

First Observation of Terrazza del Cortone

Evan and I observed Terrazza del Cortone from 1:45 to 2:45 on Thursday October 5th. At first there was only one person there. He was sunbathing and smoking in one of the adirondack chairs. I looked over the rest of the terrace for signs of use. I saw cigarette butts, dog poop, and plastic wrappers. This was a good and a bad sign. I was happy that people were using it, but still they weren’t picking up after themselves. At 2:03 two more people came down to the terrace and sat at the table to have lunch. They ate their sandwiches, drank some beer, and talked to each other. This is when I realized what a perfect place this is for a lunch break. Sitting there was a nice break from the busy city center, and peaceful place to reflect.

A little bit later on more people came to visit the terrace. One guy looked over from above to see what was going on in the terrace. Then a dog and it’s owner walked through the area. I heard more commotion coming from the other end of the terrace, and I saw two adults and one kid. They came down to check out the scene and to take pictures. I was curious as to wether they were from out of the country, but I didn’t get hear if they were speaking Italian or not.  A few minutes later heard people above me. I looked up and saw two men appreciating the view and taking pictures.

Overall there was a lot more people on the terrace than I expected there to be. When I first got there I was excited there was even one person using it, but by the end of my observation I had seen ten people and one dog. I believe that this place is being used more than we think. Not only is it being used, but it is being used for different purposes. Some use it for a place to eat lunch, walk their dog, sunbathe, or to appreciate the view. The terrace is a multifunctional area, and that is why I believe it will continue to grow and become more popular.

Later on in the day, I brought my friend back here and she was impressed with the area and said that we should have a picnic here soon! To get people to use it more they need to first see it for themselves and it’s potential. IMG_6757.JPG

Posted in Class Journal | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Observations on a Wednesday by Talia Schaer

This Wednesday evening at five, Jake and I set out to do our first hour observation of the terrace. It was a gorgeous day out, sunny and mild. The perfect weather to go on a walk or hang out with friends outside. Since it was an early time in the evening and so beautiful outside I expected to see people coming and going from the terrace.

When we first got there we decided to sit on the ledge above the trees to get a view of the terrace as well as the amazing cityscape. We mapped out where all the chairs and bleachers were. They had not moved since Sunday’s clean up.

Ten minutes after we arrived a woman came by with her dog. They stayed for about five minutes. The dog sniffed at Jake’s bag while the woman called it over to her. Then they left without the woman cleaning up after her dog.

Twenty five minutes after we arrived, a man in his twenties came to the fence above the terrace. He enjoyed the view for a minute or two. He seemed confused and put of by mine and Jake’s presence. I think he was taking some photos of the view with his phone before he left.

After the man left a family took his place. It was comprised of a grandmother, mother, and son. The boy looked bored and the mother helped the grandmother walk around after they looked at the view from the gate above the terrace.

At the halfway mark Ray dropped by and we talked to him for a few minutes. Chatting about the terrace and who we had seen at the terrace so far.

Then two minutes before six two women stopped by the fence to look at the view. And then promptly left.

Overall the terrace was pretty empty even at what I assumed would be a prime time with the weather being so nice.

(Pictured below: The view of Perugia from the terrace and field notes taken.)

Posted in Class Journal | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The View From Up Here

Borgo Bello has become quite an interesting place. Even though I only ever visit the two areas I know, the illuminated paintings on Via del Deposito and the Salotto con Vista, I find myself walking there every weekend. Recently I participated in the annual fall clean-up of Salotto con Vista, which was compromised of a small group of people from the community who cared deeply about the terrace, and every once in while a curious person would peek to see what was happening. This community cleaned the terrace because they want to see it flourish and maintained and I find that I want the same. In class, we translated the flyer for the event into English to encourage more students to come and join us. Unfortunately, apart from the students in my class, I did not see any present Umbra students but I was introduced to past Umbra Placemaking students. This must be from direct result of taking the class but I want to change that and introduce this area to more Umbra students so they may enjoy the terrace as well.

The day started once we had our gloves on. One person started raking, another picked up large pieces of trash, and I found myself pulling weeds from the ground with another student. When we started, there was trash here and there, the chairs were moved around, and the grass had overgrown a bit but these are all good signs of use because it means the terrace is being used by the locals. From the beginning, I didn’t know what I was doing but there was a rhythm with the group and I felt like it didn’t matter because I was helping one way or another. However, in the end it was much easier to know what had to be done and the time flew by so quickly it didn’t seem like it was noon yet. Throughout the whole experience, it was helping one another reach the same goal: a clean terrace.

Having participated in such a community event allows one to feel part of the family in Borgo Bello. Hopefully by the end of the semester there are more people sitting there while chatting about their day and enjoying the same view I enjoy. Perhaps next year’s annual clean-up will not only include more locals but Umbra students as well.


The View From Up Here.JPG

Posted in Class Journal, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Collaboration of City Professionals and the Locals by Morgan Nash

With so many philosophies and theories on city planning, it can be hard to determine the best method for creating a great city. Anirban Adhya analyzed the work of Jane Jacobs in Jane Jacobs and the Theory of Placemaking in Debates of Sustainable Urbanism. Adhya notes a city is “a system of organized complexity” with the capability of providing something for everyone, which can only be achieved if a place is created by everyone. Through information from locals and city planners alike a place can be created that contains both function and form. The benefits of involving the locals within an area is that they are the people who, in the end, will be using the space. The professionals on the other hand have the large view of how to incorporate the local’s wishes into the designated space. By working together these two groups of stakeholders can create better usable public spaces.

When city planners look to improve or create a new public area they must first learn about the needs/wants of the community. One way to determine these needs is through diligent physical observation. Though many processes achieve this goal, one common method is to simply watch an area for a certain amount of time while recording the activities that take place there.

With this in mind my classmate and I were tasked with observing various spaces within Piazza IV Novembre in Perugia’s city center. By observing places such as the steps, alleyways and fences, we learned more about the purpose and function of the main square of Perugia. I was fascinated to learn about the variety of reasons why people entered and lingered in the piazza. For example, meeting with friends, eating food from the nearby cafes, and lounging around on the fringe were popular options among the locals. By keeping an open line of communication between locals and city planners, purposefully places can be created.


Pictured: Observation of daily activities in Piazza IV Novembre, Perugia. Taken 26.09.2017



Posted in Class Journal, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment