Jane Jacobs… a woman pretty stranger to me. I’ve never heard about her writings, cause she’s not really known in Italy aside from a few group of experts who actually learn from her work, I guess. If you google her name the information you get come from American or “English-speaking” newspapers and webpages.
That is quite a pity.
I bet she could be inspiring for us, the guys from Placemaking class, especially for what concerns the alternative use of the streets and sidewalks. These are the very first elements you notice about a city or even just a small one, because whether people use them or not the streets point out one of the most important attribute (or the maybe the “bedrock attribute”, quoting Jacobs) that make a place worth-living: the safety. Obviously the first impression of a street also tell us of how much people care about the place they’re living, not to mention that densely populated streets has to deal with the presence of strangers who, just like their inhabitants, can be good streets-users. That matters too.
The writer focuses on so many aspects and that’s why it is hard to do a proper sum up. But there was something that particularly draw my attention that I will try to express. This concerns the value of an illuminated street, whose meaning is not what it looks like. Lights certainly leads people to put their “eyes upon the streets”, a sentence often used by Jacobs, because somehow it means that you control the street you want to pass in order to feel safer. Anyway those eyes have to be effective and have to be there, conscious that what they do is basically a sort of surveillance. Otherwise a light alone doesn’t really work. Jacobs used this metaphor to explain herself: “streets can be like that famous stone that falls in the desert where there are no ears to hear”.
In my opinion what is really important to get about these last considerations is a sense of repossession that the citizens has to restore with their personal contribution. However this is not very easy to do. An “effective eye” is someone who find a good a reason to do that…and there it is the function of the bars, the stores, or generally speaking, the attractions. These generate activity and once you reach this aim you can rely on more effective eyes.
Despite that, I believe that wondering about Jacob’s considerations is a good way to start thinking beyond the obvious and I have realized that now, every time I watch my town trough my car window or I walk around any other city. The challenge is to actually do it.
Before this week I had never heard of Jane Jacobs and never really gave much thought to the sidewalks around me. I would notice if they were well lit or if they were uneven, but never thought of them as the make or break point for a neighborhood. Safe streets help keep a neighborhood safe. In Jacobs writing, she delved into what makes a street safe.
The most important part of a safe street is “Eyes on the street”. If no one is watching the street, anything can happen on the street. One way to keep eyes on the street is for there to be a reason to be watching, like a restaurants and stores. People do not care to watch a street if it is boring and no one walks down it. By having something to do on the street, people will watch it, and in turn want to keep it safe. “Street watchers” range from anyone who lives on the street and has a birds eye view from above to a local shop owner who watches the street from inside their store. By having things to do on the street it will draw people which in turn draws people to watch the street.
But achieving “Eyes on the street” is not something you get with the snap of your hands. Jacobs mentions a story of a man trying to get a young girl to walk with him down the street she lives on. The young girl was refusing to budge, and people noticed. Local shop and restaurant owners then went out to see what the problem was and refused to let the man take the girl. People like Jacobs were watching from their building on the street. The people who were watching were people with a connection to the street. Only people who felt like part of the street community were watching. The new high rise apartment building had no one watching. So even though there are things going on below, it does not make for avid watchers.
Jacobs also touches on the vicious cycle of a dangerous street. It is a cycle of no one using the street because it is dangerous, which makes others perceive it as dangerous, which allows crime to happen, and it all repeats itself. I, myself am guilty of this. When I know a street is “bad” I don’t want to go down it, which further perpetuates the street being “bad”. But Jacobs gives no ideas on how to remedy this vicious cycle.
Jacobs gives us the knowledge to start thinking about how to create safer streets, but does not direct us as to how we can do that. Lighting and having people walk around it a lot are a place to start, but will not change the world.
(Pictured: A well used and inviting street in Assisi)
We’ve only discussed Jane Jacobs for one single class period thus far, but I already admire her articulate voice and her strength in her field. We went over some topics in class that I felt were incredibly important in successful placemaking. To start simply, safe streets… What does that mean?
Everyone wants to feel safe in their neighborhood. Suspicion and fear are strong adversaries in any community, healthy or otherwise. Therefore, Jane Jacobs’ commentary on safe streets and the importance of friendly faces cannot be understated. “Eyes on the street,” and the way people behave in public spaces have an incredible influence on the development of that place, be it negative or positive.
In our readings and in my own experience during our Borgo Bello walk, I began to understand the factors that contribute to a “safer,” public space. Something as simple as little artworks can do wonders for an area– as seen below. Whether the location is the nicest or not, it offers a sense of comfort. As Jane Jacobs addressed, the eyes on the street carry a strong feeling of community power, as the members take carry of their own. As placemakers, I assume our ultimate goal is to have our community members take control of their own space– after they’re given a bit of a push. Helping to provide safe streets– or the illusion of safety– are the first step in the further development of a public space.
I look forward to exploring more of Borgo Bello and initiating some new placemaking tactics, as supported by Jane Jacobs.
(Pictured: A Borgo Bello painting on the street that made it feel more welcoming, if not a little safer! Finds from 12/9/17.)
Walking through Borgo Bello, I was surprised. I didn’t know it was going to be such a big and lively neighborhood. It has many attractions; restaurants, churches, a university, movie theaters, and beautiful views. There are a few attractions in Borgo Bello that you can’t find in the center of Perugia, such as a shooting range, and beer shops. All of these places are attractions for people to come to. The area around some of these places could be keeping them from being used as often. For example, the movie theaters are not on the main street, so one might not know they are there. Also the path to get to the movie theaters is a little run down, and not as welcoming. This is one area I believe could use some improvement in order to become more popular. Other areas have similar problems.
On one of the side streets, we walked by a rundown water spout. We were unsure if we could drink water because it didn’t look like it was used much. We asked a local if it was fine to drink from it, and he said it was fine to drink from. Water is something everyone needs in their life and is very important. I think this is another area in which should be improved. The water spout is easily accessible, it just needs to be more physically attractive and welcoming.
I have never heard of placemaking until this class. I think it is such a good thing; helping the community and making places better for everyone. The work that the previous students accomplished was impressive. I loved the garden/bench area near the escalators. I look forward to continue improving Borgo Bello. After this experience I am definitely coming back with my friends to show them this beautiful area.
Like many of my peers, the concept of placemaking was alien to me and I was unsure what to expect arriving on the first day of class. Since then, we have met twice and have clarified the inherently vague term by both definition and firsthand experience. During the first class, we discussed our preexisting concepts of a “successful” place and were assigned readings written by Professor Lorenzo herself, as well as excerpts from the Project for Public Spaces. The following week, we met to have a walkthrough of the Borgo Bello neighborhood and met with the president of the neighborhood association, Orfeo Ambrosi.
Thinking back to the first class and going through the assigned reading that week was somewhat prolific for me when I realized I had been at the heart of a placemaking activity at my home university. For the past year, the campus bike shop I was employed at had taken the task of rehabilitating a decaying smoothie stand tent in the center of campus, in hopes of transforming it into a satellite bike repair station. As defined by the Project form Public Spaces, “Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community”. Conceptually, this was the aim of the project, but unfortunately it slowly lost interest and the tent now acts as storage. As I continued to read through the chapters, it was insightful to identify the necessary aspects of placemaking that were lacking in my project. The importance of considering community insight proved to be the notably overlooked facet of the project, identifiable throughout the reading and through our experience walking through Borgo Bello. The key in placemaking, evidently, lies within the inspiration for community engagement, something which the smoothie stand lacked and Borgo Bello exemplified.
Walking through Borgo Bello with Orfeo introduced what a Zealous Nut would be in a community; someone who actively participates in the betterment of the space because of their emotional connection to it and their passion to share the same sentiment with others. I realized during this class that the purpose of the zealous nut is to be an advocate for the space, not merely the one who maintains it. I am sure Orfeo invests a large portion of time to the Borgo Bello neighborhood, but in doing so he also shows others that the neighborhood is worth the investment and makes engaging in the neighborhood more approachable.
Going into this class, I was unsure as to what to expect. I was familiar with the concept of place– the geographic, biological, hydrological, and human-constructed characteristic of a specific location– but was less familiar with the actual attempt at the making of a place. The idea that a place can be made (rather than just spontaneously occur) is of great interest to me, and I look forwards to exploring how the making of a place can occur.
What I liked about our readings from this week was the amount of intentionality involved in placemaking. In particular, I appreciated the way the reading stressed meeting a community where it was, and starting to build a plan from there, with lots of input from the community. In other words, peacemaking recognizes that a “one-size-fits-all” approach towards the creation of public spaces will fail, as it fails to recognize what each specific community requires.
As I strolled around Borgo Bello with my classmates, it was interesting to see the marks that placemaking had left on the neighborhood. There are the newer marks (those made by the Borgo Bello Association and Umbra students) and there are the older marks (those placemaking attempts from hundreds of years ago); both sets of marks were based off of the communities needs. A great example of one of the older peacemaking attempts is the neighborhood well, located directly in front of the church. Whomever it was that decided to put the well here did so with at least some degree of intentionality. For the past inhabitants of Borgo Bello, the collision of two of their basic needs–water and God– in the same place would have inevitably spurned socialization as they quenched two of their thirsts.
After seeing the well, I began looking for other places where water was a feature, both as a utility and as a social meeting place; I found the former, but not the latter. On one of the side streets we turned off on, there was a derelict water spigot that produced cold, clear and sweet water when turned on (I tried it). However, the spigot and its facade were noticeably forgotten and unkempt. Is there a way we could possibly recreate the same social scene that once occurred with the well, but here at this spigot? Would it be practical, realistic and useful to do so? Such questions have been spinning around my head, and I look forward to discussing them with the community leaders and those at Umbra.
I started Placemaking class at Umbra Institute having a rough idea of what we were actually going to do together. I chose to do it just because it felt like something original and challenging.
After a brief and useful introduction about the subject and the project concerning Borgo Bello Association, my doubts were starting to fade but still I was curios to go out of class.
In fact, walking through Borgo Bello streets, made the difference.
I could feel the potential of this beautiful area of Perugia historical centre, probably one of the most beloved. I could clearly understand the main intention of the people working for the association, which is basically make the principles of placemaking come alive. That means draw the neighbors and the people passing by, into the small streets of the lane inviting them to join the activities and share the ideas that could make Borgo Bello even a more beautiful and interesting place. To be honest, I have already been there so many times since I am living and studying in Perugia but I have never consider it from that prospective.
Based of what I learnt until now, in any placemaking project what is crucial is not just paying attention to the reality of the place, which is important. Also you should focus on those elements that identify a community. One of them is the sense of belonging. As soon as the place seems to be no more attractive, no more safe and to put it simply no more worth living, people begin to loose that special bond that originally encouraged them to live (or keep living) there. This is what mostly happened to Borgo Bello but thanks to the enthusiasm and to the work of Orfeo Ambrosi (the President of the association) and his team, which includes anyone who wants to enjoy the project, those desert alleys have been renewed.
I could see some special handmade works such as the Orto Bello urban garden in “Via Fiorenzuola” and the lovely terrace in “Via Cortona”. I just loved the idea of transforming it in a sort of foyer, where the spectators coming from the nearby theatre (“Teatro Bicini”) can get together while having a glass of wine. I think all these ideas can make the citizens of Perugia so willing to discover an alternative way to live in their own town. The advantage of being one of those citizen is to experience their feelings about the town.
As Jane Jacobs said “..cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody”. This is the starting point.
It is truly hard to sum up what I expect to do from now on, I just hope to be helpful and I’m looking forward to see how much more we can do for Borgo Bello and it’s neighborhood.
The logo of Borgo Bello Association, representing the churches of San Pietro, San Domenico and Sant’Ercolano
The bell tower of San Pietro church
In my first week in Perugia I had not ventured so far out of the square of the Fontana Maggiore, in fact it was all I knew besides the Coop store on the other side. However, my first walk past the fountain was, unknowingly, to Borgo Bello due to their Mezza Notte Bianco special. The night was filled with music, loads of people, and a lively experience. I don’t think I would have really visited Borgo Bello had it not been for the Placemaking class, or if I had, it would have been later in the semester. Now I know where to find a quiet place to enjoy a moment alone or even a backstreet with colorful paintings to admire. Borgo Bello has the outdoor movie theater where many go to watch movies at night and socialize with others, I had been looking for this since I had arrived in Perugia!
While roaming around Borgo Bello, I saw the vertical gardens, the paintings, and the revamped hidden spaces of Perugia. These places all have contributions from previous Umbra students and communities. The objects in each setting are reused items that now serve a higher purpose: to make a place. They serve to make a place comfortable, inviting, sociable, relaxing, and so on. With the help of the signs that lead to them, there has been higher traffic there and you can see that the people actually move things around, like the chairs, to form circle when they visit the areas. These are good and motivating signs to continue making places for everyone.
Upon meeting Orpheus Ambrosi, the President of the Borgo Bello Association, we were introduced to his passion and devotion for his neighborhood. He has previously worked with Umbra students before for placemaking and I am excited to be part of the experience this year. My definition of a community has always been a group of people that have at least one thing in common, may it be that they are at the same place at same time or that they all share common spaces and/or interests. Of course, there are various types of communities, by making a “new” place, we can make a “new” community.
The word “community” often brings to mind several images of people coming together and interacting with one another in some form. I find that this word to be comforting and gives a feeling of inclusiveness. There are millions of different types of communities people can be a part of…theatrical communities…sports communities…professional communities…just to name a few. Naturally communities are formed when people interact with one another and find they have shared interests or experiences. One such connection is normally the area in which a person lives. Residential communities are extremely important to not only the people living in a particular area but also vendors who work there and visitors just passing through. One way to improve these types of communities is to encourage the people to create bonds with each other, the places they frequent and activities that occur within the area.
It is these bonds that are currently being developed in Borgo Bello, one of five neighborhoods that make up the historic city center of Perugia. The methodology this community is using to improve their neighborhood has been aptly named “placemaking” or in other words the creation and management of public spaces that “promote civic engagement” (Viviana Lorenzo in The Shared City).
After talking with the Orpheus Ambrosi, President of the Borgo Bello Association, I learned about the incredible work that has gone into the neighborhood already by the community (including previous Umbra students) and the Association. I love Ambrosi’s enthusiasm and vision of Borgo Bello. A vision to grow and have it become a great place to enjoy, live and work. I am excited to be a part of his plan, along with my fellow Umbra students, to bring new placemaking ideas to the table and help the Borgo Bello community thrive!
Pictured: Mural of the Borgo Bello community in the early 1900s located at the escalators on Via Fiorenzuola. Taken 12.09.2017
As a student who joined Placemaking a week late I was not quite sure what I was getting into with this first week. I was not sure whether we were going to be learning about Placemaking, whether it was a large movement in Perugia, or if we were going to be involved with a local Placemaking organization. After never having heard anything about Placemaking before, I found the readings incredibly eye opening. I had never put that much thought into why I enjoy certain public spaces, and why I like going to them rather than other spaces.
The idea of making a space for people to enjoy in their hometown is something I think is incredibly important. In my hometown there is a small cabana my friends and I would always go to when we would be with one another, but there was not much to do there. But we still had a place to go. There are places where there is no public space to just be with other people, and Placemaking emphasizes the importance of having a place in your community you can always go to.
Walking around Borgo Bello you see the neighborhood is a network of many allies and streets all stemming from one main street. But hidden in these backstreets is the terrace which shows one of the most incredible views of Perugia, and a small community garden where people can sit with friends. There are also planters made out of old tins with plants in them that bring a spot of color to the streets around the neighborhood. Each of these places make the neighborhood more of a home, but finding these hidden gems is hard since they are hidden. It is hard to find them unless you know that they exist, and they are a bit harder to stumble upon.
This exploration of Perugia and learning about the Borgo Bello Association made me incredibly excited to work in the community and try to help improve the places past semesters have created, and make a new place. I feel Placemaking is a movement that can bring many people together and breath new life into a community.
(Pictured: Planters that can be found on the streets in the neighborhood, and the view of Perugia from the terrace. Taken 9/12/17)