Let’s begin Placemakers!

Welcome Spring 2019 Class!

Today it will be your first class of ESUS 310: Placemaking: Creating Sustainable Urban Spaces and Communities  and we are very happy to welcome you in Perugia and to discover the Borgo Bello district and the C.A.R.O. Vicolo Project!

Before we introduce you the blog instrument and how it works, we would like to say goodbye and thanks once again to Umbra’s Placemaking Spring 2018 term students – Tania, Rachel, Shelby, Cameron, Makenzie, Brandon, Amy, Tara, Christina and Claire – who have worked really hard through the past semester to make the Terrace of Via del Cortone a shared place!

Last semester was dedicated to improve the use of the Terrace with the community support, through ongoing observation and study of the Terrace (uses and abuses, environmental conditions, evaluations by stakeholders, etc.) and of the people of Borgo Bello, creating new signage, a book exchange spot and buiding some new furniture to make the Terrace of Via del Cortone a place for more beauty, fun and events!

Our class work was celebrated with live music, a foto exhibit dedicated to explore the Humans of Borgo Bello project, and an amazing puppet show on the Terrace to entertain the children of the neighorhood, all designed and performed in Italian by the Placemaking students.

Now it is time for Placemaking Spring 2019 class to pick up the legacy and to continue improve Borgo Bello’s neighborhood and the C.A.R.O. Vicolo Project.

This semester our collaborative work with the students and Faculty of the nearby School of Agriculture DSA3 of the University of Perugia, will be intensified. We plan to design and build proto-types of street furniture and decorative-green elements, together with Professor David Grohmann, which will be inserted in the surroundings of the School’s amazing context, the beautiful medieval Benedictine abbey of San Pietro, and evaluated for future utilization in other city locations.

Just like last term, the students of Placemaking will keep running the blog-journal “Placemaking in Perugia” (which you are looking at right now) focusing on assigned reflections about the themes discussed in class, presented in the readings, and as related to each student’s experiences.

Keeping a (weekly) journal will help you consolidate your understanding of the course activities and theory, and offer an opportunity to explore connections between in-class and experiential learning.

Weekly based Journal entries are mandatory and expected to be submitted at least 12H before class.

In these short posts students shall express their impressions and reflections about the readings and also provide one significant photo image of their experience. Questions, issues, curiosities … all can be included!

Each post should be long a maximum of 500 words, display a title that includes the name of the author (e.g.  My first  walk around Borgo Bello by Viviana Lorenzo) and one significant picture (note: pictures of children are forbidden unless framed from the rear).

Students shall place their posts under the category “Class Journal” and enter mandatory tags such as Semester and Journal # (e.g.: Spring 2018, Journal 1) and may also enter other relevant tags (max 3).

Take your time to explore the blog and to read about former students’ project for the Terrace of Via del Cortone in Borgo Bello and about their experience collaborating with the community.

So once again, the journey is about to begin…

A Note to Spring 2018 Students: from this moment former students’ blog role will change by “author” to “contributor”. This means you won’t be able anymore to publish directly on the blog, but you will still be able to write posts to be published by the administrator, if you wish.

We invite all of you to click the“follow the Blog button” (in the column on the right) and receive notifications of new posts by email!

Stay up-to-date with the future of Borgo Bello and Perugia!

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Placemaking in Malta

This past break, Rachel and I traveled to the beautiful islands of Malta. Malta is without a doubt one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to in my life. This is for several reasons, one of them being the rich blend of cultures. The island is situated almost dead center in the Mediterranean Sea, making it a hot spot for trade and transport. This led to it being repeatedly conquered by several powers throughout history, including the Ottomans, Romans, French and English. They speak a dialect of Arabic, use an alphabet much like ours, and have a Mediterranean accent. Most of them spoke perfect English, and the influence of England in their culture was apparent, as most signs and text were in English.

There were several examples of placemaking in Malta, one example being children’s involvement in the act. I found a sign clearly illustrated by a child, right on the water in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. It reminded me of the pictures made by the kids from the elementary school of the terrace. This area was a waterfront vista with several benches, a perfect place made for locals and tourists alike to view  the harbor and possibly dine by the water. An unconventional example of placemaking was the people hanging out at the salt pans in Marsascala. These salt pans are for tide water collection, which evaporates and becomes a supply of sea salt that can be collected. In this gorgeous, eye-pleasing place, people were fishing, relaxing and some had even brought a whole picnic set up. Malta helped me remember how beautiful the coast and the ocean can be. I grew up on an island and can confidently say I took that blessing for granted.

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My thoughts on the agricultural school

Agriculture has always been a huge interested of mine. After going vegan, I started researching all things related to agriculture, and I learned many disappointing things. Then, last semester I took a class called food, society and the environment. It was a sociology class all about the corrupt food and agricultural systems, and I learned that the issues ran way deeper and were way worse then I ever could have imagined. Its easy to get discouraged when learning about this vastly corrupt system that is so much bigger and more complicated then one small person like my self could possibly tackle. Fortunately I soon came to the realization that I am not alone. Looking around my class, full of passionate people, and knowing there are so many young people passionate about these issues as well. I am not alone in it, we are stronger together, and only together can we work towards a more sustainable and progressive future. Fast forward to our tour of the agricultural school. Not only was it a wake up call that these problems are being tackled by passionate people all over the world, but it was so interesting to see how a school solely focused on agriculture operates. I am sure there is so much more going on than I got to see, but even just the introduction to the concept of people dedicating their lives to learning about agriculture, and hopefully sustainable agriculture, gives me hope. download

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American Playgrounds in Italy?

In placemaking, children have (arguably) the most important role. This is due to the fact that it  can be a slow and gradual process. The project that you involve the children in is a project that will likely be completed by the time they are adults, and able to use the facility. When it comes to quicker projects, children are important for several reasons. First, children remind us of our youth, and a youthful place is a happy place. Secondly, if a place is made for children to be able to enjoy it, they need adults to accompany them. Those adults are going to want to be facilitated as well. This indicates a coexistence, almost synergy, between two parties: adults and children.

In the United States, at least on Long Island, parks are pretty much divided into two areas: kid zones and adult zones. The area dedicated to children, from what I remember, was always an amazing and safe place to play. Playgrounds were colorful jungle gyms. They were the pinnacle of imagination and play. The adult areas were just as amusing. Beautiful picnic areas, well kept greenery, and plenty of facilities to use like BBQ grills, cabanas, and more. I have yet to see such spaces here in Perugia, as well as the rest of Italy. I feel as if there aren’t enough sufficient areas for child’s play, and I think it would be beneficial to integrate parks/play grounds similar to the ones I described. The bigger, and more colorful, the better. With those playgrounds, areas for adults and anyone else can be integrated, like picnic areas.

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“Seedfolks” by Makenzie

On Friday, we visited the School of Agriculture and a local theater to meet a few important players in the community. We ended up meeting quite a few people, influential and passionate members of an intricate system of community betterment. It really gave me an idea of the type of neighborhood and people we are working and how so much can be accomplished, sometimes slowly and then all at once. Visiting the gardens that were on the grounds of the school of Agriculture and learning about how community gardens are seen and developed in Italy was quite fascinating, especially compared to those I am accustomed to in the United States. Often, the base need of a community garden sprouts (no pun intended) from the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the area or community. This leads to a strange phenomenon, a food desert, where many inhabitants are confined to a certain area without proper food and are both lacking nutrition and are overweight. In communities like these, locals are plagued by lack of healthy options as well as usually uneducated when it comes to their own health and that of their families. A community garden lets the neighborhood not only increase their health and nutrition but often learn about maintaining this overall good health.

However, in Italy, it is much less about the physical food and more about the sense of community, of coming together and of creating and growing something. This comes with challenges because the reality is, there is always a possibility that those who are in the neighborhood simply will not want the garden and since they have no need for one, they are far less likely to keep it alive. The answer to this, as it seems may be the case in many things, may be to get children involved.

Children, as we have read recently, have a profound and overflowing sense of creativity and an astonishing ability to create something extraordinary out of literally nothing. This is seen in how they play in the streets of New York City and also Perugia, or in any backyard in any street, most likely in any city in the world. As a wonderful poet, whose name now escapes me and whose poems I cannot translate correctly, once wrote (paraphrased) a poet must hold onto the wonder of youth if he would like to continue being a poet – to see the world through the eyes of a child, like everything is new and wonderful.

To many children, to see physical growth, one that they have contributed to, could be a really incredible thing. I remember distinctly as a child reading the book Seedfolks about a community garden and then growing roots out of beans in bags of droplets of water. I was in complete awe, watching little veinlike roots sprout and push out even further each morning, and after lunch and before I went home. That book reminds me a lot of the community surrounding the Agriculture school community garden, as well as the various characters in the whold neighborhood. Each brings their own expertise, their own story and background and a desire to help. Each person wants the same thing,  to better their community for those around them and this complex, creative network gives them that avenue. It is similar to what Tania said regarding sharecropping, but of course from a place far more rooted in love and mutual respect. I felt that Friday I truly saw all the various components of this neighborhood – the people that come out of the woodwork even on gloomy, cold, rainy days to feed cats or visit their friends or walk around with their friend the pupeteer and some students. It really was reflective of how a strong community operates – much like the one in Seedfolks. Sometimes vast differences can become the greatest strengths.

Thinking of it makes me want to transport to that time again, to read Seedfolks and day dream about growing pineapples and kiwi in my backyard, not quite understanding climate quite yet, but none the less wanting to try. Watching a garden grow is magic, watching a neighborhood grow is magic and learning to love differences and work together is magic — maybe children can bring a community back to that realization faster than anyone, a community of Seedfolks.



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Roll sleeves up By Tania Cerquiglini

David, Gianni, Mario, Nati. A professor who cultivates and grows a neighborhood, a kind retired builder who never stopped making something for himself and others, an elderly storyteller with the enthusiasm of a child whose theater runs his vein, a wonderful handyman that turns everything into beautiful artifacts. These constitute only a few of people that we met last week during our class fieldtrip in Borgobello. Common people who decided to do something for the place where they live or work, who decided to roll up their sleeves. Perugia is a town of artisans, of people able to build a dense network of ties. Perugia is a city in which urban and rural areas are blend constantly. Last friday we have not only visited one side of town but we have had the opportunity to learn about humanity and kindness, to learn about willingness to cooperate for a common project. All of this represents the good humus and the starting point to convince people to promote the rebirth of neighborhood.

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Let them be little

As was exemplified within the readings last week, the opinions of children are largely regarded in a much less serious manner than they ought to be. Children’s minds are usually not weighted down by the solemnity that typically accompanies adult life; as a result, they are boundless in their imaginations and dream of the impossible. Although some of their ideas may be a bit far-fetched at times, more often than not, they offer truly insightful accounts of a sort of unadulterated human spirit.

These ideas can be incredibly useful in terms of the design of public spaces, as was discussed in the readings by Francis and Lorenzo. It has become overwhelmingly clear that in recent years, structure has become a fundamental part of life for most children, whether it be a rigorous class and activity schedule, or even the types of play which they are allowed to engage in. The readings discussed how, largely, the presence of fixed objects in pre-organized places like parks denies children the opportunity for free play in natural spaces. Children are only allowed to engage with certain people, in certain places, and only do certain things. The freedom to simply be a kid appears to be limited, especially for children growing up in this era.

Francis describes what research has concluded to be characteristics of better city spaces. A few of these characteristics included “Mixed use/ mixed uses,” “Sociability,” and a “Natural, environmentally-healthy, growing and in movement” spaces. Children don’t need million-dollar parks with every plaything possible to have a good time. The sheer number of instances in which my little brother and his friends have ditched their new toys to simply go outside and run around with sticks is unmeasurable. Kids really don’t need much to have a good time, just some open space, other kids, and an imagination will typically do it.

The problems encountered by children are not usually do to their own shortcomings, but rather, these obstacles of play space are largely due to overprotective parents, who have been on the rise in recent decades. Surely, the world is a dangerous place, but spending your entire life living in fear probably won’t do you much good. As was mentioned in the reading by Lorenzo, children learn best by doing; they learn from experience, and if these experiences are denied to them, they will live sheltered and rather mundane lives. Sure, scheduling in soccer practice or dance lessons or piano practice will build character, but I’m willing to bet that these kids probably just want the chance to run around their backyards with some sticks too.

One of the quotes that was constantly repeated to me as a child and even now is that of my mother, who regularly stated that, “It’s not you that I don’t trust, it’s the rest of the world.” Naturally, she was a lovely parent who just wanted to keep her children safe. Unfortunately, however, the world will not become safer if children are kept inside, away from the “big scary world.” This idea was elaborated on by Lorenzo, who stated that as children have abandoned public spaces, these places have gained reputations for being dangerous. As long as they are regarded as being dangerous, it is likely that no one will use them — it essentially is a cycle. What most cities are in desperate need of is a way to invigorate these spaces, to make them new again, and take into account the ideas of children who will want to occupy these places for free play, learning, and socialization. It is important that we as a society do not lose sight of the creativity and free-spirited nature that children appear to possess in abundance. Perhaps if we listen to them, we may learn many new things ourselves, and the world.

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Everybody Eats

Sitting down to write this week’s journal I was kind of stuck. I usually base it off of the readings, but we didn’t have any this week. I started looking through my reader and for some reason, something we talked about on the first day kept popping into my head. “Place: a piece of an environment where we have reappropriated feelings.”

I was at a national conference last year for my sorority and I remember listening to one of the lecturers discussing how men and women’s friendships differ. Becoming a single unit to work towards a common goal is achieved for women differently than men. Men see a goal and decide to put the goal first. The act of working together bonds them- like a sports team. Women, on the other hand, must first develop an emotional attachment to the person. They must form a connection on a deeper level before allowing oneself to sustain effort toward the goal.

I was thinking that for a man or a woman to develop reappropriated feelings toward a place must be similar to human relationships. Which brought me to the second item we discussed on the first day of class “form follows function.” What can be done to attract all individuals to the terrace? What function does the terrace need to fulfill in order for children, men, and women to wish to gather there?

I believe food is an excellent item to focus on. A table always brings people together. Games can be played, conversations can be made, and food can be eaten. In my ISLI: A Taste for Knowledge class we have discussed how preparing food and all aspects of food are used as plot development. Whether that be to get everyone together or to work together to prepare a meal. Sometimes just to spark conversation.

Bringing people together with food is the simplest function to create reappropriated feelings. Who doesn’t have fond memories when food was involved?


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Teamwork makes the dream work

7A6E3B6A-D16C-478E-BF5B-35BC32F8CE9D.jpegWhen multiple people work together to achieve a single goal anything is possible. I learned this a long time ago but this past week in Perugia has reinforced that idea. While our class is committed to creating a great community space in Perugia we cannot do it by ourselves. The field trip we took to the school of agriculture and the puppet theater inspired me for I saw so many different groups of people who are willing to help create a space for Perugia.

The school of agriculture can be a great help for there are students and faculty members there who can contribute so much more than our class could. The professor (David?) has extensive knowledge when it comes to growing and sustaining plant life which is essential to creating a comfortable community space. As we saw in placemaking videos, people like to gather around nature, having small trees and other aesthetically pleasing plants around the terrace would make it a much more attractive place for people to gather. He talked about possible cement pots we could use and the school has many different plants we could use. They also have many different skills when it comes to using power tools and crafting things such as furniture. While Nati is very skilled, having other experienced people with even more tools would make building furniture such as chairs and tables even easier.

The owner of the puppet theater could be a tremendous help in promoting the popularity of the terrace. Entertainment at the terrace that would attract children would bring whole families to the terrace. The puppet theater also has experience in constructing things and could help contribute to the building up of the terrace. Shows at the terrace would link special memories with the location and make it a much more significant spot for families. This would give them motivation to maintain the space and use it for more events.

I cannot wait to see how all these different groups can come together to share ideas and better the terrace into a beautiful place for all of Perugia.



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Something in the Air by Amy Mullowney

The past week has made me consider just how greatly weather influences an area: the people; their priorities of activities; if places are even open… Few people will be out on the terrace in this weather, so yesterday amidst the snow flurries I ventured out to find a cafe to study in. I was reminded that small Italian shops won’t open if they don’t want to! Having lived in Montana and Minnesota, where they expect you to get to class no matter the inches of snow, I was surprised by today’s news when morning classes were canceled due to snow. (But no complaints here!)

Despite somewhat nasty weather conditions on Friday, our outing in Borgo Bello was still a positive experience. Meeting David at the University of Agriculture, as well as the others involved in the community garden project, and the puppet master at TIEFFEU Puppet Theatre helped give me an idea of just how strong Borgo Bello’s sense of community is. Before, I was thinking that it might be a stretch to envision so many people coming together for the terrace party at the end of the semester, but now I have more faith in the kind, generous people of this community.

Like we briefly brainstormed on Friday, I also think that asking community businesses to participate and provide food in exchange for some publicity and getting their name out there will be a successful tactic. Perhaps even more so than for publicity, I think people are more inclined to help if they believe in the cause and the stories behind this project. I hope explaining our intentions for the project when we ask for their participation will motivate them to join in.

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