Childhood’s Gate

As part of growing up, children learn how to interact and play with each other on the playground. However, there comes a time when learning becomes more important and prevalent in youth, and less time is spent on the playground, while more time is spent in the classroom. I feel that there needs to be more places where children can still interact with each other in a playground atmosphere, but learn and be educated at the same time. This would create happiness and well-being. One place that encompasses my belief is the Childhood’s Gate children’s garden at the Penn State Arboretum. Here there are structural features, art, and special elements that enrich the learning environment for younger kids, all taking place in this uniquely designed garden.

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When you approach the gate you see a lot of vibrant colors and water to greet you at the garden entrance. It is a sort of transformative passage between two pools filled with water lilies and beneath a translucent canopy that casts shadows of yellow, orange, and green. The name of the garden is special because it echoes the lyrics of the Penn State alma mater. The Childhood’s Gate Entry Court welcomes families and school classes with a dynamic water feature and stone structures that showcase Pennsylvania. The childrens garden includes entrance pools, bedrock boulders, transformation canopy, Spring basin, flowers, stone benches, rock planters, and much more. This learning environment allows youth participation in agriculture, and is the prefect learning space under the sun. Hands on learning techniques prove to be better for children, and when you can implement these techniques into outdoor settings , or welcoming places, the results are great. Placemaking is important to society, and allows us to make designed areas for people to interact with other humans, with nature, etc. Since learning about placemaking, I am able to think back and see how the arboretum does a great job at promoting a special space. Its easiest to understand how children interact with placemaking through some of the features in the restoration site. In the garden there are many learning features:

Harvest Garden beds in Central Valley

Central Valley introduces visitors to historical patterns of land use by featuring a child-scale prairie; huts made of woven willow that simulate a Susquehannock encampment; and contemporary vegetable garden beds, along with a greenhouse. An old-fashioned farm pump invites children to learn how to draw water from a well. A small amphitheater and Aspen Story Circle offer venues for presentations, musical performances, and more.

Limestone Cave

Limestone Cave features a colony of bronze bat sculptures, and even a secret passageway. In this playful space, children can explore important features of our limestone valleys. Elements such as an elevated sinkhole through which water falls into the Limestone Cave also provides occasions for important science lessons.

Two larger-than-life fossil sculptures

At the fossil gap, children learn about the plants and animals that lived in Pennsylvania hundreds of millions of years ago and can identify key developments in the evolution of plants. The sculptures create circular spaces intended for both group and individual reading.

Glass House and Harvest Gardens

The glass house is surrounded by vegetable gardens and is a space for children to engage in cultivation. A sod-roofed tool shed, hand pumps, and space to make scarecrows, plant seedlings, carve pumpkins, and harvest flowers and vegetables is provided. The glass house includes books and workstations for creating community engagement.

Mushroom grouping near Discovery Tree

Mushroom hollow is one of the most interesting pieces of the garden because it is actually used by adults. The University’s leaders in the fields of forestry and mycology have helped to guide the design of this space, which recreates the woodland environment of the mountains surrounding Nittany Valley. Visitors can explore the trees, mushrooms, sitting and art spaces here, and learn about the intensive research done by Penn Stater’s. The tree stumps are taken from our native forest so it is really cool!

Discovery Tree in Mushroom Hollow

Lastly, in the mushroom hollow there is the discovery tree. The hollowed-out stump is a discovery space inviting children to explore its interior. Attached to the inside wall is a musical instrument, and children can peek outside through several holes in the sides. Extending out from the tree is a large root, under which visitors can pass. There is also a sound tube, and a sun dial nearby. This promotes a interesting learning space.

These spaces make up a very small portion of the 400 acre restoration site we call the Arboretum. The arboretum’s mission is to design a safe and sustainable environment that promotes learning, relaxing, and peace. Students at the school come to walk through the botanic gardens to have picnics on the event lawn, watch the sunset, or just to pass sometime between there classes. Placemaking is seen here as it inspires older and younger students, creates potential for plant preservation, and is a public space that promote people’s happiness and well being. Hopefully some of these cool features allow you to see just how humans can interact with with public spaces in a unique way.

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Overlook Pavilion

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This City Vs. Mine

Something that I have struggled with a lot since coming here is the difference between Perugia and the cities at home that I’m used to. The biggest struggle has been the difference of transportation. At home, in the New Jersey/New York area, there are many viable options for traveling. Though they can be disorganized and slightly unreliable, there is always an accessible way to get where you need to be. I find that here, it’s much harder to get to and from Perugia, or even get around Perugia itself. The mini-metro closes at 9 pm, even though places are open much later than that here. Last weekend, I was traveling home from Barcelona, and the train and bus options from Rome to here were really limited. There was only one for both modes of transport. In Barcelona itself, it was no problem to get around the entire city using their metro system.

I started to think about why these traveling options may be limited, and I begun to realize that Perugia is a smaller and more modest city than the ones I’m used to. Travel is much easier in cities such as Rome, London, and Barcelona. I chose Perugia for it’s quaintness, so I begun to have an appreciation for the fact that there’s not large and busy modes of transportation (such as the subway stations that crowd NYC). The limited access helps to maintain Perugia’s charm.

However, in observing it through a placemaking lense, I think there should be more thought put into Perugia’s transportation. People in Italy are barely eating dinner at 9 o’clock. If life is still happening, the mini-metro should be open later to help it’s citizens get around the rest of the city.

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Safer with Children – By: Kristen Palardy

Something we have mentioned in class a lot is how children make the place. Whenever you see children around an area you assume it is a safe space with limitless opportunities. As we have mentioned this topic many times in class, I haven’t really thought about the fact that I have seen so many less children in Europe compared to the United States. In Perugia it is understandable because it is heavily a working class and college town, but the other large cities I have travelled to (Barcelona, Florence, Rome) have all seemed to have even less children.

When travelling to these large cities, I was warned multiple times to watch out for my personal belongings and to keep everything in a purse across my body. Even in Perugia I often hear this warning, but when I’m travelling along the roads and I do see children returning from school, this is the last thought in my mind. In the other cities I travelled to, seeing a group of children together was rare, as most children were with their families, and even these disappeared from the streets as the sun began to set. This definitely contributed to a certain feeling of uneasiness between my friends and I at certain times, and rightfully so. While in Barcelona, my friends phone was stolen while we were at dinner, and while in Rome, my phone was stolen at the Trevi Fountain. I am not saying that children being absent from these situations contributed to our stolen belongings, but there seems to be at least a slight correlation. A space will always feel safer when children are close by.

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La Rambla in Barcelona
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Transportation In Paris

This past weekend I made my way to Paris (Brooke and I happened to go at the same time). I had to return to Perugia on my own since I travel with my friends from home and they did not have class on Mondays. So on Sunday, I began my travels at noon. Their subway was extensive, allowing us to move faster than an uber would move us from our Airbnb to the Eiffel tower. There was no cost to transfer to their regional trains allowing access to both Orly and Charlies De Gaulle airport. Then a driverless tram transported people from the regional train to the airport I was going towards. The infrastructure was designed for distance travel for a city that only had a few skyscrapers (one which was a tragic site to see in such a beautiful city). I believe I travel into an area that you could call a suburb on my way out of the city in Antony South of Paris. The buildings never seemed to pass 12 stories unlike when taking the train out of New York where the Bronx, Yonkers, and Mt. Vernon have tall buildings spastically spread out. The sprawl into suburbs felt less defined as the whole city seemed to never seemed to gain much hight in their buildings and urban capacity.

The Paris Metro. I was able to travel from the Couronnes stop on the Line 2 blue to the Antony station, then Orly airport in an hour and ten minutes.
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City Feels

One thing that I have observed since being in Italy is that I have not really felt any culture shock, which I was warned about getting. I thought that I would get to these new cities and feel overwhelmed or out of place, but I have not reacted that way. The biggest cities I have been to have been Rome, Barcelona, etc. In all honesty, the touristy attractions are the only things that make me realize where I actually am. The city itself tho feels familiar to me. I almost feel as if I am back home and spending a weekend in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, etc. This is because of a few different things I have learned about in placemaking. First, I observe the people when I get to these new cities. Where I am from I am used to meeting and watching people from all over the world visit the melting pot and the city of brotherly love. I already am exposed to cultural differences and have been forced to develop cross cultural literacy from a younger age. Not understanding things because of language barriers is not something that intimidates me in the slightest bit. As a result, I go about navigating these large areas and destinations similarly to how I would back in the United States. The next thing I think about is food. When we go people watching you can see people eating different types of food and eating them in different locations from parks, centers, benches, etc. This is no different then being in Barcelona or Rome. People from different parts of the world still enjoy eating ice cream or gelato outside on a nice bench under the sun with their friends, just like me. People also still like eating the quesadillas or their pizza slices on their way to the station, mall, store etc, just like me when I am in NYC or Philly. The third thing I notice is the locations of big stores and designer shops. In NYC, there are certainly fashion stores both higher end and lower quality. Seeing the variety of stores open and available for the large demographic of people with different consumer spending habits is something I am used too. So I was shocked to see how very similar these European cities are to the U.S. After learning about people watching, sidewalks which I talked about in  my last blog, and building height representing power or importance of locations, I thought to myself placemaking has made cities all over the world similar, despite being so different at the same time. There are plenty of things that make you aware of whether or not you are in Italy, Spain, or Germany, but from a pure placemaking perspective I truly do not think cities at least the developed ones are all that different. Lastly, I though about why this observation I have made exists. I think it has to do with natural human interactions, preferences, etc. For example, we talked about comfortable sitting spaces and how it is more comfortable to sit watching in than to be in the middle and being watched. Also, humans want to have variety so when they see unique restaurants and clothing stores, they are satisfied. Spanish, Italian, and American people are all people when you break it down, so its not a surprise that we react the same way to structure. The connection I have made is  although cities and places become more complex over time, basic needs, preferences, and interactions between humans remains similar in most spots, so its no wonder cities cater these needs, and as a result seem so similar to each other.

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Paris for the Weekend and Individuality in Cities

Paris was one of the cities that I was most excited to travel to when I first confirmed that I would be studying abroad.  And this weekend, I checked all of the typical “touristy” Parisian destinations off the list.  I had a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, walked down the Champs Elysee, and saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.  I had an amazing time and felt so lucky to be able to spend a few days there.  However, I was really surprised that often I felt like I could have been in New York City any other big city in the United States.  Other than the language difference, in some of the areas farther from the tourist attractions, I felt like I could have been anywhere.  I think when I was looking forward to traveling to Paris so much, I thought I would feel different, when really I just felt like I was in a big city.  The same thing could be said for Milan, where when you walked away from the Duomo and main square, I felt like I could have been in any metropolitan area.  

My trips to these cities and this class have made me think about placemaking and designing cities in a whole new way.  I think that in the process of placemaking it is really interesting to consider ways to make cities unique and feel connected to their history and culture instead of just creating more generic commercial spaces.  I don’t know exactly how it would work but my travels around Europe so far this semester has made this something that I am really interested in thinking more about.  When placemaking, not only should we think about what the city needs, we also should consider ways to honor, preserve, and contribute to the culture of the specific place.  Of course these big cities need to have commercial places but it would be interesting to think about how to make it feel like it fits into the city.  This also goes into the idea of gentrification that is happening so frequently in the United States.  As development continues, places are losing what makes them special and residents are then being boxed out of their cities and are starting to be more apathetic towards them because they don’t feel connected to them.  We have talked so much about how important it is to have the citizens of a community care about it and I think that this idea may be another way to be respectful to the residents of the community and increase their connection to place as well.

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Green Spaces and the Mind

After touring the agricultural facilities at the university here in Perugia, I thought about some of the similarities and differences between the College of Agriculture at Penn State University. The first observation I made was the difference in size. Simply because I go to a larger school, endowments and such investments allow for my campus to have several facilities. For example, on campus there are greenhouse and plant growth facilities, research centers, air quality learning/demonstration center, botanic gardens, agricultural/biological engineering labs, etc. The list goes on. My favorite space however is our Arboretum, a 400 acre restoration site with beautiful gardens, wildflower trails, event lawns, and more! Similarly in Perugia, there is a smaller park near the facolta di agraria which has a beautiful open space that is surrounded by trees on both sides, and has a little fountain in the middle with fish in it. At my school back at home, it is tyoical to go th Penn State Berkey Creamery, and walk through the arboretum on a nice day with an ice cream cone. Here, it isn’t much different. I bought my gelato, and enjoyed the nature that this city has to offer, What I noticed when I was walking around is that people feel more comfortable in nature doing fun and random activities. For example, two people were sparring and practicing for boxing outside, while another woman was painting a picture of the fountain. Green spaces to me are more than just conservation sites that promote sustainability and environmentally friendly practices. I see green spaces as a place to find clarity, a better state of mind, peace, and tranquility. The design of the park I went to encloses you in the middle of trees, hills, and flowers, so you can’t see whats going on in the fast paced center of the city. This is meant to make you feel like you are a part of the nature.

At my school’s arboretum, I go there to get away from a busy week filled with extra curricular, classes, projects, etc. I never really thought about what nature allows people to think about until I did some people watching in the park after learning techniques in placemaking. People who sit inside a building in their free time can surely relax, but they are most likely on their phones taking a quick break from work or school. When you decide to position yourself in nature, you do not see many people on their phones. What I saw were people sitting quietly on benches taking in the fresh air, the sounds of the birds, and the trees as the wind moved the branches around. Obviously through my studies and knowledge of our increasingly complex world in regards to agriculture and sustainability, I am not the only person to tell you that its a great idea to maintain green spaces. But now, I think another justification exists, which is simply that it heals people. Green spaces do more than conserve the environment, they conserve people’s positive sense of mind.

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Participatory Memory

One of the most critical processes used in Placemaking is participatory planning. It involves using the knowledge and participation of the local community in the planning process of new spaces. Recently I have been discussing elementary education, specifically focusing around food and agriculture. Participatory planning, I believe, could be pushed even further as a concept. While planning is important, participatory education is another concept that could be considered under the same umbrella.

One of the most memorable parts of my education growing up was camping at a local farm and working there to learn the effort that goes in to producing food. Focusing in food and agriculture, as I plan out the focus of the rest of my life, has helped me realize the lack of education surrounding this subject. Participatory education, which would involve both children working on a farm or building a garden, as well as including the people who actually produce the food, such as farmers, inside and outside of the classroom would accomplish this. I think reshaping the way we think about participation within the sphere of education is really important for the present position of children, but also impactful for their future. To ingrain the idea of participation as a two way street between yourself and others who should be involved would help increase social inclusion for our future.

Maple Sugar Lessons with the Farmer
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Drastic Impact of a Cul-de-sac – By: Kristen Palardy

This reading has showed how necessary children are in the creation of a successful place. If a place is deemed safe and entertaining enough for children, then parents, siblings, grandparents, babysitters and their friends will also be drawn to the place. However, when children are taken out of the equation, there are less opportunities for communities to come together.

The neighborhood I grew up in was initially a connecting street for the towns’ main road. There were sidewalks, a small park, and many families with young children on my residential street, but there was rarely anyone outside on the road because of how busy it was; same as this text states “traffic is the principal impediment to their [children] use of city spaces” (228). The text also states how streets become more populated by finding ways to slow the vehicles (228). A few years after we moved into my childhood home, they decided to turn the one end of the street into a cul-de-sac, so it no longer connected to the towns’ busy main road. They also added several speed bumps and a median at the entrance to warn cars that it was now a dead end and they had to slow down or turn around. It was not long after that my parents felt safe letting us practice riding our bikes down to the cul-de-sac, which became the new hub for the kids of the neighborhood. It started to be used as the place for barbeques and other community events; and families who had lived next to each other for years changed from being acquaintances to friends.

As a child, the development of this place never really occurred to me until I considered how different my life would have been growing up if that street never changed. Even though I do not live there anymore, I still keep in contact with multiple friends and I even continue to babysit for one of the families. I enjoy knowing that I was one of the pioneer (of sorts) children that discovered the possibilities this neighborhood had once safety hazards were no longer of concern.

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Urban Play – Curtis Brown

The freedom to play without supervision was something I hadn’t put much thought into until reading this article. I grew up in the suburbs of Portland Maine, with the iconic white picket fence (photo could sadly not be found). Ever since I could remember, I was playing on our sidewalk. My small neighborhood consisted of five streets bordered by the main street and a public school enclosing the area. This creates a low traffic safe space that only had a few kids. This allowed my parents to let me run around the neighborhood without fear. All the neighbors knew who I was since I was one of the four kids in the area, so the area was covered in “eyes” to watch me as I biked around or walked to school alone.
Years later when I visited New York City in college, I saw a very interesting. Schools were flanked by armed guards and playgrounds had fences. Children seemed to have military-level protection. I felt trapped simply seeing how the children had to interact within the city. Long past were the idealistic days of playing in the New York streets the way I had communicated with my own home. Adults have so much fear in them today, that they will not allow their children to interact with the street and learn their neighborhood. This took away their “social interaction in their community [which allows] children to acquire the knowledge, rules, and principals who make the world go around” Simon Nicholson writes; having the chance to be alone and make my own mistakes like hurting myself or getting lost without parental attention taught me how to work on my own.
Many sections of Italy have small streets which don’t seem like natural spaces to play on for children. My opinion may also be skewed seeing as I observe tourist areas more often than local districts. At the end of the Children and City Design paper, it points towards a few aspects that make a city more “child-friendly.” Mixed use, mixed users was interesting from an urban planning standpoint since so many American cities are attempting to gain more mixed-use areas due to the massive success it sees in many European cities. It would also create more social areas, allowing kids to have a “safer” space in the minds of many adults.

Summer, The Lower East Side.
Gated Playgrounds
Portland Maine Neighborhood

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