Ordinary People Doing Wonderful Things

A few weeks ago we had our flash mob. It was a disgusting day but our flashmob was very fun. At first, I felt silly wearing green overalls in the middle of the city and banging two pieces of bamboo together. But once we got comfortable with making noises and all it wasn’t silly at all.

In fact, the “crazier” we looked and sounded the more attention we got. Many locals stopped and asked what we were there for. I noticed that every person that walked by gladly took a flyer and read it as the walked away. I thought this was interesting because back at home in the states, if someone is trying to give you a flyer you don’t even look at them. When we were by the university of foreigners, I noticed one person who did just that. They walked right past us and did not acknowledge us. Then as they walked a few steps ahead they turned around and it was an American umbra student. Once they saw we were also from umbra they turned around and talked.

I think that is interesting because it shows that the Perugia community is very invested. We took a break and went into a bar and many people there asked why we were dressed like farmers in a bar and they were so interested in what we had to say. I really liked that because every person we talked to was so different than the last, tattoos, young, old, put-together, you name it. Everyone was so, almost, proud of us.

It was nice to get out and interact with the community. My favorite part of the flashmob was the olive tree in the wheel barrow with all of our handmade wind chimes. I liked it because it is like a preview of what the park is soon to look like. It was important that we used an olive tree because it represents peace and friendship.

Jane Jacobs says “ordinary people are capable of doing wonderful things”. I think that this quote perfectly explains our flashmob. We were just ordinary students but every ounce of hard work that we put into the community brings us that much closer to make a wonderful big impact.

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REACH for the Light at the end of the Tunnel

For my midterm I wrote about a program back at home called REACH. It is a program that allowed kids in high school to hang out with kids younger than them. It gave the opportunity to for the older kids to not only teach the younger kids but to learn from the younger kids as well.

I mentioned how Placemaking had inspired me to create a few ideas that could change the program for the better. As I was writing this paper I never thought I would actually follow through with these plans but after the workshop from last class, I might just have to

I say this because once you are in the actual process of creating something to better the community it allows you to see the “light at the end of the tunnel”. I am not saying that Parc Sant’Angelo is in a dark place, but it certainly has not reached its true potential. As we worked with Marcello I realized how much of a precise process this was going to be. He talked about the golden ratio and the important role it had in building the wind harp. I couldn’t help but learning about the golden rule in math class and think “when am I ever going to use this”.

I am excited to see the end result of this project. I know that we started the chair reaction and it is now in the hands of the kids who take peacemaking next semester. Maybe then the park will reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

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Place-making at Home

In my midterm, I discussed the Farm at Stonehill and proposed an initiative that would directly advance the mission of the farm: providing organic food to our neighbors who do not have access to affordable produce. I want to continue with this plan to plant community gardens at our community partners’ locations so they can not only get fresh produce but also learn to grow it themselves. Fred Kent in his, ‘“Why true neighborhood building requires the dedication of a few ‘zealous nuts’” he describes the value a neighborhood brings to individual members of the community and the importance of the space in that neighborhood. The space in a neighborhood, whether it is a road, park, or even a vacant lot, is necessary to connect everyone in their communities. Kent writes “a neighborhood can only reach its fullest potential when everyone who lives, works, and plays there feels welcome to contribute to the life of its public space.” As much as the farm is there to help by providing food to these impoverished communities, they themselves are our greatest resource. I want to use the spaces in their residences to find an individual approach to encouraging the community to grow their own food. 

 However, before I can do this, I need support. The first step to getting that support will be on campus. First I would reach out to my boss, Bridget the Farm Director. From there, she can direct me to other contacts that might be interested in helping. Among them, I would guess, would be Professore Wetzel who is the department chair for interdisciplinary studies. The project’s needs include students in all areas of study since it requires diverse knowledge and set of skills to accomplish. Professor Wetzel would know which faculty would be interested in including this project into their course work. The second person that would be important to talk to is Brittany Lorgeree, the head of the community engagement program. Brittany will be a huge help because she is in charge of organizing all the volunteers for different service organizations all over campus including the farm. For this project, she will be vital because of her position of outreach to the student body. We will probably rely on her for marketing and volunteer coordinating. Lastly, I know our contact John Badot, Assistant Director of Trades for our facilities management on campus will be necessary to the facilitation of our projects specifically for materials and transportation. John is very involved with the Farm at Stonehill. He is always there to help when we need projects that are over our skill level. He is also in a high up position so he will be able to make decisions in our favor. I am hoping he can grant us permission to collect and upcycle materials to make the community gardens and he can secure transportation for those materials and tools we need on the days of the markets and workshops.

Engaging these communities will require much work and organization on my part, but I am not alone. I have the help of faculty, staff, and the neighborhoods themselves to accomplish this project. “Jane Jacobs and the Theory of Placemaking in Debates of Sustainable Urbanism,” author Adhya supports Jane Jacobs’s philosophy of placemaking over the common learned practice of community developers. In the words Adhya, “for planners to learn to acknowledge and work with emotions within the long-term project of intercultural co-existence.” As long as I remember the value of diversity of ideas and people included in the project, I believe planting community gardens at our community partners’ locations will be a success. 

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Inspiration at Parco Sant’Angelo

For this weeks assignment in placemaking, our class was asked to visit Parco Sant’Angelo. At the park we were to walk around and observe, and then take photos of points of attraction of the park, as well as of areas that we have a vision for in order to bring the park to life.

Although it was a rainy day when I visited, I still found inspiration in many of the locations of the park, where I began to take notes on ideas for these areas. In turn, I created some sketches on top of real life photos of locations of the park.

I entered the park from a side route, which is the first entrance off of Corso Garibaldi. Here, I found that there was not any indication that there was a park ahead. I find that indicating that there is a park would be greatly beneficial, as a reason that the park is so empty is because of the lack of awareness it has in the community. With this thought, I found a spot near the entrance that could hold a sign for the park.

A large, brightly colored sign like this drawing could attract people from a further distance away, as well as let people know what they are walking into. This encourages engagement with the park and spreads awareness of the park as a whole.

The next spot I had ideas for was the benches that are permanently placed in the ground throughout the park.

In class, there were ideas going around about creating a map of the park. If these maps were created, I thought that the benches could be possible landmarks as to where the person is located in the park in relation to the map. These benches could have brightly colored signs with numbers to indicate where on the map the person is located.

The next location I had ideas for was the stadium area of the park. This is a large area with stage room and a large amount of seating, suitable for concerts, plays, and performances of all sorts.

I found that a removable stage could be great for this location. Here, people of the community, most importantly children, could put on performances.

In addition to the stage, I began to think about the seating arrangement in this stadium. The cement steps did not seem very comfortable for the public, so I began to brainstorm ideas for a possible solution.

I though that removable cushions could be a possible solution to the seating in this area. Making the seating more comfortable would bring more people to want to sit here to watch performances or even just to relax and take in the park. My only criticism of this idea is the possibility that the cushions would be lost or stolen. A possible solution to this is creating signs to instill the necessity to respect the resources that are being given to the park.

My last idea I had on this exploration had to do with the trashcans. During the park cleanup that our class participated in, I found that the park was not being respected on a littering aspect, as we filled many bags up with assorted trash that was strewn about the park.

A possible solution to this could be the addition of signs on all of the trashcans. These signs could be bright and playful with beautiful art or catchy sayings that hopefully steer people away from littering around the park.

As a conclusion to this blog, I would like to ask you, the reader: Which of these ideas stands out most to you and why? Which seems the most realistic and necessary?

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A Second Snoop-About – By Nicole Flohr

On Friday, Casey and I went back to the park to take pictures and brainstorm.

Again, I thought about the need to draw attention to the park entrances on the street. Perhaps we could create a map to put under the sign, or paint the view from the park to entice people to enter.

Once we entered the park, Casey and I found a map. However, it was the only one we saw in the park (the only other one had graffiti covering all the information). More signs and maps could be attached to the many lampposts within the park.

Finally, we thought about the class’ wind chime idea. The olive tree grove could be a good area to hang the wind chimes long term. But, for our winter wonderland event, we could use the wind chimes, lights, and decorations to indicate a path from the street to the amphitheater, where the festivities could take place. But, the concrete path to the amphitheater is a concern, because (especially with the leaves) the uneven and broken path could be dangerous.

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People Watching in the Piazza

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

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

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

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

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Parco Sant’Angelo Clean Up

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

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

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

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

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

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A Playground Transported

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Breath of Fresh Air

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

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

Camp I worked at at home

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

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

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What is More Dangerous? The Sidewalk or the Internet?

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

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

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

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


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