Deeper in the Neighborhood

Last Friday we went to Borgo Bello in order to meet Professor David Grohmann. According to the original schedule we should have gone to the Agriculture Department for a little tour of the activities they do inside and then, once cut and shaped a piece of wood needed for our work and grabbed some useful tools, we should have moved to the terrace. Unfortunately the unpredictable weather didn’t allow us to respect our plans and so we decided to enjoy a full visit of the structure that hosts the Agriculture Department.

We started visiting the greenhouse in which several kinds of plants and flowers are researched (for example they research the best ways to do grafts). Right out the greenhouse there is a little garden with vegetables and various species of trees such as olive trees and kaki trees (which still have to grow).

Professor Grohmann told us there is a project called “Kaki tree project” created by a Japanese association; there is a lovely story behind that: in 1945 a kaki tree survived the atomic bombardment and so the association sends free kaki seeds to the children of the world asking them to take care and create something with this beautiful plant. As they wrote on the site of the project (http://kakitreeproject.com/english/) “Art cultivates the imagination to help us feel others’ pain and creativity to build a new world. It goes beyond borders, religion, race and even language, and helps us feel sympathy for each other”. Also the goal is to use those plants in an urban context promoting an ecological approach of the public spaces as suggested by Anirban Adhya in the article “Jane Jacobs and the Theory of Placemaking in Debates of Sustainable Urbanism”; as Jane Jacobs wrote in her works, an ecological point of view is the best to choose because it starts with a bottom-up process (that means it starts with the citizens, which in our case are the kids), it used naturalistic elements (the kaki trees) and has a deep meaning expressed through art (the empathy and the knowledge of the pain suffered by people during the war). This links together at least three of the five fundamental pillars of life Mrs Jacobs found: education, science and culture (the other two are family and government). It also connects two of the three systems involved in the development of sustainable urbanism which are the natural system and the human system (the third is the economic system).

After that, we had lunch with some of the finest sandwiches you can find in Perugia made by the guys at “La Bottega”. Once finished to having lunch, we started cutting and sanding a piece of wood we have to use in our work at the terrace; a special mention goes to Maggie and Helen who showed us their skills in carpentry. Then, when we realized that the rain was not going to stop, we changed our plan and went for a wonderful tour of the structure. All those beautiful cloisters, the magnificent church (and the really nice priest inside that proudly showed us his complex creations of the nativity scene!) as wells as the medieval garden, full of symbols related to alchemy, are all aspects of a place in which a lot of different activities are going on and growing involving the community of Borgo Bello starting, for example, from schools.

Later we moved to the Teatro di Figura and, during the way, we stopped in a pub called T-train. The owner offered us some cups of tea (a really good tea!) and we explored a bit the place. Here you can buy or listen to cds or vinyls of any genre. Once out, we had the chance of visiting Via del Deposito, which is a back alley where former students of our course found a wonderful solution to promote the alley and bring light in it (keeping an eye on the city!). That back lane is the street in which the futurist painter Gerardo Dottori was born. Their work had and continues to have a huge impact on the tourists and also on the local people demonstrating how, according to the PPS (Project for Public Spaces), Placemaking is “both a overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood” and its goal is to promote people’s happiness through the use of several components. The point is that Placemaking is something that belongs to everyone and it has to be a common approach to best achieve its goals. The works made in Via del Deposito and Via Fiorenzuola gave the opportunity to improve the neighborhood involving different people, with different ages and different ideas and needs but making them feel like a unique community that, even with different personal needs, were moved by only one objective: the re-appropriation of the place they live/work in; that happened through the link created by art and nature and, most important in my opinion, they considered themselves as a community not only when the work in those lanes was finished, but while they were doing it together. This is the strength of Placemaking.

When we arrived to the theatre, we found people were rehearsing and so we moved on to the terrace for a quick look before going home. What a wonderful experience!

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