Anirban Adhya’s chapter in Jane Jacobs and the Theory of Placemaking in Debates of Sustainable Urbanism highlights the importance of community participation and local knowledge in tandem with professional knowledge in the process of urban planning. Professional knowledge alone is isolating in that it does not necessarily reflect the needs or wants of a community and fails to connect the “spatial understanding of the city and the social experience of the city” (219). What Jacobs instead expresses is the need to understand cities as experienced by those who live in them. In other words, urban planning should involve people and their experiences to the places in which they care about and live.
The tour of the San Pietro community garden on the grounds of the Agricultural school is the very application of Jacobs’ thinking. A place of learning for both students and the greater community, the garden is a love of labor. The garden, although rather quiet this time of year, is part greenhouse, part workshop, and part field showing the breadth of community in Borgo Bello. Community members are welcome to come during allotted hours and despite the weather, some came during our visit.
While the rain dampened our plans to clean and paint the terrace, it gave us the chance to tour the San Pietro church and other parts of the school. The church was simply stunning, as the intricate designs and details of the artwork demanded your attention. We all were impressed (and perhaps amused) by the painting that featured the face of a demon. What a clever and cunning artist! Perhaps what I seemed most impressed by was the nativity scene created by the priest. His enthusiasm, creativity, and detail for the project seems to highlight the placemaking mentality of creating something beautiful for the community. He was so happy to show us the display (which unfortunately was in the process of being taken down) and explain his creative process; which to me, shows not only his but the larger community’s desire to connect with one another. His willingness to show us something beautiful helped make us feel a part of the experience he created.
The tour of the grounds proved to be educational not only in terms of the history of the school and the agricultural processes, but in the sense of how a community can create a sense of belonging and a sense of identity. The garden is a place where individuals can interact with their environment but also with their neighbors and together can create something of value.