Going into this class, I was unsure as to what to expect. I was familiar with the concept of place– the geographic, biological, hydrological, and human-constructed characteristic of a specific location– but was less familiar with the actual attempt at the making of a place. The idea that a place can be made (rather than just spontaneously occur) is of great interest to me, and I look forwards to exploring how the making of a place can occur.
What I liked about our readings from this week was the amount of intentionality involved in placemaking. In particular, I appreciated the way the reading stressed meeting a community where it was, and starting to build a plan from there, with lots of input from the community. In other words, peacemaking recognizes that a “one-size-fits-all” approach towards the creation of public spaces will fail, as it fails to recognize what each specific community requires.
As I strolled around Borgo Bello with my classmates, it was interesting to see the marks that placemaking had left on the neighborhood. There are the newer marks (those made by the Borgo Bello Association and Umbra students) and there are the older marks (those placemaking attempts from hundreds of years ago); both sets of marks were based off of the communities needs. A great example of one of the older peacemaking attempts is the neighborhood well, located directly in front of the church. Whomever it was that decided to put the well here did so with at least some degree of intentionality. For the past inhabitants of Borgo Bello, the collision of two of their basic needs–water and God– in the same place would have inevitably spurned socialization as they quenched two of their thirsts.
After seeing the well, I began looking for other places where water was a feature, both as a utility and as a social meeting place; I found the former, but not the latter. On one of the side streets we turned off on, there was a derelict water spigot that produced cold, clear and sweet water when turned on (I tried it). However, the spigot and its facade were noticeably forgotten and unkempt. Is there a way we could possibly recreate the same social scene that once occurred with the well, but here at this spigot? Would it be practical, realistic and useful to do so? Such questions have been spinning around my head, and I look forward to discussing them with the community leaders and those at Umbra.