We did something really original last time we join Placemaking class, something I consider even “out of the box”. Working in pairs, we had to observe Piazza IV Novembre from different points of view and notice certain things in particular, such us which place we chose to exanimate, how many people were passing by, how did they get to that place, who were they, what they were doing at moment…and so on. The most us were sitting in the stairs of Palazzo dei Priori. Time-limit: just five minutes, anyway it was quite easy to handle. And it’s really impressive how many details you can get if you choose to be an observer as if you were a sort of magnifying glass, no matter how much time you have or, on the contrary, how long it takes to do that.
If you pay attention on details, for instance, you can understand why mothers are not so willing to let their children play and have fun in what is probably regarded as the core of Perugia town’s centre. Maybe they feel a little uncomfortable letting kids run, while cars are coming and going from the streets. Maybe they prefer a safer area or maybe something more similar to a playground. Here again the safe issue, something a placemaker usually chooses to work on. In the meantime you discover another element which is crucial: the time of the day. A place tend to change completely every passing hour. Our little experiment was taken at 17:45 more or less, which was good for us because that is usually the moment when the town-centre is crowded (so we were more challenged). Students are coming back home from university, some shop owners are getting ready to leave, some friends are just hanging out, tourists are already looking for some restaurants to have dinner… So what if the observation was taken during midday or at 15.00? How many things would change? And focusing on people perception: would the place look different? Sure it would, but actually you don’t really think about it. More, while I was watching people moving around, a thing I red from Jacob’s writing came to my mind: the activity generated by people draw the attention of other people. Sometimes we think we can find more people in a big city like Rome or NY just because of “demographic reasons” but let’s think about how many passers-by you can count in a small town like Perugia because of other reasons, less technical. The truth is that tourists get curious to hunt down new places to visit because they see other tourists going there. So this is something I noticed during the experiment.
To sum up, I believe this kind of activities point out what we usually take for granted or consider meaningless. Instead I feel like saying that is exactly what our “task” is about:get whatever you can, studying it and then try to improve it if necessary. At least this is basically what I think.