Where are the children?

A common trend we have seen through this course so far is how to develop spaces for all kinds of people. We have met with farmers, activists, city officials and local residences to address what should be done with the Parco Sant’Angleo. However, we have neglected to include a target audience in the discussion: the Italian youth.

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The illustration above is a drawing done by one of the children present at the park clean up we participated in. As one can see, she did not desire to turn the park entirely into a giant play area. Rather, she wanted many of the same things we (the adults) did. As a child, however, her ideas and contributions would not be taken seriously. We mainly regard kids as innocent and naive. Their answers to solutions may be ridiculous, and this is reflected in modern city planning and urban design. The readings have demonstrated that kids are disappearing from the city landscape and are misrepresented. The data show that children do not want large isolated play areas, but instead prefer open, natural, multi-functional zones. But we think we know better. We use the claim that safety is top priority in order to plan cities the way adults wish to use them: fenced-in schools to keep kids away from the street, dismantling playgrounds to safeguard from broken bones and bruises. But in doing so we are limiting imagination and removing risk-taking from each child’s development. It mitigates physical well being as well as emotional.

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The picture above is a new-age playground in the UK that has been deemed as “safe.” And one would be right to think so at first glance. However, in this setting a child cannot be child. They cannot climb, dangle, flip, spin, etc. So could youth-orientated architecture like this really be considered child friendly.

This is something I wish I had thought about during our neighborhood meeting last week. We all got to speak up on what we would like to see in the park. Even we, the students who will most likely never see this city again post-December got to way in. But the youth, who seemed to be the target audience for the park, were not involved in the decision making process. No child was there to say what they think would make the park better. And yet we all were appalled by the playground and wanted it fixed immediately for the kids. It’s our responsibility as Placemakers to make a room for all people. This includes the ones whose future we are constantly fighting for.

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Give the Children What They Want – Kim Hernandez

This week’s assigned readings recall memories from my own childhood. I think about how the children interviewed for the proactive process would now be my age or even my older brother’s age. I suppose that not much has changed: children still value diversity, equity, and the trust of those who are older and hold power in society. 

Growing up in a suburban area, my mother would hardly ever let me play in the street where cars often go by. I cherish the memories of playing in my backyard or large open parks. Sometimes, these places come back in my dreams, and I realize that I can hardly recall being a child in spaces that weren’t conducive to letting me adventure and have fun with my friends. Like the children in Bologna, I wanted my hometown to have spaces within my immediate vicinity to play, but my mother was overly cautious about letting me do so. The children’s manifesto emphasizes the need for children to gain the trust of their elders, and including them in the participatory process of community development is one way to do so. The reading makes a good point about how children are the first to suffer when streets are not build to accommodate their needs and development. 

Growing up, I would spend my summers with my godparents in Mexico who were more relaxed and trusting of me. They had a large home on the outskirts of the city, but also had a large ranch in the countryside. Both were spaces where I could let my imagination run wild, and where I had the most autonomy to meet other children. My brother and I always had permission to go out and explore because the neighborhood and the countryside were places with wide streets, few cars, and open green spaces. In the countryside, my brother and I would venture out for what felt like miles to where we could see burnt trees standing in the distance, and we would tell stories about what the trees looked like from a distance. We did not need much to entertain ourselves, but we still had fun. 

Last semester, I volunteered at a children’s summer camp and helped clean up the space for the summer season. We cleared old leaves and swept the cabins so the children would have a safe place to sleep and play. Signs like these empower the kids who stay at the camp, and emphasize their ownership of the space.
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What About the Kids?

Clean up and pot-luck of Parco Sant’Angelo

Last Thursday night, our placemaking class held a workshop regarding the revamping of Parco Sant’Angelo, where community members could drop in and share their opinions of the park and what needs to be improved. One of the activities we participated in was sharing your opinion of which of the 6 projects that were mapped out were most important to you. After this exercise, it was evident that one of the most important projects was the restoration of the children’s play area.

This thought got me thinking about this weeks readings, regarding children’s participation in cities. In the first reading, Children and City Design: Proactive Process and the “Renewal” of Childhood, Francis and Lorenzo explore the culture of childhood in this day and age and how it impacts children’s participation in cities.

It was stated that there has been a change in childhood, where it has become less child-centered and more controlled by adults. This then has lead to a lack of children’s exploration of streets, parks, or natural areas. In turn, the ability to incoroporate children’s participation in city planning has become compromised.

The play area of Parco Sant’Angelo seems to be neglected, and one of the projects that people found to be important was the restoration of this play area. This neglect may be in result of this change in childhood, where children are going outside and exploring less and less as the years go on.

If this area was to be improved, it could also in turn improve children’s participation in the neighborhood. This area could be a great attraction for families, and would have the ability to encourage children to explore the city and nature that surrounds them.

Another project that seemed to be important to people was the creation of a garden in the park. This project could improve children’s participation in the park as well, as it could bring families in and get children excited about nature and how to care for it. Giving children a sense of responsibility in caring for a garden helps them develop, as well as keeps them as an active member of the park.

Looking back at all of the choices of projects to improve the park, I personally believe that the ones that improve children’s participation would be the most beneficial to the development of this park. Children will bring life back to this area, and it would be incredible to bring families to this park and get children excited again about being outdoors, rather than being indoors using technology.

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Perfect Parks

Throughout this semester, I’ve been thinking about an article I read in my human geography class last year called Between places and flows: towards a new agenda for neighbourhood research in an age of mobility (Van Kempfen & Wissink) that explores the decreasing importance of physical neighborhoods, and suggests instead that communities are more significantly shaped by the family, schools, work places, and digital “neighborhoods” such as social media. My experience growing up in Roanoke, VA somewhat supports this new understanding of neighborhood. While we are friendly with some of our neighbors, overall, we do not have a very walkable street (steep and no sidewalks.  In the past fifteen years, we’ve gotten maybe one trick-or-treater. We usually have to drive to social events.

Being involved in Sant’Angelo, I was surprised by how traditional the neighborhood was (eyes on the street Jane-Jacobs Style) and how there was an active association (maybe we have these at home, too?). Even though the trend is to move away from a less geographically-grounded neighborhood, I think there is much value in trying to my not just your home, but your street, a welcoming community place. I’m also remembering that evidence of traditional neighborhoods do still exist in the US. Take 

Take for example my grandparent’s home in Roanoke just ten minutes away and Nana’s house in Farmingdale NY. Both live in quiet, flat neighborhoods with a wide range of ages. At my grandparent’s house in Roanoke, we always play football in the street after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s much more fun than being in the yard. By playing in the street, the street that connects the different houses becomes a place rather than just a connecting piece of asphalt.

In Farmingdale, NY, my nana’s street is also a safe place. There are sidewalks and evidence of people watchers. Last year when my family was visiting, we had to call the fire department because the oven was releasing a suspicious odor (oil from frying two massive batches of struffeli turned out to be the culprit). The best part was watching her neighbor run outside to witness the scene. His expression of disbelieving excitement made you think it was Christmas! (I guess technically it was the Christmas season.) Furthermore, Nana’s house has a park around the corner that my dad used to hang out in when he was a kid. My siblings and I loved the unconventional equipment: a wooden train, big blue slide, comfortable baby swings. I admit we were sad when they renovated the park to include brand-new equipment. It’s safe and meets the safety standards, but do kids still have as much fun, as much room for imagination on standardized equipment? These updates certainly show place-making efforts in which the neighborhood actively maintains the park and creates a safe place for children to play. But I wonder what role (if any) kids had in designing the new equipment? It will be interesting to discuss in class, but on first impression the romantic or proactive approach resonate most with me. Listening to the needs and desires of children will help us create a space that truly promotes a sustainable future.  

Since building the playground seems like a possible first step for Parco Sant’Angelo, let’s make sure to get input from kids. What would their dream playground look like? How can we make that a reality? Are there other playgrounds in Perugia that model an ideal/non-ideal play space?

My favorite park by Nana’s house. This image shows some of the old equipment. (Credit: google maps)
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My Vision for our Project and the Park – By Nicole Flohr

Friday was the first of our official community workshops. After the great turnout at the informal park clean-up and community potluck, I was a little disappointed by how few people came. However, I think the people that did come were enthusiastic and voiced good ideas.

To me, the priority and interest activity highlighted two main projects: the kiosk and the playground. I voted for these two as well, but have some concerns about each.

The community really desires a simple food stand in the park, with the hope that it will draw people in. I agree that this could be a good idea, but worry that initially the kiosk would not be used and therefore would not be profitable. If people don’t use the park now, why would they go just for a food kiosk, when there are plenty of food options available on the street? Therefore, I think the revitalization of the park must occur before a kiosk is established, or the kiosk should only be open for special events.

I think an improved playground could bring families to the park. Whenever I have gone to the temple at the end of Corso Garibaldi, there have been families with young children on the lawn. Giving these families a place to play could really bring new life into the park. However, a playground is a large investment and must be made with quality materials. This project isn’t suitable for us as a Placemaking class, but I think the community associations should prioritize it.

So what can we do as a Placemaking class? I think we should start small and try to raise awareness of the park within the community. My first idea is to paint a map or a picture of the view by the street signs pointing to the park. This would disturb community complacency and make people take notice of the park signs, which are almost hidden on the street.

park sign

It’s easy to miss the park sign, but a painting underneath would draw people’s attention!

My second idea is to host a paint night event in the park. Community members could create their own artwork which is then displayed around the park. Perhaps they could even paint the maps/views I mentioned before.

At the workshop someone mentioned all the musical instrument museums. Another event could bring music to the park, sponsored by the museums. This would be good publicity for both the park and the museums.

Overall, I think what we need to do is something that actively draws people into the park. If people do not know about this wonderful green space right under their noses and all the efforts being made to improve it, they will never use it or the kiosk/playground/relax area/etc, which would be an absolute shame.

 

 

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Comparing Spaces

I could not find my place-making map, so this is my rough sketch!

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On Wednesday, October 9th around 3 o’clock, I sat in Piazza IV Novembre and observed the activity of the shops and the people to see how it related to the concepts of place-making that we have been learning in class so far. Last week we learned that a busy street makes a plaza. After doing our assignment on people-watching in Piazza IV Novembre I now know how true that is. Most of the movement of traffic on the streets was walking towards the piazza asserting it’s place as the city center. The busiest spaces within this area were the streets, however. People gathered on the sides at cafes or stopped at the outdoor seating at restaurants, and traffic even slowed down at the beginning of the piazza near the clothing store where people were window shopping. This supports the place-making theory that busy streets attract people which in turn, creates busy Plaza’s. The next busy section of the piazza where the stairs, which act informal seating that allows people to spend time and gather together in the square. People were either there alone or in groups. Some people were on the phone or others were having a smoke and talking. A few young girls were eating gelato and looking off into the street together. These were the same activities I saw occurring on the stairs opposite to the one on the main cathedral. In one of Jacob’s writings, she said that a place must promote social interaction. Although I did not see strangers interacting there were several groups on the stairs on sitting at restaurants and cafes that were there to socialize and the space provided them with a place to do it. Lastly, there were areas in the piazza with only a small amount of people. Of course, like any major city, we have learned that people stop in the middle of traffic and have a conversation. This is still true for Perugia, there was a large group of people stopped at the mouth of Corso Vanucci flooding into Perugia. Likewise, there were some people who were along sitting on the side of the fountain which is usually reserved for the overflow when the steps or too crowded or as a point for people to meet up and walk together to their next destination. There were also small clusters of two-three people either taking pictures or wandering around in the middle of the square which can be found no matter what time of day it is. These less popular areas are important because it shows that the piazza brings people to space not even just for its shops or its stairs but for the whole atmosphere as well. 

This weekend I went to Foligno and decided to people watch on their main square, Piazza Repubblica to see how their smaller, lesser-known city, compares to Perugia. This was done on Sunday at noon so the city was already less busy, and fewer shops were open. The only places that there were a lot of people were at the major cafe in the square and at the restaurant on the side road that leads to the square. It was as if people were latching to the activity of eating food together while they were there. The next busiest section was the stairs that led to the Catherdral in the square. There, people smoked together, chatted, or sat alone. There were also many people walking through and looking around to see the piazza and move on. This felt completely different from Piazza IV Novembre because there was not a lot going on the square so people did not stay and gather in the square and the people who did stay in the square left after a short time. I believe that this relates to the busy street argument from before. Because there were not a lot of stores open at this time of the day, there was much less to do, which kept people from staying and spending time in the piazza. Overall, the elements of place-making such as having lots of food options and crowded seating to promote the interaction needed for a good place are exhibited in the differences between the center square in Foligno verses Perugia. 

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Placemaking through People Watching

This week our assignment was to watch the Piazza and see how people used/navigated through the space. I decided to sit on the steps of the Duomo, it offered a clear viewing point and helped me blend in so as to not look suspicious. I mapped the area early Sunday evening and what I found was quite interesting.

I quickly discovered that the Piazza has quite a few unspoken rules. The green arrows indicate traffic flow through the circle. People navigate the Piazza by following the perimeter, and after a quick glance if becomes obvious that space closer to the fountain becomes more taboo to stand in. There is an exception for taking pictures, but no one seemed to sit at the actually fountain. Most people avoided the large pockets indicated in blue on the map. They preferred to sit on either the steps of the Notary of of Duomo. I did not realize how abnormal this was until when a few individuals (mainly elderly people/ shaded in squares and triangles) stopped in front of the fountain. It felt wrong to me. I remember the way I felt standing next to the fountain on the first day, being so close it seemed to give off a sign of being a tourist. I found it strange at how powerful this feeling was though, that only after spending a short amount of time in the city that I was able to understand an innate rule of the local people.

The pocket indicated on the steps of Duomo is the stairway leading into the church. I found it interesting that regardless of how crowded the steps were, many people chose to stand rather than occupy the entry way. It was not until after the church was closed that people moved into sitting in that area. A courtesy like this would be hard to come by in America. Most Americans will find a space and monopolize on it while they can, whereas Italians seem to view public areas as more communal and temporary. To them, the Piazza is a space that anyone can use at anytime, rather than how Americans view their space as a private sector in the a public setting. It was also fascinating to notice how many older people were up walking or standing while many younger people (empty triangles and squares) sat on the steps or off to the side of the Piazza.

Overall, I think doing this assignment was an excellent practice for future placemaking projects. IT is good to be able to understand a space and how people will naturally use. This is dependent on the architecture and the public mindset. However, I don’t think that my findings are extremely accurate. I observed a 10 minute window in the early evening on a weekend. I’m sure the Piazza would operate very differently on a Saturday night or a Wednesday morning. I kept remembering how Ray & Viviana told us this during our Borog Sant’Angelo snoop about. You have to try and understand the whole picture and not just assume based one encounter. This will be useful to remember as we begin to work in the park of Borgo Sant’Angelo.

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People Watching

My roommate and I got our usual gelato and headed for the steps. It was Monday night and the air had a nip to it. As we approached the steps I noticed that it was very quiet, maybe because to was a Monday night maybe because it was fairly cold compared to previous nights. We picked a spot high up on the stairs.

As we sat an ate our gelato an Italian man and woman sat a healthy distance infant of us. We were trying to figure out their relation to each other. They were sitting very close. I noticed that the woman did not have a ring on her left hand so they most likely were not married. Their conversation seemed to be surface level. Neither laughed or seemed to enjoy the others company. But their body language was very close proximity to each other.

It was interesting to see this pair give off contradicting signals that neither confirmed nor denied if they were together or not. It is hard to tell one’s relationship status here because everyone is much more personable than back int the states. A perfect example is how people great each other with two kisses to the cheek. It is a much more personable way to greet each other than in the states.

I think this relates to peacemaking because how the people interact with each other creates the feel for the city. For example by sitting on the steps for a few minutes I saw that people interact in a very close proximity and that does not mean they are dating etc. The culture of the city is shaped by the people that it is made up of.

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Place and People Watching – Kim Hernandez

This Sunday I sat on the steps of the church and observed the activity of the piazza at various points of the day. I sat on the steps at noon, and watched as tours circled around the fountains. I returned in the late afternoon, and saw Italian youths/preteens meet up with their friends. I ended the night people-watching in the piazza around 11 PM, and noticed that there were hardly any people out compared to how many there were in the morning. 

Small 2 minute time-lapse of the piazza.

During the daytime, there were consistent trends of how people of different age groups use the space. Older people stick to the periphery, unless they are part of tours around the city and will spread out around the piazza. Younger people tend to have a presence around the entire piazza, with groups congregating on the steps or seated outside cafes. These general traffic patterns hold true for their respective age groups, with preteens usually passing through, and older groups of people lingering for more time in the piazza. 

Since I sat out on a Sunday, Corso Vannucci was more crowded than it usually is, seeing as the national museums are free on the first Sunday of the month. More people were out during the daytime when it was sunnier, and they usually stayed on Corso Vannucci in front of the shops and restaurants there. At night, there were fewer people out, probably because it is the chilliest part of the day. 

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Glimpses Into the Lives of Others

On one of the warmer evenings of recent days, the sky was bright blue with barely any clouds in the sky. The temperature was sitting roughly around 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was easy to pick out those individuals who were not originally from this region, who were maybe more acclimated to lower temperatures. These individuals had on a light sweater at most, whereas there were others with hefty jackets on, shivering from the wind.

Needless to say, sitting out in the Piazza IV Novembre on an October evening at 5:45, in the middle of the week, there was an interesting mix of people out and about. I saw students sitting on the steps, some enjoying cold gelato, and some not so much. The people walking around clearly lived in the area. Whether or not they were originally born here was another question. This brought to mind the notion of strangers and residents that Jane Jacobs has written about. What happens when strangers become residents? The coexistence between the two is vital for a city to be successful, and in an open, central place such as Piazza IV Novembre, it is easy to see these two entities working together.

There wasn’t as much of a separation between foreign students and local residents as I had assumed there would be. Shopkeepers and baristas were chatting amicably with people walking by, and there were less tourists clogging up the main walkway, making it easy for people to go about their business.

I saw people traversing the same routes that I take every day, stopping into the same bars, sitting on the same steps. This Piazza has the characteristics of what make a space, a place, good. Although the outskirts are privatized, the steps are open to all, and people do gather there. That is something that I noticed on my first night here. It becomes a mosh-posh of people from all over, coming together over food and drink. I see the signs of a successful city in Perugia, and I see that the role that tourists play does not overpower the role that residents play, and I appreciate that.

I think if the weather had been warmer, more people would have been crowding the Piazza, but as temperatures drop, it will be interesting to see how the city adapts, where individuals decide to gather, and which place calls people in.

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