First Community Meeting

Last week we went to Borgo Bello to the puppet studio to meet with about 15 community members from Borgo Bello. It was nice to be introduced to some of them and at least see the faces of the people we’ll being working with in the coming months. I enjoyed helping present the brainstorming our class had done, but found it hard to engage with the discussion that followed. At least 75% of the community members who were present spoke up during the discussion which I found very encouraging. It meant that there was some level of democratic process involved in their decision making. What I found discouraging however, was how disorganized the discussion felt: everyone seemed to be speaking over each other which made the space inaccessible for more soft-spoken folks. In the future meetings I would like to see more structure and respect for listening rather than being heard.

I am excited to read the minutes from the meeting though, I think once we review some of the things the community is excited about being involved in we’ll have a better idea of where and how to start on our own small projects. I think we’re getting closer to starting and am grateful that we get to see that a majority of the work of community building and Placemaking is the planning.

17028708_10212642111553481_2074494761_n Congratulations on your graduation to Vincenzo!!

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Community Plans for Action

This past Wednesday we attended the community meeting that proposed a “Plan of Action” for the terrace, with the main objective of creating obtainable goals for the terrace in the upcoming months as well as having an idea for possible long term usage. Prior to the meeting, we prepared our proposals/ideas in a grid like diagram which was designed so that community members could add their input and propose different solutions.

Something that I noticed during the meeting was the interest level of those attending. Everyone there seemed to be invested in the neighborhood and invested in making the terrace a positive community space. Despite my limited italian speaking abilities, I was able to understand various proposals for the terrace; ideas that covered issues of lighting, accessibility, and the parking lot. It seemed that our ideas were a great launch board for conversation. It soon became evident that people were excited and committed to fixing the terrace.

Going over the notes from the discussion, I agree that there are certain actions that must be done (urgently) before we can really implement our ideas. One of which is cleaning the terrace and re-establishing it as a place worth seeing and worth visiting. While we are cleaning the terrace, creating planters, and building arches, I also think establishing any sort of relationship with City Hall would be beneficial. The indifference and absence of the city administration was noted at the meeting, and there was a proposal to start a proposal-plan/call for action/petition of sorts; however, I feel that it would be in the community’s best interest to start creating/developing/sustaining a relationship with the city as soon as possible just because it takes time for administrations to mobilize. While plans/actions are in process for the terrace (ie. cleaning, building furniture), Borgo Bello can approach the city and show them the progress that a grassroots organization has made, showing the commitment of the neighborhood and the incentive for the city to become involved.  I’m looking forward to seeing the terrace transform!

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Community Meeting

This past Wednesday we met with some of the head people in the community to help us with the Terrace del Cortone. We put our suggestions for the terrace in a grid like visual to help conceptualize and display our ideas as well as easily add any suggestions for the terrace’s future. A few class members bravely took it upon themselves to speak to the community members in Italian, while Vincenzo offered a very passionate and detailed description of the problems and several of our thoughtful solutions. The problems being as we said before: limited visibility/awareness, the parking lot, lack of maintenance, limited seating (which effects use) lack of diversity in ages ands groups that use the space, safety/perceived safety problems, etc.. After stating the problems and some of our possible solutions: including signage, an entry way, etc.. The community members were quick and enthusiastic with their own ideas as well as what they could contribute/ do for and with the space. Some of these ideas involved a monthly clean up every first Sunday, as well as solar powered lights, and some kind of greenery leading to the space. They were excited with the entry way as well as with the idea of more seating.. but were wary about the new furniture being stolen… so that is still something we will have to brainstorm more about. The meeting overall seemed to go over very well, the class ideas seemed to excite everyone and everything they were coming up with was inventive and insightful.. definitely beneficial to the terrace. The next step for the class is to solidify our plans; what we can do in the next few months and get our hands dirty.

The picture featured I stole from Vincenzo’s fb ;)16903579_1586489758028661_5287985582203024150_o1

Salva

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Plans for the Future

I am proud to be able to work with such a great community. From being able to visit a school and collaborate with children to having an upcoming meeting with locals. I think Borgo Bello works so hard to be involved in our projects and better their neighborhood. The meeting coming up this Wednesday is a great opportunity to involve the people and make specific improvements that benefits everyone. It will also be helpful to hear what the community would like us to incorporate into our project. I think we need to present our main objective for the terrace and then let the community build upon our own goals. This way we are motivated to do a project we want with the community’s insight in mind. This also helps to accomplish our goals but to help shape this place into a place the community can also enjoy. This is an important aspect in making this terrace project successful. As the class has read doing a project is more successful when you have local knowledge and partnership. I think it is a great step in making the terrace an everyday place and to open it up for events. If we all work together this can be a place where families and friends can gather to enjoy a living room with a view.

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Involving Children

Last weeks trip to Borgo XX Giugno Elementary School was extremely eye opening to me. I have not had a lot of experience with little kids, and to see their ideas and thoughts was incredible. Although these kids can’t even read yet, their concept of Peace is profound. Each kid had their own take on the meaning and how to make it into a reality. I was completely blown away by the kids aptitude and understanding of the world. I think the Kaki Tree Project is a very cool way for children to be involved with their community, promote environmental studies and sustainability, and the world’s history with violence and destruction. It exposes these children to hard topics at such a young age, which will help build a more peaceful future.

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The visit helped me see that this terrace can do the same thing as the Kaki Project. The terrace has the potential to create a peaceful community space, not just for the Borgo Bello but Perugia as a whole. Jane Jacobs took a wide range approach at placemaking and proposed that it could change the nature of public space. She felt that if the community was involved, that it would be successful. If we were able to incorporate these children into the terrace, I think it would be a successful project. I think if our class can pull off adding their drawings into the furniture, they would have a reason to go to the terrace. Then when they grow up and the terrace has become a solidified part of the community, they will be able to connect with it for the rest of their lives. The terrace cannot be integrated into the community, the community must integrate into the terrace.

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Involving Children

We discussed more of Jane Jacobs’ work in class on Tuesday about children and their usage of parks. She really went into great detail about how dangerous parks are for children. She spoke of gangs, violence and in some cases even death. To me, this was heartbreaking to read because parks are made for children and should always be a safe place for children to play and have a chance to be kids. Today’s parks are designed so much better than they were before, this is because people began to realize this trend and wanted to change the “stigma” of parks. Parks are now more specialized, for example the park I grew up with has a basketball court, a tennis court, a baseball field, a trail and a playground area. I grew up in a safe suburb outside of Pittsburgh, so I never experienced any of the violence that parks had to offer. This could be because I was never alone when I went to the park or maybe I was even too young to realize.

We also touched on the fact that in this day and age parks are potentially coming extinct. Kids would rather sit inside and play with some sort of technological device than go to a park and run around. Kids are sometimes even forced to go outside and this is sad. I think this is the perfect reason to have a place for kids to play on the terrace. As I was walking through the town of Borgo Bello, I noticed that there wasn’t exactly a place where children could play. Grass isn’t as common here as it is in the United States (from what I have seen). The terrace is the perfect place for kids to have a little free space to play that’s away from any busy streets.

On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to visit a class of first graders at the local elementary school. I had so much fun! Even though I usually could not understand a word these adorable children were saying, Vincenzo was there to translate every word for us! (Thanks Vincenzo!) At first, I found it a little strange that these first graders were learning about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaski. When I was in first grade nothing about war was ever mentioned, but the more I thought of it I was impressed by how much they knew at such a young age. They’re actually learning such a valuable lesson about peace and positive relationships that kids all over the world should also learn about. The Kaki project is a great way to teach kids these lessons and even to get them involved within the community. My favorite comment from one of the students was when he said that kids don’t make wars, adults do! These kids were inspiring! They had such a positive outlook on the world. Truly insightful!

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Planning for the Terrace

The reading for last week really emphasized that as place makers nothing is fixed, and that the project is really at the mercy of the community, the commitment, officials, and the budget. Placemaking like life is a system it works because of networks… networks are made by and for people and create an extra set of eyes as Jane Jacobs is so fond of saying. This section also emphasized the importance of participation, and although it can be chaotic and take a lot of time it is essential to the process. Participation adds a democratic aspect as well as transparency, and it allows a guide for people in managing the process of the project. People can compromise, and design with each other instead of the administration or people not familiar with the space to design for the people. In regards to our particular project the process and main plan has already been created and is in progress, therefore, our job is to keep the process going and to talk with the community to see what they think is most important for us to accomplish this semester. We will be having a meeting with a select few the 22nd to go over the plans and keep our engagement with the community.  Some of the suggests we have for the terrace that will be mentioned in the meeting involve seating, lighting, new ground surfacing, maintenance, signage to direct, ways to make the space multi-user/all age friendly… as well as keep our goals realistic and feasible for the short amount of time we have. Therefore, everything mentioned above will have to be dealt with eventually, however, a few of the previous suggests will be our main targeted focus. This meeting will allow us to see where the community is, and to gain as many insights as possible in order to come to the best conclusion for this semester’s plans.

In order to be more involved with the community the class visited an elementary school class and talked about peace, looked at drawings the kids made, and talked about the Kaki Tree Project. I was unfortunately not able to make it, but from the pictures I have seen and the other blog posts I have read, the meeting was very well enjoyed by both parties and that hopefully more integration and working together will occur.. as well as possible incorporation of the children’s artwork with the terrace and/or the potential for the terrace space to be  for children. th

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Our Visions for the Terrace

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This past week we had an important conversation about our specific visions for the Terrace moving forward. We brainstormed a list of things that are priority actions to accomplish during this semester. We took time to acknowledge that this list is preliminary and that ultimately it will be the needs and abilities of the community which decide what work gets accomplished in the coming months and years. Some of the items we focused on were:

  • More & suitable seating
  • Improved lighting
  • Creating a visible & accessible
  • Continued maintenance & promotion

The seating problem is simple enough, there should be more seating in the area of the terrace which is weather proof, moveable but theft-resistant and is accessible for all people. We could construct similar structures to the existing bleachers out of repurposed wood and using the tools in the shop. This project seems very achievable because the construction plans already exist for the bleachers. Designing and constructing another set of moveable seating may be a challenge, but if our group divides into smaller groups, with community members, based on interest I think we have both and time and capability to complete this project.

We had a short conversation about possible lighting solutions. One student raised the idea of using solar lighting, and it was general consensus that whatever lighting was, it should be aesthetically pleasing and creative- something other than spotlights or simple willowlightarchstreetlights to illuminate the space. We all liked the idea that the 2015 Placemakers recommended with the multi-purpose lighting which not only draws attention to the space from far away (a large skyline shaped light installation) as well as filling the terrace with much needed lighting after the sunsets. There are two road blocks here- supplying sufficient electricity to the lighting systems, and designing the installation. Lastly, we spoke about incorporating some large lighted trellises at the two entrances of the terrace in order to show visitors how to access the space.

When we were having smaller group conversations last week one of the things that my group brought up with making the route to the terrace more visible and accessible. We painted-footprints-27497521were brainstorming ways to do this, remembering visits to zoos or museums where we would follow brightly painted foot prints of animals down paths toward the destination. We talked about incorporating lighting into this as well, through the use of lighted figures on the route to the terrace (temporarily attached to the walls of the alley).

Lastly, I think the most important item on our agenda in the coming weeks will be devising a  maintenance plan for the terrace. Even in the low-use season we’re in now, there are still issues of waste and over growth. Hopefully working with our friends in the community we’ll be able to develop a maintenance schedule that does not burden the community, but instead promotes responsible use of the shared space.

 

 

 

 

 

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Children in the Streets

Our class discussion preceding the elementary school posed a number of thoughts, ideas, and potential ways in which places for children (in cities) can be improved. We learned from Jacobs that children prefer the streets, though it’s not necessarily the safest place for them. I remember hearing Prof say that a number of children were hit by cars when this transition into the streets first took place in the 1960’s. Gradually we have grown to keep an eye out for children in the streets, which is actually a reason why they may feel safer today than at a park that doesn’t have eyes on the street. The mentality is “If something bad happens, there will be someone here to see it / stop it.” As Jacobs mentions in the readings, this could be why some children feel “cocky” on the streets.

We had the opportunity to visit the elementary school last Thursday and it was an absolute blast. The children were so fun to be around, but it was so interesting to hear what they thought about the Kaki tree and what it represented. Their genuine thoughts of positivity, unity, and purpose aligned with ours on a broader scale and I found that absolutely fascinating. I think the Kaki tree may also provide a “safe place” for them as well. Not only will it be aesthetically pleasing, but the kids who decide to go there may be able to bond over the same thing which could potentially enhance relationships and create a better sense of community and global awareness between children. unnamed-1

(Sorry for stealing this photo, I really like it and I can’t remember who took all of them!)

After having the time to reflect on some of these things, I found my way back to the terrace and some potential ideas for it. I hope that children will find their way to the terrace and feel the same sense of “cockiness” when they decide to make it their own stomping ground. I guess the main question is, “what can we provide the kids to make them feel this way?”

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Participatory Design: What Children Can Teach Us

Last class we discussed Jane Jacobs’ chapter on the influence of sidewalks and children. In short, her argument centered on the need for streets/sidewalks to serve as places to play and in doing so are not only vital to the maintenance of the city, but to the growth of children, as well. The discussion then led into the topic of participatory design. How do planners account for the needs/wants of the people of a city? Who are they designing for? What are their goals?

The main objective of participatory design, then, is include multiple points of view; a mix of academia and locals. Planning should ultimately create a sense of belonging and community and by broadening the accessibility to the process itself, it helps to create this sense of community. The Kaki Tree Project that the students of Borgo XX Giugno Elementary School are participating in is an example of community participation, albeit not necessarily design. Unfortunately I was unable to be a part of the workshop with the children, but from what I’ve gathered the day went very well as the children showed their work and visions for the project. I think their enthusiasm for the project highlights the meaning of participatory planning; they are excited to create something in the community not just for those who live here in Perugia, but through this project they become a part of a global community.

 

I think the community aspect of participatory design is important in that it creates a sense of equality between planners and community members and attempts to create a sense of transparency. I mention the idea of transparency again in this entry because I’ve found that it’s important to create a feeling of mutual trust and mutual respect any time there’s an “administration” involved in a project. Participatory design, then, is a step toward achieving this and in doing so creates less conflicts between parties and (hopefully) a lasting and sustainable result.

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