Great Minds Think… By: Shelby Goode

What is it about the Borgo Bello Neighborhood that captivates the community members of so many to dedicate their time and energy to making this space a place that can be open and utilized by all. As a student studying abroad in Perugia for only a few short months it didn’t take me long to see the passion that is placed in this community. From the School of Agriculture, the skilled architects, to the puppet master, and the passionate people from the rest of the community and throughout Perugia, Borgo Bello is definitely a place that reflects the cross-connections and perspectives of many.

 

How is it that such a large neighborhood and group of people can work alongside each other to create proposals and make a change? From what I have observed it is the many personalities, backgrounds, ideas, and connections made that have improved the neighborhood and made it the place it is today. Something that stuck with me on our class trip to the School of Architecture and the Puppet Shop was that a good project requires the attention and skills of many masters, leaders, followers, and people from all backgrounds. These backgrounds should not only be from people of different careers, but experiences, age, and etc. and more. As we got to meet all of those who have worked so hard to create a utilized space in the streets of Borgo Bello I witnessed how important it is first hand to have participatory engagement in community projects.

 

Rather than having one leader, the people who are working to make the terrace and neighborhood a space used by all have collaborated and brought something different to the project. This project with the various people who have added character and implemented structure to Borgo Bello are why I believe that great minds actually think very different with their ability to bring so many perspectives and experiences to a community project.

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A new “Cortone” by Tania Cerquiglini

While I was reading “Children and City Design” by Mark Francis and Ray Lorenzo, my attention was focused on the importance of accessibility as one of the requirements for better city places. In particular I’ve been impresssed by the Dutch word “woonerf” that literally means “living street” or “shared space”. It is an urban planning strategy to moderate automobile traffic in residential streets and allows cars, bikes and pedestrians to share space. I had heard this concept because last year I lived for six months  in a small belgian town called Leuven. In Flanders this method is very common. I remember a special place called Pater Damiaanplein that was invested by a fascinating process of placemaking that involved not only the neighborhood but also scholls close on the square. Before the renewal, each side of this small square was full of parking lots and it was not busy. The common primary intention was to give back the square to pedestrians and to eliminate parking. The community place decorated the zone with benches, trees and also a volleyball court. What characterizes this square are the painted zebra crossing and the decoration on the road pavement. Now this square is full of colors and collective joy, in which young and old people are finally included. During my weekly participatory observation, this time at Via del Cortone I couldn’t see anyone walking or stopping in that little square. I figured it was normal. It’s hard to spend some time in a place surrounded by full parking lots. Also for me has always been a place to cross. I really haven’t been looking around. One of the meaning of ” Cortone” is “wide court” where in the past, “chickens roamed and children played”. It might be a good idea to reclaim this meaning, to restrict the provision of parcking space and to give it back to children or to the elderly. I hope that one day, it will become a place where people will want to stay, to sit, to spend a little time to enjoy the beauty of the city.

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Growing up is overrated

There is so much pressure on kids to “Grow Up” once they reach a certain age. To stop playing, focus on a career, and prepare for the future. However, some would argue that children are much more creative, inspired and determined than compared to adults. I believe it and think there is so much we can learn from kids and how they play.

Being able to go out and observe Carnivale was an amazing experience. It was so much fun and not only because I was participating in an amazingly new cultural experience but because I witnessed people at their truest state. Many were dressed up in whacky costumes, singing, dancing and throwing confetti without a care. Everyone got to be a kid again. The stress of abundant responsibilities one takes on as an adult sucks that sense of play out of us and makes adults think they must act, talk, and dress in a certain way. A way we may not even enjoy. This is so important to remember while placemaking, that as adults we simply don’t have the imagination of a child and have to pay attention to the critiques of children. They may say something ridiculous like furniture made out of ice cream but they also may say something eye-opening.

I have a younger sister who is nine years old and may be the smartest person I know. While I am still young I have forgotten exactly what it’s like to be a child and many times I have caught myself saying “You’ll understand when you’re older”. She will quickly respond, with some sass, that she is old enough and it makes me realize how much we overcomplicate things as adults. I have learned that I can ask her for important advice and she will be brutally honest with me. Her opinion can sometimes be exactly what I needed to hear regardless of whether I like it or not. For the Salotto con Visto, I believe kids thought of a play area they would like with a rock wall and a soft padded area. That may not be completely possible but its important to watch how children use the space as a whole to gain a better understanding of how it can be used. Children think in a completely different way, in a way that is perfect for creating a place where people of all ages can gather to enjoy each other’s company and the area in which they live.

 

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Child Friendly Places

What makes a place a place? How does a space become a place?

 

From a visitor’s perspective, the Borgo Bello neighborhood has excellent potential to become a place for the community. The terrace has the advantage of being excluded from traffic with an awestruck view of Perugia. Traffic is seen as a barrier to children as increased natural elements is more desirable for them. However, the parking lot is a distraction. The terrace follows the qualities of city design for children such as accessibility, mixed use/users, sociability, small/feasible, and natural. Child friendly places are attractive for children as well as adults. Roger Hart argues, “I do not want children as a separate society. We are trying to prepare children to be participating members of society…the movement should be about children’s rights to have a voice with adults” (Hart, 1997). I agree with Hart because children help bring the community together with active participation and creativity. Creative ideas and cohesive activity from the community will transform the space into a child friendly place.

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Food, Simple.

 

As I began to think about places that I found successful, I always find myself drawn back to Austin because, in my opinion, Austin is a city full of effective and wonderful public spaces. The biggest thing that Austin uses to its advantage is nature and the natural progression of the city. The city is built around water and this offers plenty of public spaces that are green and lush, which is vital especially because Austin can get sweltering in the summer. While these public spaces are incredibly important, I’m not sure if you can consider them plaza’s like those described by William White. However, I do see this in the existence of food trucks all throughout Austin.

This trend began first with Sno Beach, a roaming snow code trailer that served snow cones all over the city. They utilized plazas that were open and available, but generally unused. Once SnoBeach started having success with this business model, which Austinites exploring the city looking for the giant purple snow cone topped truck, other food places started following suit. Restaurants bought food truck trailers and began teaming up in unused or abandoned plazas, bringing with them tables, food, music and most of all, people. It is a miracle how much change can come from just adding one element.

There is a large field of mostly, almost all, dead grass near my childhood house. It was overgrown, ugly and really only used as a way to cut through the woods to get between my high school and small shopping center across the highway where kids would eat lunch. One day, we found the field was occupied by a hamburger trailer. Then came tacos, pita bread, vegan restaurants and so much more. Not, when I go back to Austin, this is one of the places my parents always want to go. Now there are tables, a playscape and even a big sign labeling the collection of food The Midway. The Midway is just one of the many places where food, just one ingredient in the puzzle, brings people into a plaza and makes it worth being a part of. Sometimes, it is simple, just a snow cone on a hot summer’s day.

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Everyone’s a Kid at Mardi Gras by Amy Mullowney

Adults are unaware of the importance of play. We don’t value it, and don’t see it as an important part of learning.
– “Go Play in the Streets”

While Corso Vannucci is not the main spot for children to gather and play, one often sees families strolling by or resting for a while by the fountain while their children play around them.

The readings on “Children and City Design” and “Go Play in the Streets” made me think of last Tuesday during the Mardi Gras parade in the main street. It was a special opportunity for our class to be able to not only observe, but to be a part of the celebration. I saw more children out for the parade than I’ve ever seen out on the street before. Even the adults were acting as playful as children—singing and dancing and smiling ear-to-ear as they threw (and pelted) confetti.

I thought the readings were very interesting because I hear the term “family friendly” quite often but I’ve never thought about if a city was “child friendly.” Accessibility, mixed uses, sociability, flexible, and natural are some of the qualities of inclusive design efforts. These characteristics are important when considering city design not only for children, but for elderly and disabled people.

I agree that fostering creative, independent play in children (and adults) is an answer to innovation in the workplace. I also think that part of the fun of playing as a child is rebelling: ergo, playing in the street. I’m not sure, however,  if I agree that children have lost a street sense and city knowledge. I do agree that our generation relied more on parents to drive them places, set up play dates, etc. versus my parents’ generation that practically roamed free; their parents’ only instructions some days: “go play outside!” I also think the overprotectiveness verses carefree parenting styles cycles generationally, as we adapt to the current events and safety issues of the day.

 

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What Makes a Place a Place? By: Shelby Goode

What makes a place a place? After a few weeks in our Placemaking class I could name a few aspects that makes a place desirable. The people, businesses, seating, location, convenience, aesthetic, and accessibility are just some of the considerations when creating a place that attracts other people to spend their time.

After observing the terrace in the Borgo Bello neighborhood one afternoon, I did some thinking about how we could make even more improvements to this space we want to turn in to a place known throughout Perugia for its scenic view, location to shops, and relaxing atmosphere. It takes a variety of dedicated people to make an empty space a place utilized by the community.

In class as we discussed the issues of lighting and use by drug dealers, it came to my attention that in order to change the atmosphere and utilization of a place it takes more than just a group of dedicated persons. It additionally requires a change in the mindset of the community. This can be one of the most difficult tasks when recreating a place to be a spot of attraction by visitors and the community.

In going forward with our class and thinking of ideas to continue the expanded use of the terrace in Borgo Bello, we not only have to consider the mindset of the community at large but take in to consideration our perspective as visitors. Never before did I think about the collection and construction of populating main cities, piazzas, streets, neighborhoods, etc. but it can be complex and difficult.

I strongly believe in reflection being one of the key aspects to projects of Placemaking. Being able to critique your actions, learning from mistakes, and moving forward with expansive plans for a better future is what I think makes a place a place. Listening to what others say and ensuring that various voices are considered are what transforms empty spaces into populated, business filled, aesthetic, and accessible places. The terrace seems to have come so far, but reflection is just as important. Hopefully by the end of this year we will be able to reflect on the work we complete and allow the next semester of students to build on the projects we built on as well.

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Applications of William White in Perugia, Italy

William White began the Street Life Project in 1971; the purpose was to research the social interactions which transpire in public spaces, and publish these findings within a comprehensive text. The project quickly grew however, and studies were conducted within various areas of several large cities around the world. White was fascinated by simple street interactions, or “rituals” between ordinary individuals in cities, and was able to observe similar behaviors among individuals in various cultures. Much of what he had published in the first few chapters of “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” can be applied to various locations; I chose to relate it to my temporary home, the city of Perugia, Italy.

White continually elaborated on his idea that some city spaces “work” for people, and others simply do not. His studies focused upon various areas of New York City, and why some areas — like streets — were incredibly crowded, while others — like parks and playgrounds — were not. He observed that oftentimes, the streets served as play areas for many young children; they also had a tendency to contain the basic elements which are essential for a successful public space (like transportation, food, etc.). The areas which contained a variety of uses were more likely to be crowded than other, less useful, areas. Particularly, I found his discussion of city plaza utilization to be particularly relevant to what I have witnessed in terms of public space in the city center of Perugia.

White stated that in the early 1960’s, New York City provided incentives to builders who provided plazas along with their buildings. While some plazas attracted multitudes of people all day, some were only busy during certain times of day, and others were not very active at all. Largely, the presence of amenities played a key role in determining the “success” of a plaza, as well its relation to streets, as “A good plaza starts at a street corner” (White, 1980).

Piazza IV Novembre is an excellent example of a successful plaza, or piazza. It is not located on a street corner, rather, it is situated between a series of roads and main pedestrian walkways. Thus, there is always some form of heavy traffic within the area, despite the season. In terms of basic amenities, the piazza offers various locations to eat, including many with takeaway options, which allow the perfect opportunity for individuals to gather on areas like the main steps, which are frequently populated with various groups of people. Even on colder days, groups or even individual persons can be observed sitting on the steps; some eat, some talk with friends, others people watch, as the piazza is conducive to all of these behaviors. The piazza serves a variety of purposes, with no singular purpose being clearly defined — as a result, it is left to the public to decide what they will do within this space.

The bustling Piazza IV Novembre is sharply contrasted by others, like Piazza Italia, a quick two-minute walk down the main walkway. It has always struck me as odd that while the first plaza always appears so busy, Piazza Italia frequently quite the opposite, despite being so close. Aside from the weekly markets which take place on the weekends, I have not observed any notable activity occurring in this area otherwise. This may be due to a variety of causes, like the lack of easy, takeaway food, or absence of any defined purpose for the space. It appears to merely be an area for pedestrians to walk across as they make their way to public transport, but unfortunately, unlike Piazza IV Novembre, they choose not to remain in this space.

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Child’s Point of View

I grew up in rural North Dakota. Children had so much free space they didn’t know what to do with it. One of my top suggestions was always kickball. We had a field right next to our house that we would gather to play. The kids would walk from all over town to meet us. Then, just as it was getting dark, everyone would walk themselves home. The freedom we had was unthinkable to a “city kid.” I remember being in kindergarten and riding my bike to the pool. We had the so many choices of where to go, but we rarely ever went to a park.

From a child’s point of view, we were meant to play in the park so, naturally, we wanted to go somewhere adventurous and different. I am not sure of the reasoning behind this- besides kids like to defy all rules. After reading the articles, I do have a better idea of how to make a park or public space usable for kids.

Create the space the children want. I understand this is a harder concept for cities to produce, especially after reading how children want natural elements to be present. This stuck out to me for two reasons. One – I simply had never thought the majority of students would prefer green spaces. I simply thought they would go where there was the most color or the biggest slide. Two – in rural North Dakota there is no way to not be observing the natural elements.

Another point that stuck out to me was the note on mixed users and sociability. Interacting with other ages has always seemed difficult to myself and my colleagues. My father used to ask us “well, why don’t you just say hi to them.” My friends and I would laugh. According to me, asking children to participate would be beneficial even if it only resulted in this one request of the kids. This has seemed to be lost in my generation, and I would be thrilled to see it return.

I think it would be very interesting to ask kids’ opinions on Wednesday, about what they would imagine the terrace as. All in all, I believe our world is getting faster and if we don’t stop to ask for a child’s point of view we might stay full speed and miss out.

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Paris: City of Chairs

If there’s one thing Paris has in abundance (besides baguettes) it’s a slew of excellently planned public spaces. Places like Luxembourg Gardens, Tuileries Gardens, Notre Dame, and Champ du Mars are just a small few of the places in Paris that one can observe place-making at it’s finest.

At most of these places, you will find green, laidback, metal chairs. These chairs probably move around once every 5-10 minutes due to the high volume of sight-seers and park-goers that want to sit down and soak up the view. One thing that I enjoyed watching was the race to grab an open chair, due to the fact that they were quite scarce. My girlfriend Rachel and I watched people take a bee-line towards us as we got up, and immediately claim our chairs. The chair situation was intense. We came across these same types of chair at another park and decided to move them closer to the water, but we were told to move them back by two constables, for whatever reason. I’d hazard a guess and say it was to keep the park looking uniform, but why the police had to make sure of that, I do not know.These chairs encircled the focal point of each park or garden, mostly fountains, but also natural displays.

In and around these places were also plenty of bistros, food stands and vendors, ready for hungry tourists to eagerly spend 5 euro and up on a quick plate of french fries. Most eateries near tourist areas charge top dollar, because they know people will buy anyway, but you don’t necessarily have to be a place-maker to know that.

Now that I have finally experienced Paris, I can see why people fall in love with it, but I wasn’t all that amazed. I’d say the most fascinating thing to me was the race for those coveted green chairs.

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