di Miguel Martinez
Today June 7th, a small event, highly symbolic however for all of Europe’s historic centres being turned into Disneylands for tourism, will take place in Florence, when the children of the Oltrarno district will plant forty rhizomes of iris about one hundred metres from the Brancacci Chapel, where Masaccio unwittingly unleashed the Renaissance (and also painted an extraordinary allegory of the Commons).
Whatever is bureaucratic and artificial, is easy to understand. Whatever is real is unique and complex, so it will take some explaining, but the fun lies precisely in putting the strands together.
The first strand lies just behind the Carmine church, in Florence’s Oltrarno district: a garden hidden behind a high wall called the “Nidiaci”, a gift by the American Red Cross, in 1920 to the children of what was then the poorest district of the city, riddled with TBC and crime, yet the scene of extraordinary human passions and solidarity.
Today the inhabitants of the centre of Florence are being driven out by an Airbnb economy based on evictions, empty houses, craftsmen overwhelmed by taxes losing their workplaces to pubs.
Flats are filled by people who have no contact with the area they sleep in for a night or two, while bartenders and cooks – largely from remote parts of the world – commute every night for miles, to reach their zoned homes, leaving a trail of burnt fossil fuel behind them.
Metaphorically, we could say that a certain number of Florentines make money by gluing their ancestors’ bones to clothes hangers and putting them up in their shop windows. As an exceptionally kind hearted landowner put it to a single mother and her child before evicting them, “I’m so sorry, but if you leave, I can earn 90 euros a night from this flat!”
To make way for tourists yearning to see the “Oltrarno, district of craftsmen”, the last shoemaker was evicted too: he held out bravely for several months in his tiny shop, with no running water, before finally leaving the city.
The hidden Nidiaci garden has become a rallying point for old and new residents – Florentine carpenters and bakers alongside Macedonian hotel cleaners, Egyptian pizza cooks and Irish artists – who keep it open as a Commons: arts, music, crafts, a vegetable garden, a football school, set up by the legendary Lebowski team (the only soccer club owned by fans in Italy) and guided tours for local children, to remind them that they are the guardians of the rich history of Florence, wherever their parents may have been born.
Children’s concert at the Nidiaci
The second strand concerns the name of Florence, supposedly derived from the Latin flos, “flower”: a city founded, according to legend, during the Roman festival of Floralia, an image which immediately brings to mind Flora in Botticelli’s Primavera, so beautifully thinned out in Evelyn De Morgan’s painting Flora, sold to a Scottish patron.
Evelyn De Morgan, Flora
On the bottom right of the painting, the small tag, written in rhymed medieval Italian, says,
“I come down from Florence and am Flora,
This city takes its name from flower
Among the flowers I was born and now by a change of home
I have my dwelling among the mountains of Scotia
Welcome me, and let my treasure amid northern mists be dear to you.”
The heraldic symbol of the city-state of Florence, since before Dante, has always been the fleur-de-lys, as it appears on the town banners. Here you can see it in one of those ambiguous events where true Florentines wear, with enormous commitment, authentically fake Renaissance costumes, partly to attract tourists, but mainly because they have a tremendous desire to express a deeply felt identity.
People all over Italy do similar things, like the Chivalry Joust of Sulmona, which has no spectators because nearly everybody in town is an actor and nobody knows where Sulmona is.
The fleur-de-lys of Florence is actually an iris, the humble giaggiolo which until not so many years ago used to grow everywhere along the banks of the Arno, but has now nearly disappeared.
Next to Piazzale Michelangelo, where tourists enjoy a splendid view over the city, there is another little known garden, kept open only a few weeks a year by a group of enthusiasts and dedicated exclusively to the iris.
The third strand is the University of Florence, where Professor Stefano Mancuso has opened a new field of research, that of plant sensitivity, establishing the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology.
Mancuso is also the inventor of the fascinating and somewhat frightening Jellyfish Barge, a kind of Noah’s Ark to help us survive the Anthropocene we have created.
Right now, probably the most prominent cultural event in town is an unlikely experiment set up by Mancuso and a German artist, in the courtyard of the Renaissance Palazzo Strozzi, on the relations between plant and human psychology.
The Florence Experiment is a research project where visitors slide down a structure from a height of 20 metres; their emotional reactions will be recorded and compared with those of plants to examine the empathetic possibilities between humans and plant organisms.
The issue of relations between plants and us, is of course enormous, quite simply because without plants, we would cease to exist; and our future therefore depends on how we relate to them.
This takes us to the fourth strand. Professor Mancuso has launched an interdisciplinary master’s degree, called “Plant Future” – Futuro Vegetale, – bringing together scholars from very different fields (biology, sociology, architecture, political science) who are seeking a way out of the suicidal course we are currently engaged in.
Then there is the fifth strand, Florence’s Calcio fiorentino, a no-holds-barred form of football developed in Florence in Renaissance times, played between the four historic districts of the old part of Florence,
Though it is a rediscovered tradition (dating back to the 1930s), it is firmly rooted in local culture, and is the strongest source of identity of the Oltrarno district, which is of the “White” colour, and where a hardy group of unpaid bar keepers, electricians and carpenters risk their lives every year for this match dedicated to Saint John, the city patron.
The official matches are a municipal institution, so fans and players have set up an independent organisation, recreating the fourteenth-century fraternity of the “Whites”, the Compagnia dei Bianchi, one of the countless lively community organisations of medieval Italy, to develop local solidarity and help the countless people whose very survival is in doubt in these hard times.
The scholars of Plant Future decided that the most symbolic place in all Florence to launch a new idea of how to found a city was the Nidiaci garden, its plants, trees and human community.
The first irises would be there, then they would be gradually planted wherever people took care of community gardens.
So they went to the Iris Garden, where the organisers immediately understood, and gave forty of their best rhizomes, kept for international competitions, to plant in the Nidiaci, recreating the original Florentia or flowering.
The minute beginning of a renewal of a whole city, based on commoning.
The Plant Future scholars came over to visit the garden.
An Albanian mother, who sells shirts in the market at San Lorenzo and teaches the children how to grow tomatoes and melons in the Nidiaci garden, decided where the rhizomes should be planted.
Then the organisers got in touch with the Compagnia dei Bianchi, because it was fundamental for them to be present in such a special moment.
All of this is very small, and very concentrated.
And smallness, and concentration, is exactly what we all need.
As Rising Appalachia put it,
Stand up, look around and then scale that down too!”
On Saturday, May 5th, the South East Co-District of Rome has been crossed by Civic Collaboration, urban redevelopment and co-governance of urban commons paths in a whole day full of activities, meetings, debates that has been organized by LabGov in the context of the Co-Rome, in collaboration with V Municipio, ENEA, LUISS University, Comunità Parco Pubblico di Centocelle and several organizations and associations from the district
An itinerant community made of students, academics, stakeholders and active citizens started its path from Parco degli Acquedotti, in Don Bosco neighborhood, to reach Torre Spaccata where, in the green area next to Biblioteca Rugantino, the labgovers and students from the master degree in Landscape Architecture of La Sapienza University inaugurated the third satellite of LUISS’ community garden #OrtoLUISS.
An horticulture lab, the valorization of urban vertical gardens an of “in-the-box” gardens and thoughts on the importance of concrete experimentations of circular economy enriched a morning where people of every age shared a new contact with public and natural spaces of the district
In this direction, the third step of the day was in the permaculture project oh Municipio V “Il sogno trasformato”, that consented to the participants to visit Parco Giorgio de Chirico, in Tor Sapienza neighborhood, and to discuss on how public institutions and communities can try together to look for solutions for environmental redevelopment and social re-activation of those territories where urban inequalities are much stronger.
The rain didn’t stop the seek for experimentation and collaboration, and the participants continued their path in the library “L’ora di libertà”, where they first admired the exhibition “100 piccoli volti di Centocelle” by Giorgia Capatano, and where they then sat down to discuss together the future of Centocelle district
Representatives of ENEA’s #fuTure and Centoc’è labs presented their new ideas to design and manage together the territory while ensuring environmental and social sustainability.
At the end of the day, at FusoLab 2.0, the last emotional step of the day with Valentina Correani sharing with Silvio Bruno (President of Centocelle Neighborhood’s Committee) and Vinceno Luciano (Director of Abitarearoma) stories and poems on the history and the beauties of urban suburbs, starting from the South East of Rome. During the evening the short film by Myrice Tansini “La Prima Volta“, starring Mario Caldaro (beloved honorary member of the Comunità Parco Pubblico di Centocelle) was shown to the move public.
And then: party and music! The musical event #RomaSudfEst was opened by the young Coro Cantering, who sang several folk songs from Italy and Europe (and Rome, of course), and continued with a space all dedicated to #Orto17 with three young roman songwriters, Emilio Stella, Gianmarco Dottori and Andrea D’Apolito, that shared an hymn to the Rome that we hope to be able to build together.
Nella giornata del 20 aprile, dalle ore 16:00 alle ore 19:00, si terrà il workshop conclusivo del Laboratorio della clinica urbana EDU@LabGov di questo anno: tanti saranno gli ospiti e tante le idee in circolazione. L’incontro sarà strutturato seguendo le modalità di svolgimento di un BarCamp, ovvero di una conferenza non conferenza, durante la quale prenderanno la parola diversi attori per alimentare un dibattito sui temi attualissimi dell’impresa di comunità e dell’agricoltura urbana.
La prima parte dell’incontro sarà dedicata all’analisi del concetto di impresa di comunità e del settore comunità in Italia, attraverso una comparazione con il mondo anglosassone, a partire dalla presentazione dell’ebook “Local Italy. I domini del settore comunità in Italia”, redatto dal dott. Luca Tricarico in collaborazione con il dott. Flaviano Zandonai ed edito dalla Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.
Successivamente, l’attenzione si sposterà sul tema dell’agricoltura urbana e di come gli orti urbani di comunità possano trasformarsi in forme embrionali di imprese di comunità. Per fare ciò abbiamo invitato le associazioni che gestiscono orti urbani nella città di Roma come l’Associazione Orti Urbani Tre Fontane, l’Associazione “Vivere in” ONLUS di Casal Brunori, l’Associazione “100 e a capo”, l’Associazione Valerio Daniel De Simoni e importanti esperti nel settore tra i quali
- Claudio Bordi, coordinatore del progetto europeo URBACT RURAL di Roma Capitale e Risorse per Roma sugli orti urbani,
- la prof.ssa Alessandra Battisti dell’Università La Sapienza di Roma, che ha portato avanti un progetto simile a Bastogi,
- la dott.ssa Barbara Invernizzi, agronomo e paesaggista ideatrice di SFIDE, il progetto sugli orti nel carcere di Rebibbia,
- Patrizia Tomasich e Anna Codazzi di EXPLORA – Il Museo dei Bambini di Roma, che sta lanciando un progetto dedicato agli orti didattici,
- la dott.ssa Brunella Bonito, Responsabile dell’Ufficio Studi e Valutazione della Luiss Guido Carli, che sta curando la valutazione d’impatto dell’Orto LUISS.
L’incontro è volto a costruire una progettualità più ampia attorno a queste buone pratiche al fine di promuovere lo sviluppo urbano sostenibile e nuovi modelli di governance e di economia.
La chiusura dei lavori di questo ultimo modulo avverrà con il co-working del sabato.
Ne vedremo delle belle!
A discussion about Principles and Practices for Urban Commons Law and Regeneration in the framework of URBACT 2nd Chance Network
Today, 19 April 2018, LabGov will participate to the Final Event of the URBACT 2nd Chance – Waking up the “sleeping giants” project in Naples.
The URBACT 2nd Chance project aim at defining actions, strategies and ideas for the reactivation vacant large buildings and building complexes that are in decay, derelict and losing their original purpose, through a participatory urban governance approach, in order to awake their potential to provide space for needed functions in the city and to support a sustainable city and neighbourhood development.
The project created a large European Network of Local group members, local authorities and urban partners that tested and applied, in the last 3 years, a new collaborative approach resulted in the Integrated Action Plans of the 11 cities of Europe that will be presented and discussed with a wider audience of urban professionals, decision-and change-makers from 18 to 20 April in Naples.
In this framework, Professor Christian Iaione, LabGov Faculty Director and URBACT Expert, will contribute to the discussion by sharing concepts, methodology and experiences of urban governance and economy based on years of researches and practices of applying and adapting Elinor Ostrom principles of collaborative management for economic and environmental sustainability to commons in urban contexts.
Ostrom in the City: Design Principles and Practices for the Urban Commons
The integrated and participatory urban renewal strategies experienced by the URBACT 2nd Chance projects involving cooperatives, builders’ groups, associations or foundations as well as self-organised citizens and communities to give new social and ecological sustainability to vacant large buildings are in line with the thinking and experimentation of LabGov that to achieve social, economic and institutional regeneration of urban areas, it is necessary to experiment “urban co-governance“, according to which public authorities shall enable the collective action of city inhabitants and invest on the creation of collaborative partnerships with and/or between city inhabitants, knowledge institutions, NGOs and businesses.
LabGov will be thus in the event in Naples looking forward to get new inputs, to share knowledge and best practices and to network with active urban actors from all Europe.
More info about the event here:
[…]the concentration of people and events in time and space is a prerequisite to make anything happen, but more importantly are what activities are allowed to develop […]
In Life between buildings are outlined the applications that must exist in the architectural proposals, so that human being begins to appropriate them. By extrapolating this analysis and relying on the concept established in The Right to the City, where it is considered that the gentrification caused by urban processes implies an impact on the present and the future of humanity. The construction and strengthening of social structures that complement the dynamics of interaction of the different actors begins to make sense.
This concept of change of social structure is broad and, at the same time, complicated to define by different actors involved in the subject Therefore, related processes that can be articulated from the academy result in the proposal of systematic variables that, far from wanting to intercede to achieve the purpose of a change of structure, what they seek is to detonate a collective process which add to the existing.
Proposal of social integration.
In this search to promote the use of space and social interaction, the approach to the community Barrio Pinto and its surroundings is proposed in the South of the canton of San Pedro de Montes de Oca, in the province of San Jose, Costa Rica; whose radius of action is located between the kilometer close to the Campus of Universidad Latina. This context contains many different realities. On the one hand, the central avenue has an established structure of commerce and services, in addition is the road that connects the center of the country with the Inter-American route, therefore, highly charged with vehicular flow.
This situation disappears entering avenue 2, 4 and 6. Residential use is giving space to the commerce and offices, but that still encloses a residential range that gives life to the parks of his around. This mutation of the space is reflected in the offer of related services between traditional commercial systems, such as tailors, sodas and informal commerce, as well as other emerging elements (biodegradable cleaning products).
Is under these dynamics – between the behavior of the inhabitants of the sector and the users of the services that are beginning to develop in the area – that the interaction between students of the area and the institutions (who are unaware of the processes, routes, services) arises. For example, there is a coffee shop that offers bike rental per hour and per day, as well as the organization of recreational circuits in the sector.
Then, the question arisen is: how to provide a tool to citizenship that allows articulation in the public space between the collective memory of a specific place and emerging uses that change the image of the city?
It is at this point, where the definition of common goods and Collaborative Economy (Cañigueral, 2014), together with the use of the technological tool Agora PIC (Plataforma de Integración Ciudadana, 2017) developed by the NGO team PIC, that these are taken as the basis of the research, to identify the possible elements to be taken into account, and to define a path that provides information on tangible and intangible variables. Trying to unify the social processes of the inhabitants of the sector, with visitors and users of the different activities in the radio, near to the community of Barrio Pinto.
Within the concrete analysis of the peculiarities of the community, the gap that exists between space of the Square Máximo Fernández- on the north side of Franklin D. Roosevelt School – and El Retiro Park (650 meters Southwest of Máximo Fernández Square) -, as a hub that makes possible the social connection of a situation different from the current, whose goal is immersed, as Gehl points out – is taken into account, to generate not only the space of transition, but of interaction.
Citizen participation has been necessary for the construction of this project. Across workshops and interviews, as well as different visits to the community to establish collaborative and individual services, the rescue of collective memory, stories and accounts of the citizen for the visibility of the human and sensory part of the area began, as well as the delimitation of the emerging uses that change the dynamic preset in the area, and generate a social movement toward the appropriation of common space.
Conclusion of a job, start of a route.
In conclusion, it is possible to counteract the thinking and analysis of Gehl, about the dynamics of use of public spaces, with the contributions of Zaida Muxí and Joseph María Montaner on the substantial changes that surround the phenomenology of the city for the adequate enjoyment and use of the various variables of the Commons. Processes that lead to interpret the change of the image of the city must occur in an intrapersonal way, understanding that this isolated element is part of an articulated social system.
On this premise, it is part of this personal relationship, of collective memory and the individual task, for the strengthening of pre-existing social layers. It may not induce a community to take a change in its structure, but it strengthens when an external user can deviate from their daily life to rediscover its immediate context. For this reason, and waiting for the use of the technological tool (Ágora PIC) to boost social skills to community, this intervention has been completed with the start of a journey raised with the student community of the Universidad Latina.
On this basis, we should start from this relationship between the collective memory and the individual task, to strengthen the pre-existing social layers. It is not possible to induce a community to adopt a modification in its structure, but it can be strengthened, when an external user can get away from their everyday life to rediscover their immediate context. For this reason, the use of the Ágora PIC technological tool was envisaged so that it could stimulate the social capacities of community making, ending this intervention with the beginning of a journey through the community.
A circuit that seeks, every four months, that is to say with the opening of the academic semester, to offer the newly admitted student the possibility of knowing their immediate context, and at the same time generate interaction with the dynamics of their area and with its inhabitants. This wants to contribute to the creation of a collective memory and local participatory networks that bring the academy closer to its own territory.
Il progetto pilota del LabGov Costa Rica comincia da esercizi accademici mirati che hanno l’intenzione de rispondere alla domanda: come facilitare uno strumento alla cittadinanza che permetta l’articolazione tra i beni comuni spaziali e la memoria collettiva di un determinato luogo; con una particolare attenzione agli usi emergenti che mutano rapidamente il volto frenetico della capitale e il ricordo di un passato, non troppo passato, campestre e bucolico? Come possiamo conservare la memoria dei beni comuni intangibili promuovendo contemporanemente l’hic et nunc dei commons tangibili attuali?
 Gehl, J. (2011). Life between buildings: using public space. Washington, DC: Island Press.
 Lefebvre, H. (1973). Le Droit à la ville. Paris: Ed. Anthropos.
 Costes, L. (2012). Del ‘derecho a la ciudad’ de Henri Lefebvre a la universalidad. Urban, 1-12.
 Lucas, M.A. (2006). Estructura social. La realidad de las sociedades avanzadas. Madrid: Pearson Education.
 Fundación Heinrich Böll (2008). Genes, bytes y emisiones: Bienes comunes y ciudadanía. Ciudad de México: Ediciones Böll.
 Cañigueral, A. (2014). Vivir mejor con menos. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial.
 Gehl, J. op.cit.
 Cañigueral, A. op.cit.
 Fundación Heinrich Böll, op.cit.
 Gehl, J. op.cit.
 Muxí, Z., Montaner, J.M. (2011). Arquitectura y política. Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili.
 Lucas, M.A. op. cit.