“I have been picture-gazing this morning at the famous Domenichino and Guido, both of which are superlative. I afterwards went to the beautiful cemetery of Bologna, beyond the walls; and found, besides the superb burial-ground, an original of a custode, who reminded one of the grave-digger in Hamlet (…).”
George Gordon Byron, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron with a Notice of his life, 1831
Not only the world-renowned Père Lachaise in Paris (more than 3 million visitors per year), the evocative Okunoin Cemetery in Japan (in the sacred Mount Koya), or the Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm (UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994, although built in the 20th century). Historical cemeteries represent anywhere in the world a peculiar type of urban spaces, both tangible and intangible heritage, while providing funerary services.
In 2001 a European network was created in order to raise awareness about their sometimes neglected importance: ASCE-Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe. The network counts 179 cemeteries in 22 countries, specifically those public and private entities that care for this specific heritage. The association, born thanks to an Italian initiative, also aims to share experiences and best practices among members and to cooperate in order to protect, restore and enhance these open-air museums.
“Cemeteries as places of life, settings that, as urban spaces, are directly linked to the history and culture of the community they belong to and where we will find many of our references”. This is how the European Route of Cemeteries, promoted by ASCE and supported by the European Commission under its Europe for Citizens Programme (project “Remembrance in European Cemeteries”), refers to this heritage. The Route, comprising 63 cemeteries in 50 cities in 20 European countries, is mainly in charge of the touristic promotion of the sites, and, by raising awareness, it also stimulates dissemination activities and encourages restoration actions. Among the main results achieved by ASCE, we could also mention the establishment of the “Week of Discovering European Cemeteries (WDEC)”, whose activities in 2018 (May 18-June 3) will support the European Year of Cultural Heritage, and a mobile guide presenting members’ heritage thanks to the ARtour platform.
In Italy, we assist to an increasing attention toward the enhancement and management of historical cemeteries, as witnessed by the memorandum of understanding signed in 2016 by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism and SEFIT-Servizi Funerari Italiani (the Italian public funerary services): “Protocollo d’intesa per la valorizzazione culturale e turistica dei cimiteri monumentali”. The memorandum also led to the elaboration of a first version of an Atlas of monumental cemeteries in Italy, published few weeks ago. On December 14, 2017, SEFIT, in partnership with Fondazione MAXXI, organized in Rome a workshop dealing with new urban and architectural challenges related to cemeteries: “I cimiteri nella città. I cimiteri come città – Una svolta culturale per la città dei morti pari a quella in atto nelle città dei vivi?”. In 2017, almost 19.000 participants attended cultural events in the four cemeteries of Bologna, Milan, Genoa and Turin.
Practices of participation and citizens engagement are an ever growing phenomenon in the enhancement of these public spaces, that have to balance the protection and development of its cultural heritage with its primary function. The role of citizens, volunteers and not for profit actors turns out to be crucial, especially to ensure the sustainability of enhancement activities, as we will see in two Italian cases: the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa and the Certosa Cemetery in Bologna.
The cemetery of Staglieno in Genoa (330.000 mq.) was officially opened to the public in 1851. It is one of the most important historical cemeteries in Italy: hundreds of sculptures, but also chapels, galleries and porticoes, with a diversity of styles that contributes to its outstanding historical and artistic value. For the enhancement activities, the cemetery relies on the contribution of different actors, among which an important partnership with ARCI Genova, Auser Liguria e Genova, University of Genoa and CNA-Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato e della Piccola e Media impresa (National Confederation of Artisans and of the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises), that led to the creation of “La fabbrica di Staglieno”. Financed by Fondazione Telecom, the project is aimed at enhancing the restoration activity carried out within the cemetery by creating a restoration laboratory opened to the public, and combining the guided tours with practical activities and workshops, involving restorers, artisans, researchers and students. In August 2017 the Municipality launched a call for proposals to co-design the enhancement activities, through a “Patto di sussidiarietà”, a juridical instrument within the Third sector regulation allowing not for profit organisations to carry on public interest activities. In this case, the project should involve volunteers, disadvantaged or unemployed people in a variety of activities, with in kind and financial support of the Municipality.
The Certosa Cemetery in Bologna was created in 1801 from a former Chartusian monastery founded in 1334. Its architectural structure is very rich and comprises galleries, cloisters, halls, added to which are frescoes, sculptures, an Etruscan Necropolis and the San Girolamo Church. Starting from 1999, an important enhancement project has been carried out, leading to the restoration of many monuments and to guided tours, special initiatives, a summer programme of events. The entire project is managed by Museo del Risorgimento, which is part of the Municipality museums department, in partnership with the Funerary service provider “Bologna Servizi Cimiteriali”; the cultural association of touristic guides “Didasco”, in charge of the guided tours; the volunteers’ association “Amici della Certosa”, founded in 2009 and relying on more than 90 volunteers that contribute to the maintenance, conservation and enhancement activities and to the opening of the Infopoint; “Fondazione Collegio Artistico Venturoli” for the study and research activities. The summer program of events is conceived through a public call for proposals for cultural and not for profit associations, whose projects are annually evaluated and eventually selected. The Call for projects for summer 2018 has been recently opened (deadline March 11). From each entrance fee of the summer events, 2€ are allocated to the enhancement and restoration project. As regards the collaboration with volunteers, in 2016 the Municipality signed a “Patto di collaborazione” with “Amici della Certosa” association within “Collaborare è Bologna” policy and the Bologna Regulation on public collaborations between citizens and the city for the care and regeneration of urban commons. Recognising the value of both the cemetery heritage and the role played volunteers so far, aims and actions are defined for both actors with a collaborative approach.
Significant cemeteries are more and more serving as catalyst for citizens, associations and volunteers that would take care of these fascinating urban spaces, at the same time maintaining and enhancing its outstanding heritage and raising awareness about its value for the local community.
Pratiche partecipative e di coinvolgimento dei cittadini sono un fenomeno crescente nella valorizzazione dei cimiteri monumentali, particolari spazi urbani che si trovano a dover conciliare l’impegno per il proprio patrimonio culturale con l’originaria funzione funeraria.
Matera Design Evolution is a project designed and organized by Associazione Casa Netural that will take place on November 25th and 26th in Matera, European Culture Capital for 2019. Design becomes a tool to think and invent new ways to regenerate the old historical center of Grottole (Matera).
A community composed by designers, artisans and practitioners will reunite for two days of workshops to elaborate and build together all the different aspects of #WonderGrottole. It will be a design network, a community aggregator, a unique experience to meet, know each other, share experiences, work together for a magical territory: Matera, Grottole and Basilicata.
The community of Wonder Grottole is looking for someone to co-design together: the crowdfunding strategy for the project, the architectural concept, the IA, the mobility, the web platform, the manifesto, the governance.
The program will be structured as following:
– On the first day the project will be introduced to the participants through a walk in and out of Grottole;
– On the first and second day participants will be divided into work groups, and each of them will be developing an aspect of the project. Then everybody will reunite for lunch and dinner, to update each other on the process.
At the end of the two days, the output will be the definitive choice of the house, and the definition of:
– the Manifesto;
– the web platform;
– the economic plan;
– the timeline
– homeworks (!);
– dates for the next meetings;
Moreover, the project supporters are going to subscribe the Foundation document of the project.
Chiara Prevete, LabGov’s executive director, will attend the meeting.
The full program of the event is available here: http://www.materadesign.com/
Il 25 e 26 novembre Matera ospiterà #WonderGrottole: due giorni di workshop intensivi per ripensare e co-disegnare la rigenerazione del centro storico del comune di Grottole
The striking amount of underused public spaces in cities worldwide shows the extent to which the value of public space is underestimated. On the other extreme, a variety of public spaces are gradually being privatised and thus public life, to some extent, threatened. Amidst these two opposite trends, underuse and privatisation, public space and public life are now found in a delicate and marginal situation in cities.
Despite a lack of attention to how public spaces are being tackled, it is possible to see their potential to be transformed into a resource for community development in what is recognised as grassroot initiatives. Grassroot initiatives are based on citizens getting together and taking action to address issues affecting their communities that are left unresolved by municipalities. They usually take place in underused public spaces and thus show an alternative destiny to the overlooked public spaces in cities. Examples include R-Urban, in Colombes, France (http://r-urban.net/en/), a resilient network of projects embracing development of housing, economy, culture and urban agriculture, and other projects such as Cantiere Barca, in Turin, Italy (http://www.publicspace.org/en/works/h109-cantiere-barca), where public space, social dynamics and community facilities have been regenerated collectively with objects made on local carpentry workshops. Another example is Build a Better Block, USA (http://betterblock.org/), intended to stimulate communities to get together to regenerate the public spaces of the area where they live, usually by using tactical interventions (http://islandpress.org/book/tactical-urbanism).
Grassroot initiatives can be compared to the urban commons because they rely on collective management of public space supported by collective action. Through a personal research analysing the structure of different grassroot initiatives, I have concluded that grassroot initiatives and the urban commons are usually composed of four underlying elements: repurposed public spaces, collective governance, hands-on action, and resulting benefits that support community and urban development (http://www.academia.edu/33751886/Repurposing_Underused_Public_Spaces_into_Urban_Commons_An_active_participatory_urban_regeneration_model_for_Gospel_Oak). Benefits of the urban commons emerge from the action of collectively repurposing underused public spaces as a resource for community development, and result in social, economic and environmental benefits.
The urban commons indicate an open and spontaneous, but structured, collective appropriation and repurposing of public space. Still, the structuring of collaborative governance and community engagement is a big challenge and a project in itself, requiring time and adaptability. Moreover, there is no formula for community engagement and collaborative action and governance, since every community and its associated development targets widely vary.
The urban commons is not only about sharing “the products of commoning” but also about shaping citizens as “subjects of sharing…who accept their incompleteness, subjects who accept that they can be transformed through sharing and subjects who recognize in sharing the power of opening to potential worlds, the power of encountering ever-new horizons of commoning…Collective subjects are thus being formed and transformed without everybody being reduced to fit perpetuated role taxonomies (…) ”. 1(Stavrides, S. 2016 – p.273)
Thus, as emphasized, the structure of the urban commons is ever fluid and collectively adaptable. Urban commons’ structural responsiveness supports and is supported by individuals contributing
to shaping the commoning group and its collective aims while being shaped back. This responsiveness and openness is a characteristic that cannot be grasped entirely due to the uniqueness of every urban commons.
Moreover, the urban commons can inform collaborative development both at the local (community) and city scale (policy making), since the activities nurtured within it are imbued with an awareness of the city as networked spaces, people and resources that mutually impact each other. Thus, the urban commons can support active community empowerment and tackle issues on different levels – from the community to city scale, from the individual to the collective, and from social to spatial. The ability of the urban commons to address urban issues thoroughly is due to its spatial structural element (public space) and social structural elements (collective governance, hands-on activities, and emerging benefits) and hence commoning processes can tackle space while restoring social cohesion.
Because cities are getting more complex to control through centralized planning models the urban commons gradually gains more strength to develop since it relies on the sharing of power through collective governance and planning frameworks based on shared responsibility between government and citizens. The urban commons development model implies in alternative service provision where citizens have an active responsibility in shaping a wide array of services such as water management, health provision, food production, social economy, etc. Communities thus adapt from being purely consumers to becoming consumers and producers.
Nonetheless, on emerging collaborative planning models, the interface between government and citizens on the sharing of power is still very unclear. Both “appear stuck, asking each other to do more and more to fill the growing gaps between service provision.“2 (Britton,T., 2015 – p.22) Regarding citizens, “what is expected of him or her in ‘the new model’: a role as a volunteer, or as an employee, or employer in…say, a cooperative? Does the burden of caring for those dependent on care also lie with ‘active’ citizens – with a job – or only with ‘available’ citizens – without a job? Furthermore, there is confusion about the type of service and production that would qualify for the new model.”3 (Moore, T., 2013 – p.25)
That said, awareness of responsibilities, capabilities and limitations regarding each party involved in the collaborative planning process is crucial to advance the discussion and practice of collaborative urban development.
Moreover, the lack of awareness of the value of public space, both as a source and a resource for urban development, prevents its appropriation as urban commons. It also contributes to public spaces’ underuse, lack of management, and privatization. Thus, it is important to consider public space in a positive light linked to collaborative planning models, seen it is a valuable source and resource for urban development.
The urban commons development model adopted on a city scale would imply in government’s support for communities
to co-produce goods and services on public spaces, which would directly impact on the supply chain system and enhance holistic sustainability – social, economic, and environmental. Governmental support for the common use of public space would drive a new public life and provision model, alternative to the “unsustainable model in which all necessities of urban survival are distanced from consumers by markets, corporations and public bodies.”4 (Bingham-Hall, J., Kaasa, A., 2016 – p.3)
Despite its benefits, adoption of the urban commons development model on the community and city scale has its challenges, the most critical being: lack of clarity on the interface between government and citizens on collaborative planning models; lack of clarity on how to structure community engagement; provision of legal frameworks for citizens to appropriate public space through alternative uses; and clarification of the urban commons structure.
LabGov is playing an important role in addressing these challenges.
La grande quantità di spazzi pubblici inutilizzati in diverse città si appresenta come un’opportunità per creare gli urban commons tramite la sua rigenerazione, utilizzando di ‘collective governance’ e ‘hands on action’.
Innumeri progetti riconosciuti come ‘grassroot initiatives’ esemplificano come spazzi pubblici inutilizzati possono essere trasformarti in risorsi per sviluppo comunitario.
- Stavrides, S. (2016), Commons space: the city as commons. London. ZED Books
- Britton,T. (2015), Designed to Scale. [online] Available at: https://issuu.com/participatorycity/docs/designed_to_ scale_v.1
- Moore, T. (2013) Homo Cooperans. Universiteit Utrecht. Available at: http://www.ruralhistory.eu/newsletter/2013/rhn- 2013-150
- Bingham-Hall, J., Kaasa, A. (2016). Future of Cities. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/future- of-cities-urban-commons-and-public-spaces
The city of Reggio nell’Emilia (better known as Reggio Emilia), located in the hearth of Emilia Romagna, counts a population of 172.000 inhabitants. 27.000 of them are involved in activities promoting social cohesion.
These numbers, which highlight the existence of a strong social capital, help us understand the peculiarity of the approach adopted by the city administration. According to Valeria Montanari, Councilor for innovation, administrative simplification, participation and care of the neighborhoods, this peculiarity lies in the idea of “the city as an infrastructure that is made available to people”. In line with this view, the administration guided by Major Luca Vecchi, elected in 2014, has been promoting citizens’ participation in policy making, allowing for “the co-design not only of the actions, but also of the objectives that the city wants to pursue”.
The choice to adopt a governance paradigm based on participation and collaboration implies the willingness to challenge and to change the traditional role of the public administration and its relationship with citizens. A process of institutional and bureaucratic innovation is being developed by the administration, which rather than simply providing services to their citizens aims at becoming an enabler for participatory paths and practices, bringing citizens at the center of the decision-making process. As explained by Nicoletta Levi, who is in charge of the service Policies for Responsible Protagonism and Smart City, what is being done in Reggio Emilia is strongly experimental, and this requires the administration to continuously stop to understand in which direction they are going. Collaboration might create a strong tension between the rigidity and division that characterize the public administration functioning and the strong flexibility and interconnectedness typical of the reality we live in. To be able to create a dialogue with the civil society the public administration should undergo a transformation and should learn how to work horizontally and be more flexible.
Being aware of this framework allows us to fully understand the innovative processes activated by the city in the last years.
The QUA Program – (Neighborhood as a Commons)
The city of Reggio Emilia has been directly affected by a law that entered into force in March 2010, which prevents cities with less than 250.000 inhabitants to organize their territory into districts (circoscrizioni in Italian). Rather than being an obstacle, this law became an occasion for the city Reggio Emilia to think of new forms of decentralization and city management and to focus on the needs of its citizens. What is particularly interesting about the approach adopted by the city of Reggio Emilia is the choice to work at neighborhood level and to adopt neighborhoods as the unit of measure.
During a visit to the community gardens managed by the cultural center L’Orologio
This is evident when we look at the project QUA (neighborhood as commons) which aims not only at strengthening citizens’ participation, but also at giving citizens a protagonist role, both as single individuals and as associations and informal networks. In December 2015 the City Council of Reggio Emilia approved the Regulation for citizenship labs (full text in Italian is available here). The Regulation establishes collaboration, stimulated and supported through participatory paths, as a crucial feature in the relationship between citizens and the local administration for the care of the city and of the community itself.
As explained on the official website of the city, this document is freely inspired to the Bologna Regulation, but it has a strong territorial connotation as it is adapted to the peculiarity of the local community and environment. Therefore, it underlines how neighborhoods should be understood as commons, meaning with this as fields where associations, informal networks, citizens and administration can connect and can develop together a new idea of participation and active citizenship.
The city has been divided into 19 neighborhoods, or territorial areas (ambiti territoriali), which are being the theater for the establishment of Citizenship Laboratories and Citizenship Agreements, that are being developed and coordinated by the new figure of the Neighborhood Architect.
The Regulation sets a procedural path, made of 9 phases, to be followed by the Laboratories. The Architect plays a fundamental role in the whole process as he is, using the words of Nicoletta Levi, an “activator of social resources and a mediator between center and periphery and between public and private”.
The project has been met with great interest by citizens, and the participation has been high. By December 2016, 9 agreements had already been signed, 896 people had taken part in the participatory paths and 64 projects had been defined. Between these projects we find really different experiences, ranging from the creation of a book-crossing network involving local libraries, community centers and citizens, who imagined and produced structures to be placed in public spaces that allow for the book exchange, to the development of Participation Houses (an example here), places located in the neighborhood that can facilitate interaction and dialogue between a variety of local actors. Furthermore, these projects also include the creation and management of urban gardens (one example are the gardens managed by the cultural space L’orologio) and the development of Wifi communities, like the one that has been put in place in Villa Coviolo, an area located at the South-West of the city .
CO-Reggio Emilia and the path of #CollaboratorioRe
The S.Peter Cloister, object of the #CollaboratorioRe co-design path
The commitment of the Municipality towards participation and collaboration in decision making processes and in city making is at the bases of the CO-Reggio Emilia  project, that was promoted by the local administration in collaboration with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and with the scientific, strategical and organizational support of LabGov and Kilowatt.
The process began with the activation of the participatory path of #CollaboratorioRe, which brought together citizens, associations, private actors, cognitive institutions and members of the local administration (as envisaged by the quintuple helix approach of urban co-goverance) and allowed them to collaboratively shape the future of the “Chiostri di San Pietro” area, a urban commons holding a particular relevance for the city and for its inhabitants.
As explained by Valeria Montanari “#CollaboratorioRe aimed at creating the first incubator of sharing and pooling economy of Reggio Emilia, a new urban actor that will revolutionize the way we think about the city and will emphasize the role that civic collaboration should play in the care and management of the urban commons”.
What makes the experience of #CollaboratorioRe particularly relevant is that while working on the regeneration of a physical space and on the creation of this new urban actor, the city is also activating a broader reflection on the idea of knowledge and culture as commons by working on the relationship between technology and culture and by attempting to reduce technological inequality through education and informal exchange of information.
The experience of Reggio Emilia shows us that when institutions are willing to accept the challenge and to transform themselves, a paradigm change is really possible. By adopting a view of the city as an infrastructure that is made available to people, institutions and citizens are able to come together and collectively design the future of their neighborhoods, of the urban commons and of the city itself.
This article is part of the CO-Cities Series
 As explained by Valeria Montanari in a short interview with LabGov.
 Nicoletta Levi presented the experience of Reggio Emilia and of the project QUA – Quartiere Bene Comune in occasion of the CO-city project presentation in Turin,on March the 31st 2017.
 A complete overview of the CO-Reggio Emilia project and of the #CollaboratorioRe experience is available here (in Italian).
 The quintuple helix approach is explained in C. IAIONE, E. DE NICTOLIS, La quintupla elica come approccio alla governance dell’innovazione sociale, Brodolini Foundation, 2016. The document is available at this link: https://www.labgov.it/2017/01/25/la-quintupla-elica-come-approccio-alla-governance-dellinnovazione-sociale/
 Y. BENKLER, Commons and growth: the essential role of open commons in market economies, The University of Chicago Law Review, 2013, and C. HESS, E. OSTROM, Understanding Knowledge as a Commons, from theory to practice, The MIT Press, 2007
Reggio Emilia è una città caratterizzata da un grande capitale sociale: su 172 mila abitanti, 27 mila sono impegnati in attività di coesione sociale. Questi numeri ci aiutano a capire la particolarità dell’approccio adottato dell’amministrazione locale che, come ci spiega Valeria Montanari, Assessora ad Agenda digitale, partecipazione e cura dei quartieri, è legata all’idea della città come infrastruttura a disposizione delle persone.
The 4th edition of the Biennial of Public Space is taking place in Rome from the 25th to the 27th of May 2017. The event is promoted by the National Institute of City Planning, the National Council of Landscape and Conservation Planning Architects, the Roman Order of Architects, Architecture Department of the University Roma Tre, with the collaboration of UN Habitat and ANCI.
The 2013 edition of the Biennial saw the approval of the Charter of Public Space (available here in Italian), which “aims to be the document for all those who believe in the city and in its unique capability of fostering sociability, meeting, coexistence, freedom and democracy; and in its vocation to express and realize all these values through public spaces”. Therefore, the Biennial speaks to local administrations, universities, cultural associations, experts and practitioners, citizens and students, with the aim of promoting interdisciplinary projects involving the main urban actors.
In line with this view, this year’s edition of the Biennial addresses the topic of planning and managing public space from different perspectives and thanks to the contribution of numerous actors active in this field. The program of the event, available on the website, is the result of the call “Making Public Spaces” launched in December, which saw the contribution of small and medium municipalities, schools, universities, cultural associations, provincial architects orders and regional sections of the National Institute of City Planning.
The activities of the Biennial will begin on the 25th, with the opening greetings and the speeches of the promoters, followed by a series of workshop that will address different aspects of urban regeneration: mobility, accessibility, reuse, security, environmental resilience, management, social innovation, technologies.The workshops will continue on the morning of the 26th, and will be followed by two roundtables where the coordinators of the workshops will come together to draw some proposals and suggestions that will be presented during the final day. On the 27th, after the screening of the movies that won the “Filming the City” call, there will be a final debate, which will see the participation of members of foreign city administrations, from Lubiana to Bogotà and Johannesburg.
LabGov will be present at the event, where we will take part in different roundtables: on the 25th Paola Cannavò (representing LabGov and UD Lab, UniCal) will be between the discussants in a workshop titled “Travel in the Governance of the Commons”, while Chiara Prevete (LabGov’s executive director) will take part in the working table “Conflicts: resistances met and transformations obtained”, within framework of the same workshop. On the 26th LabGov will also be present at the workshop “Green and Blue Infrastructures in the Project of the Contemporary City”.
Here is the complete program of the Biennial:
Dal 25 al 27 maggio 2017 avrà luogo a Roma la quarta edizione della Biennale Dello Spazio Pubblico, promossa dall’Istituto Nazionale di Urbanistica assieme alla sua sezione laziale, dal Consiglio Nazionale degli Architetti Pianificatori Paesaggisti e Conservatori, dall’Ordine degli architetti di Roma e dal Dipartimento di Architettura dell’Università Roma Tre, con la collaborazione di UN – Habitat e di ANCI.
“Dopo l’apertura dei lavori, prevista il 25 maggio con i saluti istituzionali e gli interventi dei promotori, nel pomeriggio della stessa giornata e nella mattina del 26 maggio si svolgeranno i workshop che affronteranno diversi aspetti della rigenerazione urbana: mobilità, accessibilità, riuso, sicurezza, resilienza ambientale, gestione, innovazione sociale, tecnologie. Nel pomeriggio del 26 maggio i coordinatori dei 27 workshop si riuniranno in due tavole rotonde dalle quali emergeranno indicazioni, proposte e suggerimenti da presentare nella giornata conclusiva che prevede anche un dibattito al quale prenderanno parte amministratori di città di altri paesi, la premiazione e la proiezione dei video vincitori della call “Filmare la città”, iniziativa realizzata assieme all’International Fest Roma Film Corto – Independent Cinema”.
Il programma completo dell’evento è disponibile qui.