Starting Full Throttle
RISD Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design
Follow The Fellows Blog Post 1
June 19th, 2019
As I have now completed my full second week of work with ABCittà, I believe this a good moment to sit down and reflect on what this experience has been like so far. Being someone who thoroughly enjoys being busy and working on multiple projects at once, I am very happy to report that this is exactly the type of environment I have been immersed in thus far for my fellowship!
I was welcomed with such warmth and enthusiasm from the whole ABCittà team, and this really made the start of this internship experience a lot less stressful and much more positive. My first meeting with the team happened in the community garden of BinG, an urban regeneration project started by ABCittà’s Urban Regeneration area that I have been able to actively work on over the past couple weeks.
My first meeting at ABCittà happened in BinG’s community garden, a core component of the BinG regeneration project. From left to right are myself, Ulderico, Diego, Marta and Cristian, some of the people I will be working with throughout my fellowship.
BinG – Binari Greco (Greco Railways) is a project that empowers the inhabitants of Greco (an impoverished neighborhood close to the outskirts of the city) to transform their own neighborhood through social activators such as art, nature and sport. Initiated as a response to the Comune di Milano’s 2018 Bando alle Periferie (open call to the peripheries,) ABCittà, with the cooperation of Progetto Arca, Gruppo FAS and Legambiente Lombardia aided with all aspects related to participatory planning and implementation of the ideas proposed both by teams of experts and those who reside in the area.
With the city-issued portion of the project now completed, ABCittà is now working on a second phase of this project, that involves the development and construction of an intergenerational living area, an urban typology that is becoming more and more popular across Europe because of its many benefits associated with quality of life and self-sustenance of the community that is formed. Despite this intergenerational living area project being one that articulates itself on a rather long timeline, and therefore not something that I can’t necessarily tackle as a project over my two-month internship with ABCittà, there is another component of this urban regeneration project that I am very much directly involved in: the regeneration and repurposing of a series of railway arches that cross right through the site of BinG.
Some of the railway arches part of the BinG area as seen from the newly opened sports field.
I was directly involved –since day one!– with the planning and physical execution of a public consultation workshop aimed at understanding what the residents of Greco envision for this railway arches area, and I found it so rewarding to immediately start understanding how one plans and then utilizes the results of these public opinion gathering formats to develop project proposals that activate areas in a regenerative and responsible manner.
With regards to the workshop, we developed an 8-meter long poster that diagrammatically represented the 18 railway archways present in the area and up for regeneration and redevelopment and, after a short presentation that recapped what had been done thus far in the BinG area, the attendees from the area were asked to use Post-Its and markers to brainstorm ideas of what they wanted to see happen in their neighborhood, no matter how big, small, crazy or unattainable they may have been in their minds.
Through this 30 minute activity –which happened in one of the archways themselves– we were able to collect 156 ideas that ranged from a neighborhood movie festival to a new greenhouse for the residents to a basketball court for children and adults alike.
BinG Bang, the railway arches regeneration consultation workshop happening on June 9th. The poster seen on the wall in the background is the place where residents were able to write down all the ideas they had in mind for these underutilized spaces.
The day after the event was over, we immediately started interpreting and organizing the ideas collected in order to categorize them thematically and return the information collected to the residents of the area. As I was able to learn rather quickly, maintaining a constant flow of communication throughout participatory planning processes like this one is what allows for trust to develop between residents and organizations like ABCittà –and vice versa.–
A young resident of Greco reads the ideas pitched by other residents during BinG Bang.
Furthermore, learning how to effectively return information to people after a consultation like this one is such an important skill I am getting to fine-tune right now, as I am constantly finding myself in situations where I realize that different stakeholders of a project require –and expect– different types of documents that summarize the work done thus far and articulate what is to be done next because their interests in the project and its development are different. Working in an environment which prioritizes an “ad hoc” mode of working rather than a “one size fits all” approach is something that is making me enjoy being an active member of these projects so much more, as it is allowing me to understand firsthand how different people position themselves within a project and its inner-workings.
This poster is the format we chose to use to return the collected information to the residents using BinG’s social media accounts. The poster represents the thematic areas under which the ideas collected were grouped.
After the collection and re-interpretation process, we selected one idea in particular –the basketball court!– which we are planning to pitch to a series of organization who would potentially be interested in supporting its development in the BinG area. I am currently developing a project book that details both ABCittà’s hopes for the future of this area as well as more concrete pieces of information regarding the construction –and cost– of this basketball court project. As this project hasn’t been shared with its intended recipients just yet, I can’t post the full set of images I have been working on, but below is a small preview of the project drawings I have been developing for this publication which will be presented next week.
Technical drawings that demonstrate the executability of the construction of a half basketball court in one of the BinG archways. Despite these drawings not being the final versions that will be presented next week, they start to address the idea that the vision for the area can actually be implemented.
In the coming weeks, I am excited to see how the presentation of this project will be received by the different individuals and organizations we are interacting with. Also, I am very excited to start working more actively on workshop facilitation product concepts for ABCittà’s Museums & Culture area, a portion of the organization I have also been very involved in thus far through meetings, concept development and attendance to conferences about museum development and the relevance of prejudices and stereotypes in the operations of cultural institutions.
All in all, I am extremely fascinated by the vibrancy of the environment I am working in right now, and I am extremely excited to be able to witness firsthand (and share with all the readers of the RISD Maharam Blog!) the results of the work I am producing within the realm of ABCittà’s day-to-day operations.