Titled as “The European City”, the City and Regional Planning Studio is the core course for all planning students in Rome. Before starting the class, I had no idea how the course would be. Now that it has been around two months since classes started, and I think it is high time I briefly talked about the course!
Our very first assignment was the Rioni Project (the word rione in Italian means district). Students worked together in groups of two people, and the assignment required that we go to our assigned rioni to study and document the streets. The rione assigned to me was Trevi, where the famous Trevi Fountain is located. Since it is a big tourist area, we calculated the tourist flows and studied the commercial establishments. Using GIS, we also compared our observation with census data like population density and education level. In particular, our findings were to be shared with the architects and artists who were also working on their own rioni. Many of the architect-artist groups found our findings very helpful as our information helped strengthened their choice of location for the fountain they designed, which was their part of the project.
In fact, when compared to our next neighborhood project, the Rioni Project was a piece of cake. Having finished this intial rioni project, we moved on to the neighborhood project. In this project, students were divided into four groups (4 people in each group). Each group was assigned a neighborhood and we had to do a very comprehensive observation and street study. I was lucky enough to study Bullicante, a multi-ethnic neighborhood in which many South Asians and Chinese live (around 4 km east from the Termini). As we had to go to the neighborhood twice a week, we grasped every opportunity to try authentic Indian food, kebab and Chinese food (which were all amazing!).
In the study, we documented every single street of the neighborhood, and recorded data like state of repair of streets, number of trees, presence of publicity materials, building typology, land uses, types of establishments, traffic intensity, pedestrian flows, ethnic composition, cleanliness level and human activities, etc. As there were around 40 streets, it took quite a long time for us to record every single detail. To our surprise, there were truly a lot of ethnic establishments (e.g. Chinese church, Indian clothing store, posters written in Hindi). As such, we could hardly feel that Bullicante is part of Rome. I found it very satisfying to learn about a non-traditional neighborhood in Rome (where cobblestones, persiane (window coverings) and tourists!).
Right before Spring Break, we had to submit a 9000-word deliverable for our study and observation. To vividly present our thoughts and findings, we incorporated many self-made graphics and GIS maps into the report; all of this, however, is just the beginning of the project! In the coming 2 months, we have to work on a cognitive map exercise (Stage 2) and an analytical account of the neighborhood (Final Stage). Personally, I really like the structure of the project, as the three stages of the project have different focuses, from observations (Deliverable 1) to interviews (Deliverable 2) to desk research (Deliverable 3). I am sure we all are excited about continuing to study our respective beloved neighborhoods- I can’t wait to go back to Bullicante to eat at another ethnic restaurant!