Yesterday, the planning students, led by Prof. Smith, Prof. Berruti & Carlotta Fioretti, took a bus tour around the peripheral areas of Rome. Despite the fact that almost all of us had worked till around 2am the night before, we were all extremely excited about the trip, particularly because it was exclusive to the planning department.
We first went to a modern church in the east side of Rome. Resembling the Sydney Opera House, the church was actually holding a funeral. As such, unfortunately we could not go inside. Nevertheless by just merely looking at it from outside, I felt the building was more like a modern conference center than a church. Having visited so many old churches this semester, this modern church was definitely very refreshing for me. After visiting the church we had a picnic lunch at a small neighborhood park. Without much time constraints we all manageda very relaxing lunch that was full of sandwiches and conversations pertaining to course pre-enrollment for Fall 2009, CRP classes, projects and our Cornell experience.
Of course, one sandwich could not feed us planners well. Thanks to Prof. Smith, we went to a port (which was full of yachts), and got an ice-cream at a bar there. Despite the warm weather in central Rome, the port was extremely windy. Having not seen a sea for a while, I felt really good to be just standing along the coast and enjoying the wind.
The highlight of the trip was probably the visitation to the public housing estate at Corviale- throughout the semester, we had not really studied public housing in depth. As such, when I saw the public housing, I was quite shocked to realize that Italy has such a mega-structure to house its people of lower income. Even though Prof. Smith had earlier pointed out, “if you happen to see a tower, 15 stories maybe, in Rome, it is probably a public housing”, I just did not expect that there would be such an enormous public housing estate. We all agreed that although the outlook of the housing is in fact pretty good (there is even a amphitheater!), the maintenance condition is just not satisfactory. Interestingly, I also learned that the middle floor of the buildings is usually used as shops or common areas. As such, instead of spreading the uses horizontally (e.g. common areas and retail shops in between houses), they used a vertical approach to locate the uses. In addition, Prof. Smith told us that some of the occupants do not pay rent at all. This was a shock to me that nothing had been done by the government to deal with the problem.
All in all, this tour was a great opportunity for us to jump beyond the limits of central Rome and to explore the very nice green areas in the periphery.