Coltivando: Community Garden at Politecnico di Milano

Coltivando: Community Garden at Politecnico di Milano is a project Urban Reforestation has been collaborating with this year. Please have a read about the progress of this exciting garden.

“COLTIVANDO –community garden at Politecnico di Milano” is a project coming from the successful experience of “C’è spazio per tutti/There’s room for one more”,  an event that took place in November 2011 at the Milano Bovisa Durando campus of Politecnico di Milano, Italy, with the purpose of opening to the inhabitants of that area the public spaces of the university with a series of “toolkit”, aiming at understanding, observing and enjoying a public space, with the help of “esterni”  and of the European research program “Human Cities”.

“C’è spazio per tutti/There’s room for one more” is the result of a workshop  that involved more than 50 people (students, teachers, graduate assistants and tutors). At that time one of the toolkit developed was concerning the community garden: “C’è giardino per tutti/There’s a garden for one more”. The aim was to create a urban garden for the area, in the green spaces of the campus. A community garden inside the Politecnico campus would enable people to create a community, enhancing and trans generational exchange and promoting a sustainable lifestyle. As a result of the combination of opportunity and demand, in February 2012 ‘Coltivando - Orto Conviviale’ was launched by a design group of Politecnico di Milano’s INDACO Department belonging to POLIMI DESIS LAB; as a project based on offering a community gardening as a cooperative service. Service deisgners toghether with spatial designers and people form the local community has started to work together to give a new public space in the Bovisa area.

Bovisa is an ex-industrial district. In the second half of the XX century it has been a subject of great change due to the removal of almost all the industries. The district was left with many abandoned areas that were soon to become a problem for the residences as they attracted homeless people, drug dealers etc. The quarter has lost its main reason of existence and did not initially transformed into a suitable residential area with appropriate public spaces. The population has become more and more mixed as immigrants came to the district.  Various project of re-construction of the area slowly began and the biggest one was the creation of two university campus for the Politecnico di Milano. Milano Bovisa Durando and Milano Bovisa La Masa are the two main campuses in the Bovisa district. The arrival of Politecnico di Milano in Bovisa area changed the district again, bringing in it young students and commercial activities related to them. The new life of the neighbourhood has indeed brought to an improvement of public transportation and the building of new residential areas, but public spaces like green areas or equipped squares are still missing. The Milano Bovisa Durando campus, hosting the School of Design, was built by the end of the 90s on the grounds of “Ceretti & Tanfani”, a historical company producing cable railways and which made Bovisa a working class district. The place is part of this historical memory of the inhabitants. It is today a green space hosting sitting places as well as a cafe. In spring and summer time many students sit outside, enjoy the sun doing outdoor activities. It is a hidden public space since no one beside the university community uses it as such. The campus remains an “island for students” and most of the people who once knew the place as a former industry did not even have the chance to see how it has transformed. The two types of ‘users’ (university community and the permanent citizens) have very few contact points in common. The potential of improvement the campus could have offered is huge, but unfortunately it did not fulfil. Could this hidden space be opened up by the university community (students/designers/staff) to create extra space for the everyday life of permanent residents?

COLTIVANDO is a work-in-progress project co-designed by the neighbourhood and the POLIMI DESIS LAB through 3 main workshops done to decide together the rules and layout of a community garden. Within the end of July the project will be presented to the rector of Politecnico di Milano and then to the municipality in order to start the building up of the basic structure by the end of this year and to be able “to eat the first carrot” during spring 2013.

Picture 14