During day 3 of the UCELab exchange, we had the opportunity to visit Garage Grande, one of the exchange Case Studies. The history of this regeneration project is quite bizarre because Garage Grande, before becoming a space dedicated to the Viennese community, was actually… a real garage! The garage building, though, during time was not respecting anymore some structural criteria and has been sold to private investors. In the meantime of changing its use, the space has been given to the neighbour community.
Barbara, one of the architect and founder of the Garage Grande experience, told us the story of this place, explaining that it was born primarily as a need to provide the local community with green spaces and plants that would offer a place where people could “breathe” clean air in the center of a big city. Cities are getting hotter because climate change and associated challenges in cities affect us all. In this context, one of the aims of Garage Grand is to shows what plants can do to improve the microclimate in densely built-up cities and how important they are for cooling in increasingly hot summers. One of the most striking features of this space, in fact, is the presence of greenery, which can be spotted not only in the facades and pots placed outside, but also on the upper floors where several people in the neighborhood have reserved to grow vegetables and flowers of various kinds.
The large spaces of Garage Grande, whose use has been temporarily offered to the community while waiting to change its destination, are a real chance of place making offered to the neighborhood. Here different kinds of activities happen: the space can be used by everyone as a real garage, but also as a place where to practice sports: such as yoga class, climbing… Also, Garage Grande is a place where some local artists can have a studio-like-space were to exercise and store they creations and of course, confront with the Garage Grande users.
As Barbara told to us, Garage Grande is a space in continuos transformation and attended by different types of people of different ages. This space in fact, hosts different types of events that welcome from the oldest to the youngest, there are musical events, but also educational that aim to include as many people as possible in the creation of a common space and built by the citizens of the neighborhood.
On Wednesday the 15th of September, we went to visit the Zukunftshof space in Vienna a space in the city centre that has been regenerated and now hosts what their creators call a “living utopia”.
The founders of the association Zukunftshof have decided to dedicate the large spaces of this dismissed place to urban agriculture and from this first step, to give life to a slow food restaurant with zero km products. The vision of the founders was to support the transformation of Viennese citizens from consumers to real producers. Zukunftshof, little by little, has turned into a project that has made productive agriculture tangible and within the reach of everyone, even to the urban center inhabitants.
As our guide told us, however, this space is not only a productive place dedicated to the world of agriculture, but above all a community place where different types of activities happen. The Zukunftshof focus, indeed, is also on social projects and educational programs in collaboration with schools, but also with resident artists and the organization of various festivals which involve not only the local the neighborhood, but also the communities of the neighbouring cities and villages.
The space, in fact, has become a real “landmark” for the neighbourhood and, in addition to offering the community productive spaces, provides families and children with recreational spaces where they can work in a sort of co-working, a library and a large green space where you can get in touch with the green in the context of an urbanized city.
The part that most impressed us about the project, was the willingness and ability that the project has had over the years to bring together different generations and unite them in a common project that aims to rediscover the contact with nature and seeks an increasingly circular approach in the way we all produce and consume.
On the morning of 14th September, we (15 international participants from Italy, Germany and Austria) gathered together at WUK, Vienna for a fun and inspiring lab on placemaking and social entrepreneurship. We met with the coordinators of the lab, Hannah from Wonderland platform and Robert. They walked us through the various project visits and tasks planned for the week, and later we arrived at the first project, a small, charming building – Vinzi Rast.
Getting fit for the evening program : The afternoon was free. Some rested, others took the opportunity to visit Vienna on their own or accompanied by residents.
During the first night of the UCELab project, all participants participated an activity of film screening took place.
After the screening activity, we were involved in a discussion with some of the night guests who told their experiences of urban regeneration. In particular, one of the Case Study we discussed, was that of Scugnizzo Liberato, a social centre located in the very historical centre of the city of Naples. A group of locals decided to join forces in order to give birth to a common for the city and for its citizens. In particular, they worked in sinergy to regenerate an abandoned building which was the former juvenile prison, with the aim of returning this fosaken place, long since disued, to its community.
The discussion was really stimulating especially in relation to the role that these regenerated places can have in the lives of the people who live in these territories, beyond the tourist offer. The point is that this kind of intervention stems from the will to create spaces for citizenship, especially when it comes to abandoned buildings. The reflection we did during this activity, thanks to the host experience, concerned precisely this, showing how each city has its own needs and its own way of managing the assets to be invested in the preservation and enhancement of cultural heritage. Very often, in fact, what is lacking is a real support from the institutions that in some cases even discourage this type of grassroots initiatives, while in others they are in favour and even work to make these activities flourish, contributing to the preservation of abandoned spaces and returning their use to the community.
The Scugnizzo Liberato Case Study has given us the opportunity to think about how every urban reality has its own distinct and different needs, which cannot be summarized, nor unified with simplicity. For example, we discussed about children’s spaces: while in Germany the youngster generations have ample green spaces and a more genuine contact with nature, in large cities, such as Naples, this relationship with green is reduced, and there is rather a relationship of proximity, shaped by the morphology of the city’s space, its narrow streets and the culture of living public space. For this reason, the approach to regeneration and the call for community participation are processes that must start from different cultural roots and must be contextualized starting from the territory in which the interventions are to be implemented, in order not to distort them and to implement initiatives that are inclusive and of real value for that specific territory.