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Progetto Millennium

April 11, 2010

Last week an important conference was held at the Auditorium in Rome: Progetto Millennium. Rome 2010-2020, New Models for Urban Transformation.  A panel of experts from the fields of architecture and urban design were invited to discuss the problems, challenges and opportunities facing Rome in the next decade. While there is much to criticize in the policies of the current administration, the work that came out of this conference is extremely valuable in launching a serious discussion of serious issues and for that we should all be grateful.

In the upcoming entries I will be analyzing some of the specific policies being proposed or at least promised by Major Alemanno and his staff.  Today I want to post the list of questions which were posed by Rete Romana Mutuo Soccorso to the invited participants.  My translation from the Italian is fairly loose (I wrote it quickly to get the questions to the participants on time) but if you want to see the original Italian I will post it here.PM_italian.pdf. The questions are clearly quite polemical and pretty loaded but they seem to have achieved the goal of encouraging discussion.  Amazingly the city has promised to post the transcripts of the conference on its website open to comments in a public forum.

TEXT of the 10 QUESTIONS

To the participants of the Progetto Millenium Conference Richard Burdett; Santiago Calatrava; Peter Calthorpe; Paolo Colarossi; Stefano Cordeschi; Roberto D’Agostino; Livio De Santoli; Bruno Dolcetta; Massimiliano Fuksas; Zaha Hadid; Leon Krier; Richard Meier; Renzo Piano; Paolo Portoghesi; Amedeo Schiattarella;

It is truly an extraordinary occasion to have as guests here in Rome such important figures from the world architectural scene.  In fact, it is thanks to your familiarity with other world capitals that we are taking the liberty of posing ten brief questions which, should you see fit, you might answer on the occasion of the upcoming conference.

We are presenting these questions in written format because the conference has provided no forum for participation of citizen representatives such as our Rete Romana di Mutuo Soccorso, a coordinated network involving 80 neighborhood committees from the historical center to the hinterlands of Rome.

It is with this very issue of participation which we would like to begin, thanking you in advance for the responses you can provide.

  1. 1.In the rest of the civilized world, are the voices of citizens ignored as they are in Rome? Article 1 of the “Code of citizen participation in urban transformation”, in vigor in Rome since 2006, states “The city of Rome recognizes in popular participation a fundamental method for the formation of decision-making regarding urban transformation and the promotion of social inclusion.” Is it acceptable that the Mayor of Rome has totally excluded Rome’s citizens from the program of this important conference?
  2. Do beautiful works of architecture make for a beautiful city? For decades an approach to urban transformation has reigned in Rome which sees projects not in the context of a general framework such as the master plan but as individual works juxtaposed, often incoherently, against one another. Through the efforts of various valid architects beautiful works of architecture have been produced; but if they are disconnected from an urban design can they delineate a beautiful city?
  3. Is it also true in Europe that public works are financed by selling off public assets? Here major public works receive their financing by ceding to private organizations land in the Roman countryside and public buildings, modifying their functional restrictions in contradiction with the master plan.  Based on your understanding of other cities in civilized Europe, do you agree with this senseless policy which impoverishes the city for all?
  4. Is public housing still built in the world’s other cities?  In the past twenty years Rome has seen only a handful of public dwellings constructed. The rest of the huge building production has been carried out by private enterprise.  The lack of affordable housing for a significant sector of the population is causing a major exodus of inhabitants and an ongoing “cementificiation” of the Roman countryside, resulting in empty and unsold homes. In other cities are policies of public housing pursued? Is affordable housing constructed?
  5. In what other capital city in the world are there 800 automobiles per 1000 inhabitants? Not even counting two-wheeled or commercial vehicles, Rome counts 800 autos per 1000 inhabitants.  In your experience are there any other cities in the world with such a devastating ratio? Given that the Strategic Mobility Plan of the current administration provides for a mere 2% reduction of private transportation in favor of public transit over the next ten years, do you see this as an ambitious goal?
  6. Do metropolitan railway lines exist in other parts of the world? In Rome, workplaces are ever more concentrated in the central areas while residents move to the distant periphery and beyond the city limits. In the last fifteen years over 100,000 families have been forced out of the center and spend an average of 3 or 4 hours a day in transit. Given this, and the difficulties of working in a terrain rich in archaeology, do you think it should be higher priority to construct the central sections of the Metro C and D lines or rather to dedicate resources to the construction of connections to the more densely inhabited peripheral areas?
  7. Elsewhere in Europe are historical public spaces destroyed and public schools dislodged to construct parking structures? The major public works projects in the historical center have consisted in the construction of multi-level underground parking structures which risk altering forever the face of the city. In recent years the marvelous terraces of the Pincian hill narrowly averted the risk of such a garage. In Piazza Cavour one of the most beautiful 19th century gardens was destroyed to make way for parking. Recently construction has begun to excavate parking under one of Rome’s historical classical schools, the Liceo Virgilio on Via Giulia! In civilized Europe do you destroy the historical memory of the city to build underground garages?
  8. Are other cities’ historical centers regulated or is there everywhere a liberalization of the proliferation of fast food places? The heart of Renaissance and Baroque Rome is  carpeted with restaurants, pubs, trinket shops, many with the financial backing of organized crime. Recently the city administration has passed regulations which substantially liberalize even further this senseless proliferation of low-quality commerce. In the other beautiful cities you visit, have they too given up on any form of control and civil behavior?
  9. In Europe do they also condemn the peripheral neighborhoods to languish in favor of shopping centers and amusement parks? The huge periphery of Rome and the Roman countryside are littered with more than thirty shopping centers, among the largest in Europe and plans are underway to add two huge stadiums and several enormous amusement parks. The association of merchants in Rome, Confcommercio, has denounced the closure in just two years of over 5,000 neighborhood shops. Do you believe that the urban desert which has been imposed on us is fruitful for the sustainability and livability of our city?
  10. Is Dubai more beautiful than Rome?  One of the projects most dear to Mayor Alemanno is the creation of five artificial islands off the coast of Ostia to construct new buildings. After the bankruptcy of the giant real estate venture in the Emirates involving the creation of artificial islands, is there still sense in pursuing this unsustainable  and social vacuous urban model?
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