Concrete avalanches, houses, sky-scrapers, higher concentrations of people in lesser space as possible. Profit: this has been the logic that for decades has been leading the construction of the new “suburbs” of cities. The builders planned inexpensive structures that were very profitable. Little did it matter whether those spaces would demean those who had to occupy them, or whether they looked like bee-hives rather than a place of shelter for humans. The imperative was one and only: to make money.
The concept, before being ‘urban-plan’ was human. Outskirts means “on the edge”, and many who were marginalised ended up in many of those houses. The poverty-stricken, the so-called thugs and difficult people. They deserved no attention, let alone a neighborhood that put the person at the centre of the project.
In many cases it is still like this. One example is Corviale, an area a few kilometres from the centre of Rome, situated where the countryside begins to unravel; a building a kilometre long occupied by about 8,500 people. But it is not the only example: Forte Guezzi of Genoa, or the Rozzol Melara in Trieste-referred to as the quadrilateral—or even the Zen in Palermo neighborhood. And it’s not just an Italian problem; in some countries like in South America for example, strangely enough it’s exactly the opposite: those who occupy the city-centres are left to themselves, while the well-to-do neighborhoods are o the outskirts. Nevertheless the concept is the same: careful urban planning does not exist for the weaker sections of the population.
From these building concepts an element has always been excluded: the human individual. Other individuals have none other than been considered as social aggregates, waste products. To place on the shelves, just like the “apartments” assigned to them. Humans treated like chickens in battery cages.
Not to mention the ruthless destruction of green spaces, which are being engulfed by tonnes of asphalt, buildings that have never taken into account the environmental sustainability. In this lurid picture, though, it seems that something is changing: the unscrupulous engineer bribed by building speculators, is increasingly being replaced by architects, who do not aim in building but in “re-qualifying”. Or transforming the existing districts in order to improve the quality of life of those who inhabit them, with minimal impact on the environment. A slap in the face to those who have always been of the conviction that money should always impose itself over human value.
Even Fabio Sacchi, Chairman of the National Register of Architects in Rome, firmly believes this, and according to whom “the recovery of urban heritage of our cities, is essential if you want to be an architect.” The concept is also the keystone for maintaining the resources that “are not limitless.” In the capital, he explains, there are many so-called “brownfield” areas, namely areas already built but in disuse. At first glance, they may look like “monstruous” buildings, concrete skeletons without utilities, however, a requalification of these can bring a great added value to the city, as seen for the former ‘Slaughterhouse’ or the Poly-functional Appius I, that have been turned into museums, social gathering places, university lecture-rooms. As, Sacchi says, buildings such as the Serpent of Corviale are real and proper “monuments of modernity”, and thus making the most of them”is the right direction to go”.
So it would seem not pulling the building down but rather transforming its use, putting man at the centre of the city. Needless to say, the biggest problem to tackle and which the great architectural ideas clashes against, is bureaucracy itself, which often blocks projects, cuts funds or simply complicates the materialising of an idea making it impossible. Despite all this however, the requalification of urban areas for some years now, accounts for 70% of the construction sector. Corviale, has in fact, received a large sum from the region for an international competition aimed at its requalification. Not only for this area, it seems that funding for the project “Green Mile” (of the architect Guendalina Salimei, protagonist of a film), has been unlocked, which should cut across the entire building to host services, places of encounter and exchange.
For the requalification of city suburbs, there are more and more government and European incentives ,who want to shift the focus from the city to the individual, for a better quality of life to which everyone is entitled to. Without humanity, profit is Devil’s dung.