The financial crisis gripping several western countries has brought to the surface Italy’s many structural weaknesses. We now have a technical caretaker government trying to bring in the changes our political class failed to make, and this has caused a deep sense of disorientation among ordinary people and the establishment. I have a long track record of working in many parts of the world, but I’m Italian and want to live in Italy. Perhaps we have reached a point in which only visions can help us. We all are familiar with global models and know they have run out of steam. In Italy, developing and implementing architectural projects has become impossible on account of our opaque bureaucracy and lack of any underlying strategy. We are left to our own devices - which, to put a more positive slant on things, could be viewed as an opportunity. But we want to get things back on track. I think there are many of us with different skills doing different things, who feel exactly the same way about our current situation. We view these changes with apprehension and are incapable of seeing any active role for ourselves. Yet it’s senseless to go through life just complaining that things don’t work in our country. We should rather try and understand how we can come together to make things work. A few weeks ago at a workshop on start-ups, the new Minister for Economic Development asked us to help him help us by indicating problems and the solutions that have been experimented elsewhere. It was heartening to see a member of the government take a definite stance on a specific issue and before a barrage of some forty odd questions, respond by setting up a working group to produce concrete action. The issues at stake are many and wide-ranging. Starting from the beginning, they entail putting together a broad series of inputs to establish a clear reference framework within which to operate. The key factor is to get people to dialogue with one another. And the best way to do that is to create a networking platform. Already the simple fact of setting up a communication circuit is a great leap forward for the world of architectural projects – and many other professions. If the exchange of information cuts across professional boundaries and is geared to facilitating dialogue and communication then it becomes a tool able to provide the sort of detailed answers needed for complex issues. We must become more creative in developing our working processes. And this depends to a large extent on the quality and variety of the people involved. However, the mere fact that architects, urban planners, engineers, designers, biologists, historians, geographers, agronomists, public administrators, journalists, economists, hackers, sociologists, anthropologists, chemists and other professionals can become active players when specific issues are raised within a wider project framework would be to break the current mould and start down a whole new promising avenue. I see this sort of platform as being made up of four main areas: 1- The first area is concerned with project and implementation efficiency and eliminating red tape. Timeframes and working with reliable constituents are a non-negotiable must. 2- This area resembles a continuously updated databank of information, forecasts and statistics from disparate fields made available to the project in hand. It would provide answers to questions like: how many Chinese tourists will we have in 2018; to what extent are single-cropping agricultural practices causing desertification of the Po Valley; or how is the social make-up of the different areas of Italy changing? 3- This area would host a series of issues, emerging questions and likely future projects for which a need is felt but which have yet to find backers. Examples could be tourist offerings linked to regional development; improving the quality of life in peripheral urban areas, redevelopment of civil and industrial brown sites or agricultural areas. 4- The fourth area could be dedicated to developing university courses on experimental projects directly linked to on-going issues. Seats of learning are the ideal places in which to foster dialogue among the disciplines involved to new architectural project development. This may all sound pie in the sky. Of course, it’s only the start. The most important thing, however, is a willingness to come off the fence and take a stance, in one’s own mind and before others. It all hinges on a willingness to commit. But it’s only by doing that we get better.
18.06.2012 Aldo Cibic
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