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Classroom, News

Prof. Christian Iaione: We need to be efficient in transforming public spaces for the interest of the community

Activities aiming to defend public spaces from lucrative interests are welcome, but it does not stop there – it is equally important to realise civil entrepreneurial practices through which public spaces are transformed for the needs of the community.

Prof. Christian Iaione said that to the audience as part of his introductory lecture The Right to the Co-City, held on 23 November at the Croatian Centre for Culture on Sušak on the second day of the international conference Participatory Governance in Culture: Exploring Practices, Theories and Policies. DO IT TOGETHER. Iaione is a professor of public law at the Guglielmo Marconi University in Rome, and a European Commission expert on local and regional economy.

The lecture was dedicated to the issue of how a community can get involved in the processes on which city development depends. Iaione first reminded everyone of the importance of the work from Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom and her analysis of economy of community management which emphasised the significance of sustainable development in cities. The growing issue is how to apply those principles at the local context.

The process does not happen without difficulties related to the steps through which the process must go. The first chapter is research and analysis (cheap talks), followed by mapping (defining and inviting associates), then co-creation/practice, creating prototypes (work on legal solutions and defining aims), testing (estimation and measurement), and finally modelling (final drafting of legal and other regulations).

What has proven to be unavoidable in practice is facing a great deal of red tape in the sense that the structures created are too large, leading to difficulties in transforming public spaces for the needs of the community. Another aggravating circumstance are local businesses which get involved purely for the sake of their own interests. Citizens of different social and cultural standpoints are not involved in the process deeply enough, which negates the principle of diversity. An important element of the process is trust, which is often deteriorated or absent, yet management of public spaces is primarily collaborative.

In that sense, the example of the Centocelle archaeological park was given. The park is located at the eastern periphery of Rome, and it is in danger due to economic interests which directly encroach upon the archaeological site, such as the construction of a gas facility in a part of the park owned by a private company. The idea which brought civil activists together is joint governance over that urban historical and culturally significant location, and diverting it on a collaborative course which would focus on acknowledging current and creating new cultural contents.

This party applies to the unexplored segments of the Centocelle park, such as a long forgotten abandoned subway tunnel whose construction started in Mussolini’s time. The idea was for the tunnel to become a hub for the realisation of diverse cultural ideas, particularly an exhibition of digital arts. One of the issues which the activist groups faced was not being able to determine which city department had jurisdiction over that urban area.

The question seemed rather straightforward, but the answer could not be found even within the local self-government, which resulted in the inability to achieve the desired activities.

Such examples exist in many cities and parts of the world, and they are all led by the same idea – let’s build a just city together.

The lecture sparked several questions from the audience members, including questions regarding the legality or illegality of activities which result in activist groups taking over parts of the city, and what about conflicting class interests for which we know go against the idea of a co-operative relationship.

Prof. Iaione concluded that we should all create models that are going to work in practice and not to expect theoretical models to solve problems and bring about social justice.

Foto: Milivoj Kuhar