I have been working since 2001 on several projects for the recovery of urban informal suburbs of Rome, named „Toponimi“, specifically on the suburb named Valle Borghesiana.
I know this areas from a personal and a „professional“ point of view, nevertheless I have to say that, while working sometimes very hard on it, almost none of my disciplinary certainties remained untouched.
This kind of projects are really hard ones especially from the organizational point of view, for each of the players involved in this process: the people who built and actually lives in this areas, the chairmen of every consortia and designers.
The whole process has been divided into several phases: a first step consisted in providing information on procedures and methods to the inhabitants, a second step consisted in collecting all data relating to inhabitants as well as their acceptance of the project itself. Contemporary in these phases the urban projects are developed.
This process required hundreds of meetings, from small to even public meetings involving a large number of inhabitants.
This extraordinary collective organizational effort let raise several questions to me about political and professional approach, as well as social and cultural everyday life. It required a considerable effort to reason with the different players about my experiences but I often received only superficial answers which tended to marginalize or minimize the size of the different problems. It is a difficult subject, indeed, which nobody seems to have any interest to reflect about.
These areas still have an exceptional potential, they are so crucial for the future development of the city, they have shown the capacity for self-organisation and social cohesion, they have also been able to give the right answers to difficult situations and needs which, in my personal opinion, cannot be overlooked.
Self Made Urbanity was born on the basis of all these considerations and has been conceived as an interdisciplinary research to highlight knowledge, skills of social cohesion and self organisation. SMU- research aims to focus on all the aspects connected with the different experiences of all involved subjects. It is clear to me that „il caso Roma“ presents unique peculiarities on both national and European level. Nevertheless I see the urgency, for the reasons I mentioned above, to look at it starting from an international approach in order to generate, as I hope, a new awarenesss of ongoing transformation processes and on the same time to read Rome in comparison with other European realities.
The first approach provides understanding and frames by means of numbers and data.
The Rome research wants to compare Rome to other European capital cities and observe specific peculiarities of the city, such as the population growth and the expansion of the built area. Furthermore, it wants to understand to which extent this expansion has been realized without any form of urban planning and how many people were involved in such processes. How many people have self-built their own city and what is the relation with the planned expansion.
Antonella Sonia Perin, January 2009