Spazi Centrali workshops – a fast overview

On 6-7- 8 May, Associazione 4 Tunnel and I am my city organized Spazi Centrali project (#spazicentrali), a series of workshops in the Greco neighbourhood of Milan, with the aim of developing ideas for two of the public spaces in the area. Using tools specifically designed for the context of the two locations, we facilitated the process of issues identification, analysis, dreaming and planning for the selected public spaces. This project brought together experts trained in the Netherlands and based both in Rotterdam and locally and Milanese active citizens’ association.

Step 1: the younger generation

I am my city team partnered with residents association 4tunnel and started the process with the young generation, the students of the local NLA high school (Nuovo Liceo Artistico). The students went through an emotional mapping exercise, guiding us in a sensorial exploration of their neighbourhood, drawing maps with their own perception of the area, not only identifying the space as unattractive and lacking places for socialization, but also expressing their desire to use their skills to improve it. The workshop was full of energy, as expected.


Step 2: discussing on the spot(s)

The second step were the meetings with the users of the Largo San Valentino and Via Venini/Martiri Oscuri/Spoleto spaces, where we gathered to hear and record their current impressions and ideas for the future of the spaces. In both cases users of the spaces identified vehicular traffic and mobility as a main concern for safety and the livability of the areas. In Largo San Valentino, a commonly expressed idea would be the presence of larger and better green areas, while in the Venini/Martiri Oscuri/Spoleto crossroad, improved pedestrian areas and sidewalks would provide a missing place for socialization.


The combined outcomes of Spazi Centrali project and the cleaning activities (organised by 4tunnel at the Venini/Martiri Oscuri/Spoleto crossroad) were presented and discussed with the public in the amazing space of the Museo del Manifesto Cinematografico on Sunday 8th of May 2016. The event was concluded by Maria Carmela Rozza, assessore to Public Works of Milan Municipality.


What were the messages?

The main messages from these intense three days, regarding the urban development and decision- making processes were:

  • Users need and can be involved in the definition of plans/proposals for the future of public spaces. This was a main comment that was highlighted by people’s participation and the expression of well-thought ideas and argument; Experts (such as the #iammycity team) can facilitate the identification of issues and analysis of the area by the users as well as catalyse their ideas/dreams into specific actions towards the formulation of plans.
  • The role of Local active organizations such as 4Tunnel is important as they can motivate citizens to be active, have a collective voice and are able to work along with the local government in the planning and design process of bottom-up visions for the neighbourhood.

Moreover, regarding the quality of public spaces along the Greco tunnels:

  • People see the spaces as unsafe and missing the features that facilitate social interactions, improve ownership and social control. 
  • Public spaces are dominated by cars: users desire better, larger and safer pedestrian areas.
  • The lack of adequate natural elements is noted by the majority of the residents, who feel the need of more trees, greenery and water elements in their living environment.
  • The addition of facilities such as sharing bike system stations, Wi-Fi, playgrounds is a demand from all age groups.

What’s next?

Since 2013 Associazione 4 Tunnel has been fighting against the decay of the areas surrounding the Stazione Centrale viaduct, with different activities including hands-on cleaning of tags. I am my city, as a young team of local and international urban professionals is enthusiastic to bring its methodology and tools to support the next step of 2this effort for a safer, greener, more lively and liveable neighbourhood.

Milan and the Greco neighbourhood, having already done the first steps towards a “new democracy” approach of urban governance and decision making, can be a great example for the implementation of a process-based, participatory revitalization of public spaces, coming from the needs and ideas of people using them.

Building on the outcomes of the 3 days of the Spazi Centrali project we aim to continue this process, putting users at the core of the strategies defining the future of our public spaces. We believe the city is its citizens, and scanning for the entry points to co-create and reshape our cities. Till next time!

*The Spazi Centrali project is supported by “Sfide delle Città”, a call by the Dutch diplomatic missions in Italy, aiming to build collaborations between Dutch and Italian organizations working on urban challenges.