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How to Reactivate the Sleeping Giant through the Common Goods Approach?

23 June 2017

In a moment in which material and immaterial boundaries, social inequalities and practices of exclusion are still affecting our cities, as the great number of abandoned buildings and spaces in dense contexts, the discussion about the “right to the city” seems to be the challenge coming from the movements of citizens of the most important cities in Europe, Naples and Genova in Italy are developing some interesting tools in the way to improve the urban regeneration.In recent years the debate on the topic of Commons has taken on a major importance. The term refers to all those elements that are available to citizens, such as soil, air, water. Starting from research conducted since the 60s in England, during the last decade in Europe several cities started to discuss the possibility of intervening on "common goods" and in particular on the possibility of "civic uses" of properties in public ownership. It is a topic widely discussed, and in particular one of the topic highlighted in the 2nd Chance Network is “the common goods approach”.

The bi-trilateral meeting serves to to bring the knowledge and ideas of the network partners together to learn and exchange on using (giant) vacant buildings as common goods and on the management, self-governance and financing of “reactivated” vacant buildings, used as common good. This by collecting and sharing tools, instruments, good-practices and ideas for a common good oriented reactivation process of vacant buildings and sites.

How the Cities can be alternative paths to solve inequalities, global change, climate challenges,  though the urban regeneration and through redistribution of works as a vehicle for development?

Sheila R. Foster and Christian Iaione has been introducing the discussion on the potential for the commons to provide a framework and set of tools to open up the possibility of more inclusive and equitable forms of “city-making.”
“The commons has the potential to highlight the question of how cities govern or manage resources to which city inhabitants can lay claim to as common goods, without privatizing them or exercising monopolistic public regulatory control over them. Yet, the “urban commons” remains under-theorized, or at least incompletely theorized, despite its appeal to scholars from multiple disciplines. Although the literature on natural resource “commons” and “common pool resources” is voluminous, it remains a challenge to transpose its insights into the urban context in a way that captures the complexity of the “urban”—the way that density of an urban area, the proximity of its inhabitants, and the diversity of users interact with a host of tangible and intangible resources in cities and metropolitan areas. (…)”
During the Bi-trilateral meeting in Genoa the partners collected and exchanged existing tools, instruments and good-practices for the application of the urban commons approach as described in the


The City of Naples has introduced during the last two years a new legal framework to regulate the reuse and the bottom-up management of vacant public buildings considered as “common goods” through bottom up initiatives.This experience started from the Ex- Asilo Filangieri (Regulation of civic use of common goods for the building complex “Ex Asilo Filangieri”)  and was transferred to further 7 building complexes recognized as “common goods”; all belonging to the historical heritage of the city and having been occupied in the last years by different citizens’ movements reclaiming space for self-managed socio-cultural activities.

When a vacant building, identified as common good, is or starts being used informally by the local community for social, political or cultural purposes, a regulation is elaborated by the local community through a participatory process and officially adopted by the local government, that officially acknowledge this “common goods” use. The regulation defines the rights, duties and responsibilities for using the particular vacant building as common good.

In that way the rules to experiment innovative forms of use and management of a building complex should be defined by the local community developing it through a participatory process.
The “Neighbourhood Samtweberei”  is a model project from the program “Initial capital for an equal opportunities urban development” of the Montag Stiftung Urbane Räume gAG. The tool “Initial Capital” aims through the combination of different instruments to create incubators for the redevelopment of disadvantaged, deprived and/or poor neighbourhoods in Germany.

The project "Arrebita Porto" was a social entrepreneurship project that had the mission combating the abandonment of central city areas, a project shared by several public and private entities.
The project had the objective of allowing deprived owners to rehabilitate their degraded or vacant buildings at zero cost through the help of (architecture) students and their respective universities and the supply of donated material. As the project Arrebita! Porto was not successful (there were not enough students for the voluntary work and supply companies to give their materials at zero cost), the municipality created a model to help the poor owners and the poor tenants in partnership with the parishes and with the support of volunteers.

As in the case of Naples, the City of Genoa is working in setting up a tool to match the vacant buildings and sites (military barracks, civic centers, ancient salt warehouses, insane asylum, beaches and other kind of spaces) with civic sector stakeholders (NGOs, cultural association, entities from the non-profit sector, schools, informal groups, citizens) for temporary use. In preparation of this a call for the public temporary use of the vacant buildings and sites is done, to which stakeholders of the civic sector can apply. The city determines which space is to be used by which civic sector stakeholder. The selected civic sector
stakeholders sign a formal agreement with the city for the temporary use and management of a certain space in order to start with the activities they applied for. The spaces in general a rented for free.
This is an innovative tool for the Italian public sector, which tries to promote key values as trust, collaboration, responsibility, openness, sustainability, informality in line with the approach of urban commons.

From the 3rd to the 8th of July the Ex Caserma Gavoglio, sleeping giant of the 2nd Chance project, is going to host the students and researchers for the KSW- KAAU Summer Workshop. The event is part of a line of research and teaching communication of ADD, PhD in Architecture and Design and the DAD, Department of Architecture and Design (UNIGE) drawn from previous events planned, in particular the experiences of Recycle Italy (research carried out within the program PRIN), the different MED.NET meetings, and in particular the international forum MED.NET 3. RESILI (G) ENCE, held in Genoa on 25 to 29 October 2016; Reagent project, participatory meetings cycle held in Genoa in the period June to September 2016, the meetings Rebel Matters held in Genoa in 2011, intended to combine urban creattività and not approved visions, and the European Project 2nd Chance, Urbact III Action Planning Network.
A call for project was launched to Wake Up the Sleeping Giant!

From the Genoa Bilateral Meeting Report