BUDDcamp 2011 THE CITY OF EUPHEMIA: Brescia / Italy
In ‘Trading Cities 1’ from his now seminal text InvisibleCities, Italo Calvino describes the city of Euphemia asa place “where the merchants of seven nations gatherat every solstice and equinox.” These merchants arriveat Euphemia for trade and simultaneously develop anevening cultural exchange, “sharing tales of wolves,sisters, treasures” unifying merchants from different na-
tions along their travels for nancial gain. Though cul
-tural diverse, this sharing of second hand experience of
the world serves to connect specic lifestyles, thereby
giving Euphemia a distinct social identity.Unfortunately, in most urban areas throughout the world,this symbolic and evocative aura of collectiveness faltersby way (among other things) of stereotypical fear andfragmentation. Nestled near Brescia, Italy’s main centralsquare, the Quartiere Del Carmine, was a place not un-
like Euphemia. Though nding itself in a state derelic
-tion in the ‘70s and ‘80s, subsequent refurbishment andtransformation in the ‘90s has given way to a completely
gentried character with pockets of mixed immigrant ar
-eas. A major consequence of this development is that
it has stied the use of open spaces and semi-public
spaces where everyday meetings took place and strongsocial ties were formed and thrived. However, despitethis challenge, small groups of women have initiatedprojects underlining good neighbourhood practices thatrevolve around a network of open houses where immi-grant families develop ‘care’ practices at different levels. These ‘exchange services’ range from shopping assis-tance, collective studying and prayer to the promotionof responsible tourism and assimilation support. Thoughsmall in scope, the positive revelation of these networkshas in some ways resulted in the obvious need to by-pass the rigid schemes of closed (condominium) livingwhich fosters exclusion and isolation in favour of sharedspaces within houses and shops that could serve aspossible civil society nodes or headquarters at the levelof the streets.Located in the old working class “barriera” style peri-urban fringes of the city center, amongst empty factoriesand corridor houses full of marginalized immigrants arethe remnants of the Movimento Nonviolento Headquar-ter via Milano. Housed in a large abandoned factory, itis now occupied by the Peace Anti-Militarist Associationcalled MIR (meaning peace). During the ‘80s and ‘90sthis was a very active organisation working on de-mili-tarisation and Gandhi-style processes and essentially apoint of reference for all of Italy (remember that BRES-CIA was once home to a vast weapons/mines industrywhich allowed for a direct emergence and confronta-tion with peace and non-violent movements since the
‘70s). A sort of contra gentrication is happening here.
However, the activities of the association are currentlymuch reduced and the space is sort of un-used. Yet,still of vast importance and potential is the extensive li-brary which contains a collection of nearly 50 years of
publications on non-violence and pacism- a “collection
of memories”.Run in conjunction with the Local Democracy Embassyof Zavidovici (LDE), an organization focusing on socialand educational projects for immigrants and refugees inBrescia and promoting democracy and peace overseasBUDD Camp 2011 involved a 3-day charrette concern-ing the spatial and temporal exchange and integrationof immigrants and locals with a particular parallel focus
on how MIR (in collaboration with LDE) can re-dene its
identity and expand its active capacity to serve as a driv-ing force and platform to combat these challenges. Withan introductory testimonial from Agostino Zanotti, head
of the LDE, BUDDlab Vol.2 represents the reections of
the MSc Building and Urban Design students’ opera-tional experience as they sought to navigate betweenthe multiple meanings of design action and synthesis.Engaging in methods including psycho-geographicalmapping and one-on-one interviews, the student groupsdeveloped a range of interventions meant to serve asinvestigative catalysts for the promotion of communityidentity, organizational strategy and overall urban inte-gration within Brescia.
William Hunter is a Teaching Fellow on the MSc BUDD course at the Development Planning Unit, London.