Reading this post, I was able to relate instantly with Tina’s experience. Last winter I spent a weekend in Chicago and found the same result of many businesses closed and not as much hustle and bustle as I would expect for such a large city. I can also relate to this phenomenon of large built areas being vacant from my time abroad.
A class that I took in Rome, entitle Modernism in Rome, I was assigned to pick a neighborhood in Rome that was constructed as a public housing project. I chose to focus on the neighborhood of Corviale, which is located about 8 kilometers south west of the city center of Rome.
When I first arrived at what I thought was Corviale, I thought it seemed like any other neighborhood in Rome. I soon discovered that I had yet to enter the actual “neighborhood”, but I had to hike up a non-pedestrian friendly hill to get there. When I arrived, what stood before me was something I have never experienced before, but only read about. It was a kilometer long concrete structure that was built to house 8,000 residents, which is more then my hometown’s population (1).
With 8,000 residents, one would think there would be lively activity all around and a great community feeling. The atmosphere was completely opposite. The whole area was very much physically deserted with eerie sounds of live through the think concrete walls. I felt as if I didn’t belong there. And to be honest, there would be absolutely no reason for anyone that does not live there to venture to Corviale.
There were large plans for an all-inclusive community, modeled after Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, but with little success in filling all 1202 units, the commercial spaces and community centers did not survive (1 & 2).
I think what was the most striking thing about Corviale was that it is located in Rome, one of the most human scaled and hectic cities I have ever experienced. The majority of the city is composed of smaller close-knit structures that create very inviting spaces for people. With a city like this and the Italian lifestyle of socialization, I am not surprised that a mega structure located so far from the city failed to support its residents.
(1) Sherwood, Roger. “Housing Prototypes: Corviale.” Housing Prototypes. 2002. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://www.housingprototypes.org/project?File_No=ITA004>.
(2) Pouliot, Hughe. “”Machines for Living” Reflections on Le Corbusier’s Plan Obus (Algiers) & Unite D’Habitation (Marseilles).” Shift Graduate Journal of Visual and Material Culture 4 (2011). Print.