With the CAPACITyES project the city of Bergamo addresses the issue of urban poverty, specifically considering the lack of housing supply, educational poverty of children and spatial segregation. The solution is an integrated approach focusing on the child-centred perspective with a temporary cohousing facility for families with juveniles and a new children's centre.
The project attempts to achieve its objectives by:
Implementing an integrated and complex strategy acting on several thematic levels (inclusion, participation, fight against urban poverty, temporary uses, involvement of children and artists),
Activating several redevelopment zones (the Borgo Palazzo pavilion, Cascina Serassi, the streets, or rather some of the walls, of Borgo Palazzo),
Bringing together the various local actors in a dialogue with local institutions, but also with the superordinate ones, defining a rich and interactive governance scheme, thus generating not only financial sustainability, but also socio-cultural and environmental sustainability.
In this third Journal, we focus on the redevelopment of the former hospital pavilion, a building abandoned for years, which will constitute the first nucleus of a cohousing experience for families in critical conditions and extreme poverty. This project, which addresses the housing problem of the poorest classes, is located within an early twentieth-century structure that began as a centre for health services, consisting of several buildings. European cities contain many types of neighbourhoods that resemble the hospital structure located in Borgo Palazzo. Structures from the early 20th century, with large pavilions that either still cover the same functions, sometimes in regenerated buildings, others in buildings 'made resilient' by the many repairs made over the years to make them acceptable, or abandoned, as was the case with this regenerated building in Bergamo. The Municipality of Bergamo is looking at these types of buildings and the Borgo Palazzo district with a view to initiating an urban regeneration process that takes into account the value of re-use and re-functionalisation. The co-housing action begun in Borgo Palazzo aims to implement a new functional mixite that can enrich the way Bergamo's city and civic fabric functions. The Borgo Palazzo neighbourhood is the most populous in the city and one of the most multi-ethnic (9.7% of residents come from Africa, Asia, Central and South America), and, together with Boccaleone and Celadina, is the focus of the CAPACITyES project. Borgo Palazzo is at the centre of a regeneration process involving the settlement, green and infrastructure system. This process, supported by the actions launched by the CAPACITyES project, is an opportunity for families, children and the entire community. Indeed, the aim is to experiment with innovative solutions for urban and social regeneration within the city. Not a simple recovery of buildings and areas, but a path to create and strengthen relationships, social inclusion, new perspectives for the city that is changing and sowing the seeds of the city to come. Important interventions, in a district that alone accounts for about 8% of Bergamo's population, with about 5,000 households. It is a regenerative process that seeks to respond to the pressing needs of urban poverty by bringing into play not only a physical heritage (abandoned areas or buildings), but also knowledge and practices (think of the participatory process implemented for CAPACITyes), a political message of creating a local society that aims to integrate and include those in difficulty through an approach that does not only seek to solve the immediate problem (having a house), and finally initiate a process of training and insertion into the world of work and local socio-cultural contexts. Working on abandonment through regenerative processes brings new life to European cities, but above all introduces the value of 'reuse'. A value that keeps cities compact and makes them adaptable to new socio-cultural and economic contexts, a degree of flexibility that increases both local resilience and promotes forms of sustainable development. Over the years different functions have developed in this structure, each building has had, or still has, its own history. The building in which the cohousing experience will soon begin was in a state of neglect; for years it was a women's hospital dealing with and treating mental illness.
The redevelopment of the building also becomes a driver for a regeneration process involving the entire Borgo Palazzo area. The Borgo Palazzo neighborhood has many abandoned commercial and industrial buildings that could be reconverted into spaces to host craft workshops, social functions such as neighborhood housing and social housing. The same area, where the pavilion is located, has hosted functions related to health care for years, but it could undergo a functional reconversion towards a model that contemplates a mix of functions. In this sense, the CAPACITyES project is a catalyst for a regenerative process that goes beyond its punctual interventions and defines a broader context in which to found new urban regeneration actions. The building will house 12 family dwellings with a series of shared spaces - kitchen and operating dining room, multifunctional meeting room, laundry room, bricolage room - and urban gardens outside.
The initial intention was to house, from summer 2022, families with children, who find it difficult to remain in the private housing market. These families will be installed in the building, but the project will formally start in early 2023. In fact, this period we are living through, characterised by the 3Cs (Covid, Conflict, Crisis), has done nothing but cause delays in construction due to non-availability of material and inflation processes.
Families will soon be the protagonists of an innovative collaborative living project, flanked by training courses that will enable them to obtain skills that can be used in socialising, cohousing and on the labour market.
Localising the experience in this building means not only providing an answer to a pressing and urgent demand for housing, but also reactivating a strategic area of the city of Bergamo through temporary uses linked to training, job placement and inclusion. The regeneration of this district is based on a hybrid community, multicultural and attentive to intergenerational dialogue. Cohousing not only as a shelter, but as a generator of a new sustainable community that will substantiate the future steps of the regenerative process of the Borgo Palazzo area.