Nature takes care of us, and we take care of nature
Arch. Valerio Barberis, Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning and Environment of the City of Prato.
Prato Urban Jungle (PUJ) project placed itself along this blueprint, and aims to re-naturalize three diverse districts of the city in a sustainable, inclusive and participatory way by introducing areas with high green density – urban jungle – in the built environment. Urban jungles will be developed in three specific areas of the city of Prato.
The partnership of Prato Urban Jungle is complex and heterogeneous, with the Municipality of Prato as the lead member. PNAT and Boeri Associates have taken care of the design phase. Particularly, PNAT is composed by designers and plant scientists that use the comprehension of plants patterns and behaviours to inspire innovative design concepts and products, and this project will be involved in the designing phase of the urban jungles and in testing their green benefits. While Boeri Associates operate in the fields of architecture, urban design and urban planning all around the world with a focus on the use of green in architecture. Legambiente Toscana enhances awareness and educates the new generations towards a healthy and sustainable environment. The institute of Bioeconomy of the National Centre of Research, known for their innovative environmental monitoring system, will be collecting environmental data, and ESTRA will be managing all of the data. Then, Treedom and Greenapes will get involved; two enterprises that aim for a green and sustainable society by planting plants around the world and giving rewards for eco-friendly behaviours. And lastly, Co-design Toscana, a cultural association with experts of design, architecture and citizen engagement and participatory processes will develop new ideas with citizens to be implemented through co-creation sessions.
The Junglathon represents a fundamental path of the Prato Urban Jungle project, dedicated to the participation and involvement of citizens. The core focus of the Junglathon is the co-design workshops held from the 25th to 27th of September. Co-Design Toscana, through an innovative approach applied to a design thinking process, involved the citizens of the Soccorso and Macrolotto 0 neighbourhoods in the Junglathon path, aimed at raising awareness, citizen participation, civic imagination and co-planning of sustainable urban futures.
Instead, through the investigation, the Macrolotto Zero area was identified as a central periphery and as a transition area, with a high daily flow of people who, perhaps, do not live in the area. Interestingly, in the area a diverse group of populations coexist, from young, educated and active entrepreneurs to socially disinterested and detached groups. Despite the fact that different virtuous interventions have taken place in the neighbourhood, such as the media-library, the revitalisation of the market and the creation of a playground, these have not yet enhanced social cohesion.
After the preliminary ethnographic research, Co-Design Toscana held three days of co-creation sessions. Experts, researchers, designers and architects, and also citizens, attended these workshops. The co-creation sessions were preceded by a participatory mapping, where researchers from Co-Design Toscana highlighted the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and related threats of the intervention areas. By doing this, they raised awareness and a broader understanding of the situation among the participants. Importantly, these workshops have seen an intergenerational approach, where young students and elderly citizens from the study areas confronted each other and together.
The next step of this participatory process would be to go back in the territories of interventions with these ideas and start a dialogue with the residents in order to validate and improve the concepts which have been developed.