Touring Turin’s nature-based solutions at the proGIreg mid-term conference
27 April 2021
Turin is known to be an innovator, and whilst travel is restricted due to the pandemic, the city hosted an inspiring interactive virtual tour of the the proGIreg Living Lab April 21-22 2021.
The tour began with a school visit, to explore the green walls implemented during the pandemic closure. Elena Comino, an associate professor at Polytechnic of Turin joined Elena Deambrogio, the conference host from the City of Turin, in the Studio to discuss how to engage students and teachers in co-creation of nature-based solutions (NBS). Elena Comino stressed the importance of involving teachers to integrate design and maintenance activities of the green walls to the curricula in the schools, to facilitate learning in practice. She also mentioned that involving both teachers and students early on, in the planning phase, is helpful to create ownership and increase understanding of the NBS.
Photo: host Elena Deambrogio and Elena Comino at the conference studio in Turin
The visit continued into ‘Spazio WOW' a pollinator friendly urban garden and with vegetable beds, hosted by proGIreg partner Orti Alti, working with local marginalised groups. The space educates and engages groups on urban farming and gardening activities. Emanuela Saporito, PhD architect and community planner at Orti Alti said they have palnned more educational activities and collaboration with locals, when social interaction eases. They also have plans to invest in contemporary technologies for agricultural innovations to help the gardens thrive with low maintenance.
- The key take-away from the morning tour: Inclusive approach and collaboration is crucial for implementing nature-based solutions that last!
In the afternoon, the journey continued alongside river Sangone for an exploration of new soil – a nature-based solution implemented in the context of proGIreg. The soil is repurposed from an excavation site, and revitalised with organic fertilizer, minerals and bacteria. For some more soil, this was followed by a visit to Orti Generali, proGIreg urban gardening site, combining several NBS. Davide Di Nasso, project manager at Orti Generali, discussed their innovative approach in involving a wide variety of stakeholders. In addition to normal paid garden allotments, Orti Generali offers allotments at a reduced price to those with less means, in exchange for work in the main gardens and hosts educational gardens maintained by school groups. He said the current demand for allotments far exceeds supply. From the gardens to the studio – the site visit was followed by a discussion between Davide di Nasso and Iva Bedenko from City of Zagreb, another proGIreg pioneer city and host Elena Deambrogio - on how cities can learn from each other’s varied approaches for NBS replication.
Photo: Davide Di Nasso at Orti Generali
The afternoon session included a visitor presentation from Oana Emilia Budau, from proGIreg partner URBASOFIA, responsible for replication. She presented on how successful NBS practices can be spread – noting that in order to achieve success that the solutions need to be adaptable to local topography and context in each city. ProGIreg does this by applying different business models in cities – maintaining a flexible approach to best suit each location.
- The key take-away from the afternoon session came from Simone Mangili, Sustainability Policy and Strategic Planning, City of Turin, reminding participants of the need for internal cooperation "When we start building a cooperative working environment (instead of silos) is when we start developing actual solutions". Further, he highlighted the need to utilise varied strategies to address environmental issues - by enhancing biodiversity, resilience and well-being
The following morning dawned with a tour of the vegetable gardens between the situated between houses in the old Fiat factory area, for efficient use of space, with these kind of areas are often left unused. Vittorio Bianco, from Fondazione Mirafiori in charge of the vegetable gardens talked about how to involve different groups. For refugees and asylum seekers, easy to use and mobile wooden box gardens were introduced. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they also started to grow vegetables directly in the soil as well, using the skills they had learned. Teenagers, from local schools were involved in planting in wooden boxes, through educational activities planned together with their teachers. In the public space, there were plans to open gardening to the public, but as large gatherings have been banned during the pandemic Fondazione Mirafiori is focusing on specific groups e.g. engaging mental health patients from nearby institution in activities.
Photo: Elena Deambrogio and Vittorio Bianco in the conference studio
The visitor of the day from proGIreg front-runner city Dortmund, was Rolf Morgensten, Research Associate at South Westfalia University of Applied Sciences discussed. He reminded participants – planning NBS in their city that abandoned spaces, are often only unused for a limited period, with cities booking them for use several years down the line for e.g. construction plans. Dortmund has addressed this challenge by introducing interim systems for aquaponics in such spaces. This is a win-win scenario with maximum use of spaces, by introducing easy mobile, solar powered systems that can be designed for limited use, dismantled and moved.
After this, the participants were ‘transported’ on site, to explore a green wall on a homeless shelter. Cristian Campagnaro, Associate Professor at Torino Polytechnic, highlighted the need for an inclusive approach to help support the well-being of those most vulnerable: “this is a great and easy way to improve quality of life”. In addition, he reminded that co-design of NBS is crucial to ensure that they are well suited for locations and provide true benefits.
Photo: Christian Campagnaro discusses Green Wall on homeless shelter
The audience also got a chance to voice their ideas for plans for the proGIreg Living Lab through an interactive poll, followed by a discussion in the studio by Riccardo Saraco, from the City of Turin. He welcomed the call for connecting food and nature stating, "This is something we want to engage in as food brings communities together", and took note of the requests of introducing sustainable tourism to NBS sites. The demand for which was demonstrated by the great attendance to the conference! The conference then featured an introduction to NetworkNature, a European Commission funded service to help support projects such as proGIreg and the NBS community collaborate to help spread NBS throughout Europe.
- Key take-away last session came at the end of the conference when Giovanni Pineschi, Architect, Designer, Urban Planner, Italian Agency for Territorial Cohesion gave a wider outlook for things to note for those interested in embarking on NBS projects:
- Ensure transferability of solutions to enable replication in other cities
- Communicate measurability of results, as this will help validify them to policymakers and municipalities
- Explain the conditions of applying the solutions - costs, environmental impacts
- Communicate benefits to beneficiaries
- Clarify roles to all involved - who implements (planner, financer, builder, constructor, beneficiaries)
- Guarantee functionality over time, in an ordinary everyday dimension
Elena Deambrogio, from the City of Turin, closed the conference with a timely note: “During COVID-19 pandemic we lost people, we lost our certainty, but now we need to take responsibility and promote a green transition!”
Top photo: Turin, Alessandra Caretto, Unsplash