Originally a Roman settlement dating back to 143 BC and later the site of famous battle during the Napoleonic Wars, Romano Canavese is a picturesque small town approximately 25 miles northeast of Torino (Turin), Italy. Many of the town’s historic buildings are being restored with their original paint colors, and the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside is breathtaking. Yet for all its assets, the town has struggled to attract people and businesses in recent years, particularly after the demise of a nearby Olivetti plant. As a result, the streets are empty during the day and the few remaining stores are often closed.

A panoramic photo of the town.

In spite of these challenges, Romano Canavese has great potential to become a more lively place that people want to live in and a destination in its own right. A luxury hotel and a nearby golf course already draw visitors to the area, and the town is eager to provide more activities to attract people during their trip. As part of this effort, the mayor of the town attended a two-day placemaking training conducted by PPS staff Elena Madison and Alessandra Galletti in Torino on June 21-22. The course was organized by TCM Italia, with the support of the Torino Chamber of Commerce, Ascom Torino, Confesercenti of Torino and the province. It was attended by planners, architects, downtown managers, economic development professionals and officials from a number of other municipalities, small and large.

An historic building at the center of town could serve as a gathering place for more activity.

At the training course, participants discussed how a placemaking process could bring new vitality to their respective towns and neighborhoods. Romano Canavese was identified by its mayor as a potential pilot project, which would be used as an example for all training participants of how placemaking could be applied on a small town scale. The PPS team visited the town, and together with local residents and municipal representatives identified several focal points–an historic church, a small park, a clock tower–that could become placemaking destinations and nodes for greater activity. Pending funding, a pilot project using the Power of Ten, and focusing on several specific locations for improvement, will be initiated in the village this coming fall.

This small park atop a hill is one potential focal point.

Below is a recap of the event from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica (English translation appears first, followed by the original Italian.)

Bryant Park an Inspiration for San Salvario

The area around Porta Nuova will be redesigned using New York’s Bryant Park as a model.

On June 20, a team of U.S. experts undertook a preliminary study of the streets that surround the station.  The next day, the American team from Project for Public Spaces, as part of a workshop organized by Confesercenti, Ascom, and the Chamber of Commerce, unveiled a plan to re-envision the axis of via Nizza.  Porta Nuova has a variety of similarities with Bryant Park, including what some would call “high risk” urban spaces as well as a variety of socio-economic and cultural challenges.  The American team emphasized, however, that “these difficulties can be analyzed and resolved, just as Bryant Park was transformed from a dangerous, abandoned park into a beautiful part of the city.”

The American team is made up of two organizations: Project for Public Spaces (PPS), the pioneers of a technique called “Placemaking” in Europe, and TCM Italia, an organization for Town Center Management.   Using concrete examples like Bryant Park, the team has developed a “field-work” style of study to compliment theoretical approaches.  The objective? To transform public spaces based of the desires of the community which uses them, a more holistic approach than traditional urban redevelopment techniques.  The two-day workshop gathered prominent public officials, managers, designers, and other professionals concerned with the urban environment.  The area around Via Nizza will be transformed after the completion of the subway line construction.   Local shopkeepers and business owners will be invited to share their vision for the new site with the hopes that this small area at the heart of Torino becomes completely human scaled. As the organizers explained, “Torino, following New York’s example, can become a case study for the application of new techniques for urban transformation; techniques which could be exported not only to the regional level but also to a national and European scale.”

A San Salvario il replay di Bryant Park


LA ZONA di Porta Nuova si ridisegna sul modello del Bryant Park di New York. Già ieri l’ équipe di tecnici sbarcati dagli Stati Uniti ha fatto un primo sopralluogo nelle strade che circondano la stazione. Oggi il team americano, in occasione del workshop organizzato da Confesercenti, Ascom e Camera di Commercio, «Project for public spaces», illustrerà il suo piano per riqualificare  in particolare l’ asse di via Nizza. L’ esedra di Porta Nuova ha diversi aspetti in comune con il lontano Bryant Park. Entrambi sono spazi urbani a forte «rischio», con non indifferenti problemi di carattere socio-economico e culturale. «Ma – sottolinea il team americano – questi aspetti possono essere analizzati e risolti. Così com’ è avvenuto per il Bryant Park trasformato negli anni da luogo problematico, mal frequentato e pericoloso in area fortemente attrattiva». L’ équipe statunitense è formata dai newyorkesi del «Project for Public Spaces» (PPS), pioniere in Europa dell’ approccio “Placemaking”, e di “Tcm Italia”, società che si occupa di «Town Centre Management». Attraverso il caso del Bryant Park, e di altri esempi concreti, si svilupperà lo studio “sul campo”, accanto naturalmente a quello teorico e di dibattito. L’ obiettivo? Trasformare gli spazi pubblici in base alla comunità che ci vive, in un’ ottica più ampia di riqualificazione urbana. Oggi e domani il workshop radunerà in primisi funzionari pubblici, come amministratori, urbanisti e designer.  «Torino, dopo New York – concludono gli organizzatori – diventerà così un caso pilota su cui testare metodologie urbanistiche, esportabili non solo a livello regionale, ma anche nazionale ed europeo». – ERICA DI BLASI

In Northern Italy, Placemaking to Revitalize a Small Town was last modified: March 6th, 2012 by Craig Raphael