Problems and purposes
“Switch is an experimental project promoted by the Order of Architects of the province of Imperia to regenerate the abandoned heritage of Liguria through the temporary reuse of assets and the active participation of local territories. The idea of SWITCH stems from the awareness that a true cultural change to regenerate cities and trigger new forms of economy can only come through collaboration, mutual contamination and sharing of choices "(Link 1 - Working method).
The temporary and / or permanent reuse of abandoned real estate would be a way to recover real estate assets without land consumption and would balance the lack of flexibility that investment initiatives in this sector have. The very involvement of communities, stimulating them to active participation, would make it possible to intercept the skills and creativity of the territories (Ib.).
History and geography
Imperia is a Ligurian city of 42,300 inhabitants, the provincial capital, born in 1923 from the administrative merger of the municipalities of Oneglia and Porto Maurizio. The latter was an important port in the past, thanks to the flourishing oil and pasta production. These activities have undergone a technological transformation, for which the former customs warehouse SALSO (Società Anonima Ligure Stabilimenti Oleari), which is located on the port front of Porto Maurizio where the oils to be sent to various maritime destinations were stored, has ceased to be activity in 2008, already under concession since 1906 by the State Maritime Property. Dating back to 1850, at least since 1886 it appears as “in its current layout and destination as a free port”, that is an area, for tax purposes, outside customs. The building occupies an area of approximately 3,500 square meters and has a storage capacity of vegetable oils of 800,000 kg in above ground stainless steel silos and of approximately one million kg in underground tiled storage tanks, 4 meters deep, as well as 2,300 square meters. storage of various types of packaged goods . The Order of Architects of Imperia, creator of the temporary reuse project, has initiated a dialogue and shared with the municipal administration, in agreement with the Ports and State Property Office, the intent to make the ex-SALSO building a first place of experimentation of participatory urban regeneration and started the path, in July 2016 (Farné, Summary of activities, p.4).
The Imperia administration has always been a right-wing stronghold, where the votes of the center-right coalitions prevailed. However in 2013, the center-left coalition (PD and three civic lists) led by Carlo Capacci obtained the majority, over the opponent Annoni (PdL, Lega Nord and civic lists), in the first round with 46.8% and to the ballot with 76%. The SEL-RC coalition (11.24%) and the M5S (8.60%) also got a councilor each. In Capacci's program there is no mention of public participation but, at most, the involvement of voluntary associations for the management of some welfare services .
Promoters and lenders
Order of Architects, Planners, Landscape Architects and Conservators of the Province of Imperia , is officially the creator and promoter of the path, in the person of G. Panebianco (president) with the contribution of the other eight members of the Council.
Elena Farné took care of the development and coordination of the participatory path and with Panebianco of the general coordination. They supported the arch. Farné a large number of colleagues, professionals and companies, for the facilitation of groups, set-ups, communication, the self-construction laboratory, fundraising, regulatory and technical analysis, video shooting, photography.
The Municipality of Imperia is the main collaborator of the project, in particular in identifying the real estate on which to activate the experimentation.
Many sponsorship events received, including the Liguria Region, the Province of Imperia, the Liguria Chamber of Commerce, trade organizations, professional associations, Anci Liguria. There are also numerous and important sponsors : Confindustria Imperia, banks and local businesses.
No information is available on the extent of costs incurred and contributions received from sponsors and the municipality.
Selection of participants
The involvement took place gradually and over a period of about a year.
First act - 22/23 July 2016 - professional refresher course which saw the participation of 22 architects. It took place at the headquarters of the Order of Architects in Imperia. As part of the course, the group then involved some representatives of the Municipality, the port authorities and the Customs Office with interviews and interviews. This is how the Switch project group was formed (link 1 - Phases - First Act).
Second act - 7-10 September 2016 - temporary reopening of the former Salso depot - event open to the public on the occasion of the “XXX gathering of the Vele d'Epoca d'Imperia” event. On this occasion, the public communication channels were activated: logo, website, social media, banners and totems, postcards, invitation brochures, press releases and press conference. There is no estimated number of participants but it is declared that “The choice of the SWITCH group to open the place, clean it up, set it up, illuminate it and promote it was rewarding. Many, among the many visitors, showed interest in joining the laboratory of ideas and various people, associations, schools and businesses contacted the SWITCH group to collaborate ”(link 1 - Phases - Second Act).
Act three and act fourth - 11-13 November 2016/18 February / 24 May 2017 - Workshops of ideas. It was an initiative open to all interested parties where, in addition to the possibility of visiting the spaces, it was possible to attend round tables (mayor, public administrators, promoters, experts) on the theme of participation and urban regeneration and the structured Ideas Laboratory with the OST methodology. To participate, it was necessary to send the organizers an expression of interest regarding the temporary use of the property, with information relating to their skills and curiosity. Places were limited to 99 and the organizers would have arbitrarily chosen, if the number of requests had been exceeded, who to exclude. The number of participants was not reported, but from the Instant report it is possible to estimate a presence of at least 100 people (including many members of local associations), including organizers and guests. The tables were attended by facilitators, Switch architects and some invited experts who had a dedicated space for final interventions. A round table with the administrators (mayor, vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the Province, regional city planning councilor, ANCI secretary, president of the National Council of Architects) closed the first meetings of the workshops (Link 1 - Laboratory of ideas).
Methods and tools
Open Space Technology (OST) is a collaboration method that takes place in meetings of varying lengths (from half a day to 2-3 days) and can involve as few people as a few thousand. It is based on the self-organizing abilities of the groups, aggregated on the basis of interests and stimuli, launched by the participants themselves. The first phase is plenary, introduced by the general question (prepared by the conductors) and by the solicitation to the participants to present topics for discussion, synthetically and with a short exposition. The proposals are collected on the notice board of the OST to which all participants can then subscribe. Then we move on to work in groups. Participants are encouraged to behave as free from patterns and labels as possible. A rule is the maximum freedom of movement, from one group to another, moreover there is the possibility of isolating oneself (without being considered eccentric) or going to the buffet when you want and maybe meeting there with others. A self-produced synthetic report is requested for each group. In the case of Imperia, the architects-facilitators of the Switch group and expert guests joined the tables created spontaneously.
Deliberation, decisions and interaction with the public
The path developed progressively and was initiated by a professional refresher course on participatory methodologies reserved for architects.
First Act - 22/23 July - The project started as a training offer for the professional updating of local architects: 22 architects participated, at the headquarters of the Order, participated in:
- lectures and lectures on reuse in Italy and participation methods;
- an inspection of the ex-SALSO;
- a debriefing on the mapping of the actors to be involved and the launch activities of the initiative;
- an OST for the drafting of an action plan to organize and promote a design event open to the community through the OST method.
At the conclusion of the OST, the action plan was drawn up and the large Switch working group was formed, coordinated by the President of the Order and Elena Farné. The organization for the next act followed, contacts were made with the Municipality and the port and customs authorities and, thanks to the effective work of the members of the group, some sponsors and local companies, the space of the former - deposit for partial and temporary use by the public (Farné, p. 8).
Second act - 7/10 September 2017 - Opening of the ex-Salso and launch of the Switch project, on the occasion of the “Vele d'Epoca d'Imperia” event. There will be a guided walk, a photographic exhibition, also to make the still inaccessible spaces visible and an informal dialogue meeting in which cases of reuse of abandoned buildings in Italy and Europe were presented (Link 1 - Phases - Second Act) . The Switch group detected a high public interest in the project and continues to design the workshops of ideas that will see the involvement of the community.
Third Act - 11-13 November 2016/18 February - “The community designs - The ideas for the Salso”. Also at the ex-Salso, this time even better set up, a first OST is organized (from which 19 proposals will emerge), divided into 3 cycles of meetings and with round tables of experts and administrators at opening and closing. The facilitators extrapolated 7 work areas (Farné, p. 12):
- Food: culture and production.
- Social: community care.
- Culture and art: innovation and creativitỳ.
- Work: circular and collaborative economy.
- Tourism: seasonal adjustment.
- Sea: culture and knowledge.
- Training: developing skills and knowledge
The projects are illustrated in the Instant Report already in summary form and there are no original minutes, however they seem to be reported in full (Switch, 2016, Instant report 1). On the first issue, for example, there were 3 working groups (about 15 people involved in total): Salso a Km Zero (proposed by the representative of Coldiretti); Social market and farmer market (proposed by the representative of the Rotary Club); Domestic memory "serves" at the table (proposed by a citizen). This last idea was aimed at protecting and promoting the memory of the local home cooking and taking it out of the house. It is aimed at citizens and tourists. The action consists in "recovering the material (recipes, names and surnames, traditions), supporting the owner of the knowledge with an" heir "who brings forward the knowledge and can exploit it as an opportunity for educational / occupational, socio-cultural insertion and create a kitchen to give life to recipes / a space to serve "(ib., p. 16). In addition to the partners to be involved, the necessary spaces, relations with the context, who manages it (AD Lab Association in collaboration with other associations and cooperatives), times and resources, concrete commitments starting from the OST in the short term (laboratory, botanical garden, administration, events related to food and wine) and medium-term (stabilize the idea with a view to safeguarding the home cooking of the territory, administration) (Ib.).
This will be followed by a period of elaboration, contact making, technical and regulatory insights and a second OST (February 18, 2017) for merging and defining the projects from which 17 feasible proposals will materialize. According to the rules established by the organizers, only those who had already participated in the first OST could access this OST. However, it is noted that, precisely on theme 1, the one investigated more carefully here, a representative of AIAB (Italian Association of Organic Agriculture) Liguria and other aggregations are also inserted with another important proposal "Organic, instructions for use". In this second workshop, the participants are far fewer, in some tables there is the only proposer, in others a few more, two dozen people are estimated. However, the projects are better detailed and take shape, the proponents and the adherents make commitments to carry them out and implement them. Returning to the example of home cooking, the goal is defined to create a laboratory of knowledge of local products and traditional cuisine, in conjunction with the Zero Km market in Coldiretti, there are sponsors, they serve the North Wing and the central courtyard of the ex-warehouse, kitchen equipment, furnishings, tables, gazebos for the outdoor spaces, human resources are the volunteers of the association and Coldiretti for the products, a full day is required including assembly and disassembly of the set-ups and the 5 dates of events entitled “Ligurian cuisine, cooking workshop” are indicated (Switch, 2017a, Instant Report 2, p. 10).
The ideas, through encouragement to collaboration and informal relationships, were slightly condensed into 17 proposals (Farné, p. 12-18). In support of the working group, meetings were organized between the Switch group and the proposers to investigate the individual aspects of their proposal. Furthermore, "In parallel to the actual participation activity, the Switch group shared a path with the municipal administration, the Imperia Maritime Property Office and the Customs Agency aimed at building the request for temporary concession of the ex-Salso ”(Farné, p. 18). This was followed by an in-depth analysis of the complex technical regulations relating to temporary use and the restrictions on use of the property that limit its usability.
Fourth Act - 5/6 May 2017 - The community experiments. A report was prepared and publicly presented (Switch 2017b, Report 3) which condensed the work of the Switch group in terms of design and functionalization, organization of the proposed events and rationalization for the needs of users of: spaces, equipment, accesses, services, requirements, regulations, times and dates as well as the rules and selection criteria for those who want to join the initiatives (including, among others, a reward in terms of experience acquired also for those who participated in the process). An organizational report emerged (with a calendar of events) and a summary document for the decision maker who can and should use it to plan the first temporary use campaign of the property from June to the end of 2017 (Ib.).
Influence, results and effects
From the press review monitored on the Switch project website (link 1 - Press) it emerges that the initiatives have actually started and have largely been carried out. This involved the dismantling of silos and other plants not suitable for safe public use, as well as the renewal of plants and spaces and general set-up (Switch, 2017b). The first event held on June 3, 2017 is “Organic. Instructions for use ”with meetings on the functioning of certification, controls, guarantees to the consumer and product market, meetings and testimonies with producers, thematic tables and workshops dedicated to olive growing . Many other initiatives follow corresponding to the planned projects but not all those on the calendar have been detected: for example, the one on the home kitchen is never mentioned. The use of the asset is free but the costs of the initiatives are borne by the users. The Switch group was available for support in setting up and communication. The project participated in the Biennale dello Spazi Pubblico and obtained its patronage, as well as many citations and awards from the specialized press and from the local, traditional and online press (Link 1 - Press).
Analysis and lessons learned
With regard to communication , the rewarded commitment to building a process supported by a wide array of consistent players (including many commercial enterprises) both in terms of skills and resources, in a reasonable time, should be noted - given the objective: rather rare results in Italy. Great attention in the setting up of the spaces and in the care of the image and communication certainly in this case had an impact in stimulating a wide and determined participation.
On the other hand, the total absence of financial reporting of the initiative highlights a lack of transparency , as well as in the modalities of “implicit” assignment of the assignment to the promoter.
The choice of a light vertical governance and an open, informal and flexible tool such as the OST has allowed a spontaneous and convinced activation from the bottom, but not completely rigorously regulated in the access, despite the intentions perhaps a little too rigid, not very inclusive (given the bureaucratization of formal applications to be sent in time before participation in the OST) and even here not very transparent. No particular efforts were spent on sharing the path with the other territorial actors, except towards commercial ones (sponsors). The steps in fact took for granted the planning of the paths and the tools to be used, they were presented as a new knowledge, something that needs training and this came precisely from the organizers of the process itself. The actors involved in the organization of the itinerary have carried out more than anything else a service function in the preparation rather than a control of impartiality, transparency, representativeness.
The representativeness of the transaction was not increased with the involvement of the general public, particularly in the final stages. In part, this choice can be explained by the simple fact that the outcomes themselves concerned public initiatives and community involvement. Despite this, obtaining greater feedback from the general public in the final stages could have strengthened the validation of the whole process and brought a greater number of people closer to the participatory tools and the project through direct and informal contact. Finally, targeted quantitative survey tools (questionnaires, short interviews, surveys) could have provided more targeted responses to the satisfaction of the proposals developed, improving their feasibility and planning, even ex-post.
Farné, E. (2017), Towards temporary reuse. Summary of the activities of the Switch Project, fourth act, Report, 24/5> https://www.progettoswitch.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Report_Sintesi_Switch_24_maggio.pdf (release 2/2/18).
Switch (2016), Instant Report 1, The Community designs, Laboratory of ideas for the reuse of ex-Salso, 11/12 November> https://www.progettoswitch.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/INSTANT_REPORT_SWITCH_12 -11-2016_DEFINITIVO.compressed-min.pdf (release 2/2/18).
Switch (2017a), Instant Report 2, Temporary reuse proposals, addressed to building owners and the municipal administration, February 18> https://www.progettoswitch.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/02_PROPOSTE -TEMPORANEE-INSTANT-REPORT-18.02.2017_V01.pdf (release 2/2/18).
Switch (2017b) Report 3, The community experiments. The proposals for use of the ex-Salso. Fourth Act> https://www.progettoswitch.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Report_Finale_Switch_Progetti_V version_24_maggio.pdf (release 2/2/18).
- switch - Reuse of abandoned spaces. New ideas to change perspective> https://www.progettoswitch.it (ril. 2/2/18).
 ex-salso. The free warehouse of Porto Maurizio. First case of temporary reuse in Liguria> https://www.progettoswitch.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/cartolina-3.compressed.pdf (release 2/2/18).
 The new wind of Imperia, Program of the coalition that supports Carlo Capacci new mayor of Imperia> https://www.slideshare.net/stylus81/programma-elettorale-di-carlo-capacci-per-imperia-2013 (ril . 2/2/18).
 June 3, 2017 - The ex Salso deposit isreborn> https://www.progettoswitch.it/3-giugno-2017-rinasce-il-deposito-ex-salso/ (ril. 2/2/18).