Are there urban (and urban planning) strategies to protect the fragile parts of society in metropolises? It is a question of widespread culture, replies Antonella Bruzzone, and diversity must become a perceived value

There is a chasm between academia and reality, or at least so it seems. On the one hand, research, crazy and desperate study, the increasingly efficient and noble European projects. On the other hand, the governance of reality: cities afflicted by over tourism, by gentrification, by speculative interests.

The result is there for all to see: skyrocketing rents, real estate investments that make it difficult to afford life in the city and the distant and longed-for chimera of a metropolis truly capable of being inclusive and welcoming. And above all alive. We talked about it with Antonella Bruzzese, professor at the Department and Urban Studies of the Polytechnic of Milan. She is a former councilor at Municipality 9 during the first Sala council.

How do you make a city livable, economically and from the point of view of services, for increasingly vulnerable groups, for example young people, new families, children?

Antonella Bruzzese: “It is worth understanding the meaning of the adjective livable. There is a lot of literature that tries to think about the real quality of cities, also based on the different populations that live there.

Not only is restyling needed to make an urban space beautiful, but you need services, political stability, security, schools, a coherent commercial fabric, widespread healthcare facilities. And it serves every part of society: children, the elderly, the rich and the poor. In the end, what matters is equity: a fair city, which offers access and opportunities for work and growth to all.

If a city is accessible for the most vulnerable categories, it is an indicator of liveability for the entire population. The point is to understand how to build solidly fair cities."

Is Milan still a possibly fair city?

Antonella Bruzzese: “Milan is the city of records, a case in itself in the Italian panorama. It has the highest level of income per inhabitant, the largest number of production units. Like wealth and economic opportunities, the gap and polarization are also growing. It is a phenomenon already seen, analyzed and studied.

What we have understood is that the heritage of a city is not only measurable economically, because there are factors that shape the well-being of the urban area which are not directly quantifiable in terms of numbers, but in terms of satisfaction of basic needs.

Social capital, represented by the multiplicity of composition and social relations. The cultural capital, which concerns equally the level of education and the awareness of being able to act in the territory with effective and informed proposals. Spatial capital, which connects health, institutional and territorial intervention services and the efficiency of the response to citizens' needs".

What are the urban planning interventions that make coexistence between economic demands and social (and ethical) reasons possible?

Antonella Bruzzese: “To answer this question I would start by defining what the responsibilities of urban planning are, which essentially identify the origin of the major problems in the social gap and propose some strategies that are first and foremost political, oriented towards the diffusion of a different collective culture. Starting from the idea of ​​tax revenue as an economic resource intended for inclusion: a strategy that would allow us to find ethical reasons both in the recovery of taxes and in their management.

The perspective is that of redistribution of resources, with particular attention to vulnerable groups. It is a cultural problem that affects above all the governance of the territory. Those who are directly elected are sensitive to the reasons of their voters and tend to pay attention to the contexts that interest people most.

Therefore, a change in mentality and perception of the tax system would lead to relocation, to the abandonment of speculative logic.

Are peripheral areas and hinterland territories a resource from this point of view?

Antonella Bruzzese: “I wouldn't put it in these terms, but they are areas on which to work to increase the provision and accessibility of services. For four years, with Alessandro Coppola we have been running a laboratory on urban policies in the municipalities of the first belt to promote the idea of ​​the fifteen-minute city. In fact, the problem with these areas is volumetric dispersion.

We have tried to build projects that consolidate the presence of proximity conditions. Concretely it involves using abandoned ground floors, giving support to sensible commercial activities, thinking that commerce is a service and hybridizing its offer.

We work on social capital to re-establish the involvement of the inhabitants in the life of the area, because in peripheral areas it becomes important to activate services that satisfy basic needs. A university, a hospital, a cinema, a theater are not imaginable in all the suburbs, but it is important that accessibility, through timetables, fares and transport service, is guaranteed".

Do you think there is a possibility of making these parts of the widespread city attractive? And how?

Antonella Bruzzese: “We must always avoid the idea of ​​the dormitory neighborhood. Try to have an offer of services starting from what is there, from the structures already present, in an alternative and multifunctional logic of pre-existing spaces. Schools represent an important resource, because they can become centers that animate peripheral areas outside of school hours. However, there are also peri-urban or peripheral places of great intensity, in which social capital is a resource for grafting regenerative and pragmatic projects".

Is there a way to avoid gentrification and support systemic growth for all?

Antonella Bruzzese: “Milan is increasingly becoming a tourist city and this is in addition to various other reasons of attraction. The forecast, as we have already seen in other places, is not optimistic. The potentially devastating effects.

There is not only the expulsion of residents, but also the issue of commercial gentrification, which deprives places of meaning and identity. The most realistic solution is the great work on individual and collective culture, to build awareness that diversity is the great value of metropolises".