Urban regeneration in villages and suburbs
reading time: 4 minutes
Due to the proximity of Italy’s small villages to its cities, the country has the potential to become a model of interconnected cities, rather than metropolises. This could have a significant economic impact, especially for the construction sector. The opinion of Manfredi Catella, CEO of Coima, and two case studies.
Since the first post-lockdown openings, an international debate has arisen on the future of cities and their relationship with small towns. This discussion has been extended to matters concerning transport and technology networks, services and the more general issue of sustainability. People are aware that the concept of sustainable, balanced living starts with well-being in the home (housing) and goes beyond it, involving, in concentric circles, the neighbourhood (short networks), the urban area (medium-range) and finally the city.
Due to Italy’s urban fabric and the proximity of its small villages to its cities, the country has the potential to become a model of interconnected cities, rather than metropolises. This could have a significant economic impact, especially for the construction sector. This is what Manfredi Catella, CEO and founder of Coima, a platform for investment, development and management of real estate, discussed at the “Rigenerazione Italia” (Italy’s Regeneration) 2021 forum: “Our land constitutes our culture and our rich heritage. However, buildings constructed before 1960 account for 40% compared to 33% in Europe and buildings at risk from earthquakes account for 60% compared to 30% in Europe. Just by closing this gap we could regenerate 100 million square metres for more than 200 billion euros of investment, if we were efficient, within 10 years. With a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions and 100-300,000 jobs per year, eliminating the geographical divide.”
The opportunity to regenerate the building stock goes hand in hand with the design of the development model, focusing on services, transport and the ubiquity of technological infrastructure. If the latter were made more efficient, precisely because of the characteristic proximity of villages to cities in Italy, cities and villages could exist in a reciprocal, complementary manner. Perhaps cities will become places to meet or study, leading to a more decentralised lifestyle on a more human scale in contact with nature. These were the themes of the recent talk “Italy: Heritage, Design and Beauty”, promoted by NEWH, The Hospitality Industry Network, and by the Associazione I Borghi più belli d’Italia which, with architect Marco Piva, has begun a design research programme on the cultural and business development potential of small historic centres.
Two interesting cases were discussed: the small alpine village of Morterone (Lecco), which has been regenerated thanks to the redevelopment of typical local architecture, including the new Casa dell’Arte (House of Art); and the Borgo Office initiative, a digital platform connecting ‘nomadic’ smart workers, agritourisms and Italian villages, supporting the local economy and activities. Established in early 2021, Borgo Office has 40 associated agritourisms and villages and 20 in the process of joining, exporting the model outside Italy. It will therefore be technology that shapes the villages’ identity, elevating them from being simply ‘picturesque’ places for mass tourism and attracting a ‘bleasure’ (business&leisure) and medium-stay clientele.