Part or chapter of a book
Contemporary debate on public space in Rome
Perspectives on Public Space in Rome, from Antiquity to the Present Day
331 - 350 p.
This chapter deals with the contemporary debate on public space in Rome. Rather than focusing on the academic and design discussion, it tries to verify the actual operation of public space within the recently finished or recently designed developments of the city in the outskirt of the metropolitan area. A few case studies, peripheral housing and commercial areas, have been analyzed. Though the projects are not always innovative, they raise a debate on the nature of public space in the contemporary city and related issues in design, theory, and politics. The first paragraph summarizes the main planning and political events since the 90s, marked by the progressive coalition that ruled the city for 15 years, and discusses its controversial decision to foster new developments in the peripheral ring-road. The second one discusses current issues and guidelines of city development as well as the related questions concerning design and layout of the neighborhoods. This debate has been caused by the sharp and growing contrast between the historical model of centripetal city, structured around a ceremonial public space (which accidentally matches archaeological and baroque areas) and the new condition of the dispersed metropolis, where social life grows in a variety of places and geographical scales. Third one, it will proceed with the debate on public space, proposing, in particular, the fundamental thesis of the erosion caused by the growing privatization and commodification processes. It will suggest a few cautionary remarks that would frame this outcome as one of the possible wider changes in contemporary urban lifestyle. Furthermore, a description of four urban projects (two of them are already finished while the other ones are still in progress) will provide some support to the critical debate about the changing nature of public space, and its role in the new expanded metropolitan city. The conclusion contributes to the open debate on public space. The grim perspectives of public life in contemporary cities allow significant fears about the erosion of political freedom and available open space. Late developments in Rome are definitely inconsistent with the old ideal of a dense open space where strangers, different habits and differing opinions coexist peacefully. At the same time they do not support the apocalyptic view of an unstoppable fall toward a miserable city of commodified and privatized spaces.