(If you are looking for my paper on cleaning up the Grand, protection of local aquifers and the Regional Plan, as mentioned in the Record, scroll down, it is the fourth entry.)
At the International Making Cities Liveable Conference, I was pleased to tour the Housing Districts of Testaccio and San Saba with Ettore Maria Mazzola, Architect & Urbanist, Professor, University of Notre Dame, Rome Global Gateway. Ettore Maria Mazzola has also acted as a consultant for the Mayor and City of Rome. As a member of the new Housing Master Plan Committee, this area will be on my mind as we decide how to create and improve social housing in Waterloo Region.
Similar to Waterloo Region today, the City of Rome, Italy exploded in population between the unification of Italy (1861) and 1930. The population of the city of Rome increased from 200.000 to 1.200.000. Most of the people came from rural villages in Italy. this created a shortage of housing. It was decided that the area around the artificial Testaccio hill would be used to create housing for the poor. In antiquity the area was a dump for broken amphorae and in later times an area for butchering and tanning. The area of San Saba was also developed.
The municipal government of the Rome of the time owned and built this social housing. Instead of creating a slum, Roman architects such as Gustavo Giovannoni, Quadrio Pirani, Giulio Magni, and Innocenzo Sabbatini developed a new way of creating housing integrating a mix of uses. They were able to harmonize “the construction of large volumes” with “a proper scale that does not harm the landscape”, as well as “the necessity to build rapidly” with “respect for the human dignity of the future residents”.
These neighbourhoods create a good example for the “new urbanism” with density and mixed use. Some of the housing complexes had bicycle rooms and bake ovens. Each development was built with a central courtyard to remind the residents of their homes in the hill villages.
Maria Montessori created the first daycare or early learning center in this area. The concept of free play and learning by choice instead of strict rows and rote started here.
Today this social housing has gentrified and is no longer home to the poor. It is still a beautiful example of housing.
Stay tuned for public consultations on Region of Waterloo social housing in the coming months. As can be seen by the pictures below, just building more affordable housing, while laudable, isn’t enough. We must also build liveable communities.
How one man’s creative, coherent view transformed social housing in interwar Rome
Specific Interesting Photos of the Housing.