Parco Agricolo Casal del Marmo (IT)

The Site

P1360463View of the now inactive agricultural land at the Parco. 
The Parco is owned by some four large landholders and a numerous smaller ones that invested in the area with expectation to develop the site.  Since 2000, the site has been categorised as an agricultural park yet remains  largely inactive with exception to a small organic food cooperative and some informal allotment gardens.  As the zoning does not allow for development yet the landholders feel entitled to compensation, the Parco is at a deadlock.

The site  contains deep layers of topsoil that have been cultivated over millennia – the soil is referred to as “terra romana” and lies in the heartland of Roman civilisation. Some of this historical legacy is exploited since the 1980s by a cooperative and a small area serves as pasture for local sheep. However, most of the Parco was left fallow after real estate speculation progressively crowded out agricultural uses since the 1970s.

The Parco is surrounded by a partially abandoned complex of buildings that was a mental hospital until some forty years ago and of which the main one is currently used as a hospice. The vicinity is further marked by a hospital and several peripheral neighbourhoods of the city of Rome.

Complexity

Around one fourth of the area is owned by public authorities, the rest is split between various private and ecclesiastical “latifundistas” and a commercial bank. The entire area has been earmarked as “collective interest area” in land use planning as “agricultural park” – a political decision that translated into a considerable financial loss for landowners willing to develop the land, as the market prize for land that can be developed is in general significantly higher compared to the one of land that cannot be developed.

In June 2015 we ran a stakeholder event – read more over the event, method and outcomes here.

Context

Based on the context and complexity of the site – where ownership, finance, accessibility and public power were not aligned – we presented the site as a ‘wicked problem’ that required a multi-dimensional actor-focused approach.  In June 2015, OSMOS was involved in the organisation and coordination of a complex stakeholder workshop on a large 460ha site within the Comune di Roma. The objective of the workshop was to bring a variety of local stakeholders together in order to create a systemic vision for the social-ecological transition of the “Parco Agricolo Casal del Marmo”.

OSMOS Parco 201506

The process

The Lazio regional public business innovation agency (BIC Lazio) and the local municipality (Municipio Roma XIV) proposed the Parco Agricolo to be explored within the context of the TURAS project. The situation faced with can be considered to be wicked problem. Firstly the problem statement was ill-formulated since it was unclear what the actual task or question was that we were supposed to examine. Then information was confusing because the local actors possessed so many layers of often incommensurate knowledge about the site, including outputs of previous participatory planning actions for the site. There were likewise many clients and decision makers with conflicting values. TURAS was asked to work with local and regional agencies with different agendas and interests in the site and also had to consider a wide range of other private stakeholders such as the landowners.

Part of the local business community and civil society has also (potential) interest in the development of the Parco. Finally the ramifications of a project at such a large scale within the political and economic hub of the city of Rome, with implications for social and natural systems at different scales, struck us as truly perplexing – or wicked. A decision was made to frame the situation as a wicked problem and apply the above mentioned principles of the curatorial approach to system transitions in order to help creating a future for the Parco.
ClementinaGentile4Clementina Gentile leading the kick-off presentation.

The first action was to create a curatorial situation. We achieved this by suggesting to the local authorities that the complexities of the Parco’s development could be addressed by compressing a large variety of viewpoints and forms of knowledge in time and space, a compression that took the form of a three-day, on-site, hands-on workshop with around 60 participants from the area that was organised in June 2015. Due to high level of uncertainties regarding the unfolding of the workshop, we structured it as flexible as possible; its programme consisted of blocks of presentations followed by practical workshops whose content and sequence could be rearranged in real-time. The overall architecture of the workshop, however, was structured in form of the six steps of the curatorial approach presented above. During the three-day workshop we completed two full cycles: after finishing Step 5 in the morning of Day 2, we started again with Step 1.

  1. Step 1. Framing
  2. Step 2. Channeling
  3. Step 3. Engage via signification
  4. Step 4. Rechanneling
  5. Step 5. Reframing
  6. Step 6. Positioning

 

 

The outcome

The outcome is summarised in the document below.  One of the main conclusions is that a public / private organisation should be established – what we called a ‘Community Interest Company” (CIC).  This CIC should have both the interest of the public and common good while being nimble enough to initiate projects of support good ideas.  This will be one of the main areas of development for the following months.