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Re-planning collective spaces to rediscover our roots

Sabaudia, conceived in the 1930’s with a polycentric vision, has been a land for immigrants since its origins: first, during Fascism, when populations from Veneto, Friuli, Trentino and Emilia Romagna moved to the region to work in agriculture; later (1980-2000) workers from Poland and Maghreb were employed. The most recent immigrant agricultural workers are the Punjabi, who are currently the largest ethnic minority (11% of the population of Sabaudia, according to City Council statistics 2017). Romanians and Moroccans are the second largest ethnic groups in the city.
Due to its location, open public spaces have always played a strategic role in cohesion and integration processes with newcomers. The New Town Lab and design workshop with students from the University of Padua will engage citizens and professionals in the elaboration of visions, plans and strategies for the improvement of the existing collective spaces and the planning of new ones inside and outside the town with the aim of connecting and involving the diverse population of Sabaudia.

City origins
Sabaudia is one of eleven new towns built in Italy during the thirties, six of which can be considered “reclamation cities” and the others as “category cities” with very unique production features: several are mining cities, one has an aeronautics industry, and one produces cellulose.
Two small towns in Sardinia should also be considered as reclamation towns: Arborea (formerly Mussolinia) in the Terralba district and Fertilia in the Nurra district. A third city was built in Sardinia, Carbonia; two cities in Istria, Raša (Arsia) and Podlabin (formerly Pozzo Littoria); one in Lazio, Guidonia, close to Rome, and one in Friuli, Torviscosa, all different in size.

The reclamation plan for the Pontine Marshes
The reclamation of the Pontine countryside was the biggest reclamation project in Italy (set up and implemented by several legislative decrees, 1924, 1928, 1933). The area was initially a wet plain of 80,000 hectares bordered to the north by a coastline stretching from Mount Circeo to Terracina in the south, by the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west, and by Via Appia running from Rome to Terracina in the east. The five towns planned within the area, Littoria (1932), Sabaudia (1934), Aprilia and Pomezia (1939), are very different in size, from 3,000 inhabitants foreseen in the smallest (Pontinia) to the 20/40,000 thousand foreseen in the biggest (Latina). Sabaudia was planned to receive 5,000 inhabitants in its center and 20,000 in the wider area.
The purpose of the reclamation and planned towns was to facilitate the agricultural exploitation of the reclaimed land. Primary cities and secondary towns were built, the latter considered as service centres for the rural homes spread throughout the agrarian territory.
Although there was a single unifying hydraulics plan and a common intention to give a territorial and civic role to the new towns, the new cities themselves are designed as strongly independent urban centres. This is due to the Fascist rhetoric which wanted each urban project invested with significant political meaning and heroic references.

The Piccinato Master Plan, 1934
While the plans for Latina and Pontinia were directly commissioned, those of Sabaudia and Aprilia were the result of a competition. The winning proposal for the master plan of Sabaudia was designed by a group formed by Cancellotti, Montuori, Piccinato and Scalzelli.
The plan is based on the concept of an open city directly linked to its surroundings, an agricultural center serving the surrounding land: “Sabaudia has to be considered strictly connected to its own territory. . . and the most beautiful and exceptional views can go deep into the life of the city centre”. There are two reasons for this approach: Fascist agricultural propaganda and the beauty of the land, especially its sandy coast, Paola Lake, the network of coastal lakes and the Circeo promontory. The necessity to preserve the beauty of the land is also at origin of the establishing of the National Park of Circeo in 1934.
The will of Luigi Piccinato (the main architect and urban designer of the city) to bring the landscape elements into Sabaudia with both physical and visual connections leads to a quite open urban shape, rather than a strict geometric plan. The strong connection between the main urban axes, open spaces (squares) and public buildings is the most important feature of the plan.

The Seaside center and Touristic Boom in the Seventies and Eighties
After WWII, Sabaudia started its transformation from an agricultural center to a resort town. During the Sixties and Seventies in particular, Sabaudia was appreciated by the Roman intelligentia. Famous writers such as Alberto Moravia and Dacia Maraini as well as filmmakers such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Bernardo Bertolucci chose Sabaudia as their summer holiday destination, spending several months there and transforming it into an elite seaside resort. The Moravia-Pasolini couple was particularly influential in the transformation of Sabaudia into a resort town.
Nature, rationalist architecture and the proximity to Rome have formed the backdrop of well-known movies including “Divorce Italian Style" (Germi), "School Mates" (Verdone) and more recently "The Caiman" (Moretti) and "The Family Friend" (Sorrentino).
Many villas have since been built along the coast and on the dunes, many of them illegally, still today hidden by the vegetation both from the road and from the beach.

The Urban Sprawl of the Eighties
The Eighties represent a new moment of transformation for Sabaudia, both from the touristic and territorial point of view. Beyond filmmakers and intellectuals, the site is chosen by politicians and television personalities.
During this time, Sabaudia’s surroundings become the victim of intense squatting and illegal building, making it necessary to redraw the borders of the Circeo National Park.
Some coastal areas near Latina, where illegal construction is particularly severe, are taken out from the original perimeter of the park. Other areas remained within the borders to protect them from real estate speculation, such as the coastal lakes of Fogliano, Monaci e Caprolace. The Eighties are thus a time of heavy construction within the territory.

The New Town Lab: How can Public Spaces Improve the Integration of Newcomers?
Sabaudia has decided to focus on public open spaces, which have had an important social function since the city’s foundation. The urban masterplan is centered on three types of open spaces: the sqares (the three main ones: the municipality square, the square of the adunate/gathering and the church square), the axes connecting the squares and several roads designed as public open spaces; the green open spaces towards the lake of Paula (which were intentionally left unplanned and open). Despite the emphasis on open spaces, however, today they are only occasionally used: once a week during the market, or for special events during the summer, for example during the Sabaudia film festival. One problem is their lack of identity and the mix of pedestrian and car traffic. As well, new neighbourhoods such as Bella Farnia lack public spaces where new populations can gather and meet.
How can this situation be improved? How can Sabaudia’s abundance of public spaces become an asset for the city, especially in relation to the integration of newcomers?

 The beauty of the landscape: the Circeo promontory, the sandy coast with dunes, the lake of Paola and the chain of coastal lakes with their particular natural habitat
 The Circeo National Park, established in 1934 (the second National Park established in Italy)
 The 1934 Piccinato Master Plan and its emphasis on open spaces
 Rich heritage of Rationalist architecture
 Tourism attracted by seaside
 Productive agricultural landscape;
 Cultural tradition of cinema, from Pasolini to Moretti and Sorrentino
 Closeness to Rome, Monti Lepini, Terracina

 Improve the quality and use of public spaces
 Improve the integration of new immigrants with local population
 Renovation of Rationalist architecture
 Improve accessibility during summer time
 Improve the connections to Rome
 Prevent urban sprawl in the surrounding landscape

Questions for the New Town Lab
 How can the design of public open spaces help the cohesion among locals and newcomers?
 How can the coexisting groups of Italians and newcomers form a new identity for Sabaudia?

(Author: Dr. Dunia Mittner)

Workshop areas and themes
Lab Conclusions
Sabaudia report
Videos of speaker presentations

Visit India, a documentary by Patrizia Santangeli about the Punjabi community in Sabaudia. Click here to view the full film.

Student workshop in Sabaudia (University of Padua)

Student workshop in Sabaudia (University of Padua)

(Banner Image: photo by Andrea0N via flickr)