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Project for sensitive territories and resources

DART, (Department for the Environment, Network and Territory) of the "G. d'Annunzio" University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy

by Roberto Mascarucci

This article is concerned with "territorial projects" and not with projects within territory, which unfortunately are often the result of trends and opportunities (European community financing, impact studies, feasibility studies) (1) within our discipline.
In fact, I believe that territorial planning (in the fullest sense of the word) must regain its specificity and disciplinary autonomy, in order to avoid making shaping choices that have a secondary and subordinate relationship to the rules of financial engineering and procedural "innovations".
Territory must be the object of a specific scheme which has nothing to do with the "plans" of old and new urban planning laws or with the "programmes" of current political and administrative inventions (agreements, contracts and suchlike).
With the goal of contributing clarity to the content and methods of this "territorial project", it is useful to start by looking at areas of sensitive resources, both because our school in Pescara (in Abruzzo, a region filled with parks) is familiar with this type of issue and because the specificity of this case lends itself to "sharpening" (with regard to didactic aims) the questions I would like to address.
When I refer to sensitive areas, I mean those at risk of being compromised ecologically and environmentally, but also those where "sensitivity" is linked to perceptive values of the landscape or cultural values of human settlement. These areas are not necessarily found within parks and the territorial project must deal with the treatment of sensitive resources independently of institutional regimes for protection.
In addition, the recent study conducted within the APE project (2) reinforced our conviction that parkland must not be more or less "planned" than other territory, without attribution of privileges and without a prevalence of regulatory attitudes. Protected territory must be planned because safeguarding cannot mean absence of government and in particular, the territory immediately surrounding park areas must be also be considered. Otherwise, the entire stimulus for "intervention" which has been excluded from regulated areas becomes dangerously concentrated. In addition, it is important to encourage the inclusion of activities necessary to the creation of socio-economic synergy with the protected territory.
In fact, the location (sustainable) of the development apparatus that is an inalienable condition for making the overall project a "game with a positive outcome" is imagined in the pre-park sector. The true mission of a territorial project in sensitive areas (attempting to be effective) is that of truly overcoming the sterile and basic contrapositions which have always characterized the debate on environmental policy, proposing wholistic solutions that will activate synergies, including socio-economic, in the local area.
The current integrated approach (3) to planning treatment for sensitive territories is patently apposite and notable for being an approach that includes the ideological contraposition between restriction and development.
Using this approach, the problem of territorial planning in areas characterized by the presence of precious resources (and therefore sensitive) is dealt with by overcoming the dichotomy of conceptual contraposed pairs (resistance and development, regulation and intervention, immobility and action) that must be integrated in order to clearly define the totality (territorial governmental policy), just as the harmonic composition of opposites is theorized in Taoist philosophy (yin and yang).
One of the most evident contraposed conceptual pairs is that of space and time: a territorial project cannot be circumscribed by formal figuration (whether design or zoning): it is not enough to define points of spatial transformation (as the plan does by definition): the project, to be such, must deal with the temporal dimension by dealing with a host of issues related to the protagonists, financial resources and validity of procedures (and therefore deadlines).
This brings us to another contraposition, that between place and actor: it is clear that any proposal for the configuration of a place is sterile and ethically wrong when it doesn't take into consideration the feasibility of implementation in relation to the will of the various protagonists; any project (and clearly the territorial project, which by its very nature has to work with a plurality of protagonists) must analyse the "do-ability" and the true "feasibility" of the proposed configuration.
But the most evident conceptual contraposition is that between protection and development (which is the central question linked to intervention in sensitive areas). An innovative policy of environmental protection may find the opportunity to make a decisive contribution because of the potential merit of this contraposition. It is here that a project may be able to propose itself as a fertile synthesis capable of initiating a new model for local community growth.
The well-known frontal conflict between negative and positive approaches has for long radicalized the debate on government of protected territory: on one hand, we can see the pro-regulatory attitude (yin) made of rules, limitations of use and regulations for transformation; on the other, the pro-development attitude (yang) promoting intervention, projects and sources of financing. Overcoming this sterile contraposition lies in attempting to invoke (through the project) the synergy inherent in the opposing approaches, by setting out a proposal (formalized spatially) which reconciles protection and development, dealing with the problems of protection and transforming them into resources for development.
But this can only be done if the project deals with, at the same time, another dimension and another structural contraposition: that between local initiatives and global dynamics.
The conviction that the project must "add value" to the territory in question (4) induced us to find the optimal meeting point between local issues and the requirements for territorial function on a vaster level. Identifying this meeting point is, in fact, fundamental to uncovering the territorial assets and inter-institutional cooperation which support any territorial project. In order to avoid focusing solely on local issues (thereby giving up an opportunity to place local resources in synergy), introducing an external element into the equilibrium of the local system is indispensable. This element must be able to invoke the desired synergy between the resources present in the local area, as well as more general territorial assets: an "opportunity" as defined by a SWOT analysis or a "strong point" as defined by others.
This function may be given to the territorial project if it can become the bearer of a new "imaginative force" which, as Patsy Healey (5) states, can give the territory the strength to "sustain the qualities of the local environmental context in the face of the tendency towards conflict and homogenization that results from global dynamics".
Thus, the apparatus for territorial government completely changes its meaning, from a group of rules for safeguarding current values (compatibility plan) to a collective imagining of a new "identity of doing" (6) (view to the future). And it is thus that the project, reformulated in its "policy-based" goals, becomes the means for creating new territorial assets and new social cohesion. And finally, it is in this way that the territorial project becomes a "motor for development", taking an active role in the development policy of the local system.
It is evident that, reformulated in this way and with these goals and objectives, the territorial project needs new content, new methods and consequently, new analyses.
Regarding content, this type of project cannot be developed from a precise and pre-defined redefinition of the role which place should have within the host territory. The sense of place (of any place) is always linked to its functional and strategic location with respect to the networks that structure the territory; and in the sudden change of this territorial reference on a vast scale, the role of local areas continually change. The project must define its multifaceted sphere of relation and design modifications linked to intervention.
Essentially, we are speaking of modifying physical space: the territorial project must propose content that relates to the government of physical transformation of the territorial order at different scales, dealing with the spatial effects of policy and with the conscious modification of the plan that derives from the introduction of new elements (structural and infrastructural).
Using this method, this type of project, while avoiding being omni-comprehensive and intended to deal with the complexity of the evolving context, cannot be entrusted to the expertise of technicians. A project which places civil society's attention on the new role that place can have within territory cannot be thought of within the sphere of a more general process of territorial governance, as an instrument of high-level remote and centralized management. It cannot make a pertinent response to the requirements of local development within a larger vision of territory and succeed in the difficult task of introducing new elements in the growth process without imposing a pre-decided plan from above.
And if it is true that, in a society ever more characterized by multiple interests, hierarchical forms of articulation of power and the clear separation between public and private activity are about to be substituted by more fluid and horizontal relations, the territorial project is the arena in which the involved parties confront each other, developing strategic proposals and reaching the necessary consensus for new initiatives in the construction and transformation of place.
This must occur outside of the conceptual boundaries of sectorial approaches and our vision must be enlarged to include possible integration and synergy. At the same time, the complex interrelation of various project activities in a particular place must be placed at the centre of the action.
This tangle of relations, the physical and spatial configuration that can favour synergy and the management of the physical and spatial transformations resulting from these relations become the object of the new territorial project.
Consequently, the territorial project needs different analyses. While the investigations at the base of the traditional "protection plan" were of an analytical/taxonomic type, investigations within the new project policy are essentially of an integral/morphological type.
The old plans (territorial and/or landscape) were typically based on analysis of various sectorial characteristics of territory, classified according to parameters of value, superimposed and aimed at the construction of criteria for later verification of intervention compatibility (overlay mapping). Today, on the other hand, investigation into the physical characteristics of territory must be used to construct processes of integral-morphological interpretation, similar to recent research into "local landscape contexts"(7).
In any case, the categories of form at the centre of integral-interpretive investigation need to form the base of the territorial project, going beyond the limits of quantitative parameter setting and placing qualitative aspects in play (which are those pertinent to project activity).
The morphological-qualitative approach to the territorial project can be useful in re-placing the formal configuration of the intervention at the centre of the processes of coordination (in order to avoid deferring various interests in decision-making), but it is also indispensable for giving new sense to the processes of evaluation which more frequently affect financial decisions and less frequently take into account the territorial effects of actions and intervention.
In conclusion 8, if it is true that a territorial project must be able to create a lasting organizational context, based on a solid system of loyalties and cooperation between the various interested or involved parties, to be successful, it is then indispensable that its main feature be that of soliciting inter-institutional cooperation and integration of the interests of the various actors, mobilizing local and outside networks. For this reason, a determining role may be carried out by physical-spatial planning, which may become an element aiding in the recognition of (and making recognizable) the effects of morphological intervention structuring and therefore of constructing the conditions for consensus, within a true action of "conscious organization of the future".
All of this is possible on condition that the disciplinary specificity of the territorial project (proposing solutions for the organization of physical space) is recovered. In addition, we must recognize once and for all that socio-economic policy, development plans, contracts, local activity groups, programme agreements, environmental agendas, incentives for occupation, etc. are something altogether other.

1) I have published Nuova programmazione e progetti di territorio, Sala Editori, Pescara 2000 on this topic.
2) During the APE study (Appennino Parco d'Europa) carried out in 2000-2001 for the Ministry of the Environment, I coordinated the working gourps for the studies in the Appennino Abruzzese-Pugliese-Molisano area and in particular I developed the study for the Maiella area.
3) See, among others, A.Magnaghi, Il progetto locale, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 2000; D.Cersosimo, Il territorio come risorsa. Programmazione, concertazione e sviluppo regionale nel Mezzogiorno, Sviluppo Locale Formez, Donzelli, Roma 2000; R.Coalizzo (editor), La progettazione integrata territoriale. Vol. I: Il quadro economico programmatico, Sviluppo Locale Formez, Donzelli, Roma 2000; D.Deidda (editor), La progettazione integrata territoriale. Vol. II: Strumenti e procedure, Sviluppo Locale Formez, Donzelli, Roma 2001; F.D.Moccia, M.Sepe (editors), I progetti integrati territoriali. Esperienze avanzate in Campania, Graffiti, Napoli 2003.
4) Refer to the results of the SloT (Sistemi Territoriali Locali) study and in particular to G. Dematteis, Per una geografia della territorialità attiva e dei valori territoriali, in P.Bonora (editor), "SloT Quaderni 1", Baskerville, Bologna 2001
5) From P.Healey, Network complexity and the imaginative power of strategic spatial planning, contribution presented to the ACSP/AESOP Congress in Leuven (Belgio), July 2003
6) If it is relatively easy to study a shared "identity of being" in a given territory, it is not at all easy to construct a common "identity of doing"; See P. Matvejevich, Adriatico Europa Mediterraneo, contribution presented to the "Adriatico-Europa" International Convention, Università degli Studi "G.D'Annunzio" di Chieti-Pescara, May 2003
7) See A.Clementi (editor), Interpretazioni di paesaggio, Meltemi Editore, Roma 2002
8) For a deeper understanding of some of the conceptual passages mentioned briefly here, see several of my recent writings on the issue: Immaginare l'incertezza. Le nuove visioni dell'urbanistica debole, Sala Editore, Pescara 1998; A "multi-scale" approach in site planning, lesson at the Fachhocschule di Koblenz (Germany), May 1999; Comunicative planning and shaping of intervention. Shared (multi-scale) visions, contribution to the XIV AESOP Congress, Brno (Czech Republic), July 2001; Nuove poltiche per nuove forme del progetto, contribution to the "Reti di attori e reti territoriali" International Convention, Politecnico di Milano, March 2002; Regional development and transnational spatial visions, contribution to the AESOP-ACSP Joint Congress, Leuven (Belgium), July 2003