26 INTERACTIONS IN 2 DAYSA-Z Genova
26 INTERACTIONS IN 2 DAYSA-Z Genova
Access issues manifest themselves in many ways through Genoa. City demographics make it one of Europe's oldest, and its sprawl complicates connectivity between core and periphery. At the street level inadequate signage, disregarded furniture, poor quality crossings, and potholed pavements are regular obstacles. If fading zebra crossings are given a colourful outline, pedestrian access could be improved.
The Bisagno River that passes through Genoa on its journey to the sea is a neglected asset that has been allowed to become a peril to the city. It frequently bursts its banks, in large-part due to poor building practices that have reduced the ability of surrounding hills to retain heavy downpours and restricted the river’s flow in certain areas. The river lacks an interface with its surroundings, and this exacerbates its perceived dislocation from the city. A pedestrian sign on its bed changed the transient experience of walking by the Bisagno into something else.
Many shops, underpasses, elevated walkways, factories, and houses have been abandoned or closed in the last few years for a variety of reasons. Recently built public amenities have been left to decay, and in the historical centre artisans facing diminishing trade are closing their businesses for good, making for a surreal atmosphere of forgotten places hiding in plain sight. Seeing a once thriving place become lifeless is normal and reflects a certain type of city thinking. Giving these abandoned places speech bubbles could encourage a new approach to closure.
Together with growing unemployment and homelessness, increasing Genoese crime rates are another symptom of the country's crisis. More graffiti has begun appearing on the city's walls, and authorities often strike through it with white paint to discourage it. A letter placed around the city from the Comune - the city council - declaring walls free for artistic expression aimed to return the city's walls to all its residents.
Over the last decade Genoa's population has shrunk and got older, indicating that a brain drain is in full swing. Despite hosting a large university in city, young people are not hanging around after graduation to pursue their careers in the Genoa. An altered image of the best known note from the old lira currency - 1000 lire - was placed outside the Museum of Migration.
Despite the multiple nationalities and backgrounds of Genoa's residents, there is a noticeable fragmentation between different people. Many migrants are excluded from the formal job market, which makes social interaction beyond transactionary experiences in the informal sector difficult. Placing a barcode that does not work on a street seller's impromptu stall is a new way to tell this story.
Genoa's green spaces are difficult to enjoy because they are often poorly maintained, hard to access and unfriendly places with seemingly never-ending building work. Restoring a level of citizen ownership over these spaces by establishing small herb gardens in these parks could lead to them being better cared for. Installing a series of mini gardens across the city in various parks and squares could encourage people to rethink their interactions with these spaces.
As the majority of people in Genoa live in large apartment blocks that face directly onto trafficked roads, many facades have become stained by pollution over the years. This creates an unpleasant and unhealthy local habitats. But these dirty walls are not an inevitability, clean facades can be achieved with low-cost civic initiatives, which can lead to improved local environments.
In the past, Genoese companies revolutionised transport, banking and textiles, and although these companies may have been and gone, innovation can be reclaimed by city residents. People have the capacity to create original ideas that add value. Establishing book exchanges on disused and underused street furniture to show how easily ignorable aspects of the streetscape can be repurposed for something positive.
Cigarette butts, litter, and discarded materials are easily found lying in the streets. Reassembling junk found in streets can bring these disparate and forgotten elements back to life.
It’s difficult to turn a corner in Genoa without encountering dog krap on the pavement. Dog owners fail to pick up their pets’ poop, and the city fails to provide dog toilets or poo-collection bags. Integrating pop-art images into the poo can change the experience of the sight, and highlight the issue in a new way.
One of Genoa's biggest resources is the number of languages spoken in the city. Aside from Italian and Genoese dialect, Arab, Spanish, Mandarin, Bengali, Wolof, and French are heard regularly in the streets. As many of these languages are spoken by first generation migrants who use international networks to send remittances home, modifying the image of a popular money transfer brand to create an ad hoc language exchange in the city centre can encourage the exploration new cultures.
Streets and pedestrian passages can be bland and uninspiring. Experiencing the same unchanged contexts over and over can under stimulate our minds. To break the ritual monotony of these places, creating new dimensions out of tape attempts to establish new spaces that stretched beyond the physical realm.
Nepotism is a well-established practice in Genoese society, and is especially pronounced in academic life - recently the University of Genoa unceremoniously topped a table as the most nepotistic higher education institute in northern Italy. Many employment positions, funding opportunities, and exam outcomes are determined by 'who you know' and not 'how you did'. This was highlighted through the creation of a low-cost airline style gate for university departments, with degrees provided on a table for priority students, and all others pointed in the direction of the library.
Genoa has struggled to cope with its shift to a post-industrial economy. The stream of opportunity in the city has dissipated recently following centuries of steady career paths. A poster communicating the evolution of typical jobs through the ages in the city showed the typical 2000s man on his knees holding an "I'm hungry" sign.
It’s impossible to move around Genoa – outside of the pedestrianised historical centre without seeing long stretches of parked cars. Public squares have become car and motorbike parks, and the number of parked vehicles create an unfriendly walking environment that encourages a driving culture. Mini-areas for human relaxation in car parks shed light on the absurd dominance of vehicles in the city's public space.
Genoa's urban fabric can be difficult to navigate as many roads are scarred by potholes and pavements have upturned and out of place paving stones. This level of quality can exacerbate the difficult mobility situation faced by the ageing population. Giving pavements a voice with ad hoc emojis made from litter, pine needles, and leaves found around the site underlines poor quality streetscapes.
The elevated motorway that separates the port with the historical centre known as the Sopraelevata is one of Genoa’s most talked about problems. While providing the best views of the city when using it, from below it provides a hard barrier between the seafront and the city, doubles the traffic in this part of the city, requires regular maintenance is an eyesore in the heart of the tourist district. As discussions on resolving the flyover have still come to nothing, it needed a cry for help.
For a relatively compact city, car dependence in Genoa is surprising. The volume of cars can be quite oppressive for pedestrians and cyclists alike. The few measures taken to reduce cars have failed, the city’s cycling scheme flopped due to a lack of ambition, and the local metro is ridiculed by locals as the smallest and most useless in the world. Traffic hacks, like this one with a deckchair, can momentarily create a new road experience.
Public urination is not uncommon on Genoa's streets. Placing gold frames around traces of urine can change how this phenomenon is mediated.
Genoa's steep hills make it a difficult place to manoeuvre around, especially on foot or by bike. A bike sharing scheme called MoBike was introduced in 2009 with power assisted cycling to help climb hills, but the initial six stations in flat parts of the city have not been expanded on, and the scheme has gone unused, exposing it as a tokenistic gesture rather than a meaningful project. Sticking stars on them provides the commune with a visible citizen feedback mechanism.
Although Genoa enjoys many beaches, some stretches of the waterfront are more bizarre and overlooked. Many of these places are littered, and flanked by carparks or old industrial buildings. A WTF (What The Fuck) sign that moved around an area of the waterfront in La Foce may have provoked passersby into not taking these places for granted.
Genoa has a large illicit red light district in the heart of the city. Many of the women involved in prostitution have been trafficked illegally in the country and are exploited by organised crime syndicates. Placing a black and white image of a naked woman in the centre of this area, and covering her mouth in red tape could provoke reflection on this situation.
Genoa is a maritime city with boats of all kinds constantly docking in the city's harbour, its ports, and marinas. Many of these are tourist yachts and ferry loaded with day visitors who disembark from their vessels to visit the city. The reciprocity of this process is limited, why not enable people in Genoa to visit the empty boats while their passengers are in the city?
Zena is the name for Genoa is local dialect. The frame of the city's new brand, "GE NO VA: More than this" became a template for new GE NON VA posters. "Non va" means not working and "Ge" is the official abbreviation for the metropolitan are. Placing these "Genoa isn't working" posters in glitches found across the city highlight how the Genoa can really be "More than this".