A Tour of Social Housing in Rome Created in the Early 20th Century

(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.

bicyclestorage

Door to an original bicycle storage

firestation

Fire station

montessori

One of the original Maria Montessori Preschools for the poor

socialhousinginrome

Early 20th century social housing

socialhousinginrome1

Early 20th century social housing

socialhousinginrome2

Bake house

socialhousinginrome3

Housing built around a piazza to remind residents of their villages

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Piazza in the center of the housing complex

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Windows of different sizes to visually break up the wall

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One response to “A Tour of Social Housing in Rome Created in the Early 20th Century

  1. ettore maria mazzola

    Dear Jane,
    thank you for posting this good report. The only thing I can add is that, thanks God, these districts are not totally gentrified, but still partially inhabited by the original families. Thanks to the quality of architecture and urbanism that stimulate the sense of belonging, the inhabitants are extremely proud to underline that they live here.
    Finally, as I documented in my book “The Sustainable City is Possible”, these districts were built in very short time and the real bottom line costs of construction (re-evaluated) shows that they costed up to 67% less than current anonimous buildings.
    For those interested, I am going to talk about the lesson of the district Testaccio and the urban economical policy of the Institute for Social Housing in Rome at the next 25th CNU Conference tol be held in Seattle this coming May (I will speak on the 5th)
    Best wishes
    Ettore

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