A new narrative to rethink the Milano - Bologna urban area | ESPON IMAGINE Targeted Analysis

Stakeholders ask for spatial imaginaries to generate new visions and strategies

The Milano-Bologna urban region experiences important changes in terms of economic development. The absence of a common narrative in policy design is seen as a serious challenge for territorial cohesion. The perceived risk is to observe differentiated patterns of development, reinforcing old or producing new territorial unbalances.

Eight stakeholders asked for ESPON’s support to develop a common narrative as the basis for an integrated territorial strategy within the Milano-Bologna area, addressing recent trends and their territorial impacts.

Last week experts, researchers, policy makers gathered together to kick-off IMAGINE, a new ESPON targeted analysis that will support the policy needs of Milano Metropolitan City (lead stakeholder), Metropolitan City of Bologna, Province of Pavia, Province of Piacenza, Associazione Interessi Metropolitani, City of Warsaw, METREX and POPSU on developing a metropolitan-regional imaginary in Milano-Bologna urban region.

ESPON IMAGINE has been kicked-off on 26May online due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Milano Metropolitan City informed that the metropolitan regeneration strategy has a large integrated and non- sectorial dimension. It goes beyond the building activity and includes the environmental requalification, social and civic promotion, acting on public and private spaces, the improvement of infrastructures, the green system and ecological networks, welfare and local economic systems.

In the current critical situation due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it is necessary to find innovative and integrated solutions, for a restart that will take care of territorial projects and more effective public - private relations.

It is considered interesting to focus on the equalization fund as a tool to promote and empower urban and territorial regeneration in peripheral areas, where the real estate market is weaker and its trends are not sufficient to regenerate degraded areas.

Isabella Susi Botto and Carmine Pacente from Milano Metropolitan City highlighted their expectations towards IMAGINE, as follows:

  • to identify the marginality areas and the new territorial functions generating environmental impacts and negative spill over;
  • to locate the areas where it is a priority to foster regeneration;
  • to find in the strategic and territorial metropolitan plans common points finalized to develop policies that support territorial functions and generate positive spill over;
  • to develop an equalisation fund in order to pay a public services system on metropolitan scale, with particular attention to ecosystemic services (ecological networks, drainage practice, land reclamation, afforestation), landscape setting, sustainable mobility networks, welfare services, student housing, sportive services, senior housing;
  • to give indications to public transport system to implement innovative mobility, to extend accessibility of territories and support their development;
  • to draw a project of I.T.I. to make a territorial services system beyond the financial resources deriving from the equalization funds in order to experiment an innovative relation between public and private organisations.

Similar to the needs expressed by the Metropolitan city of Milan, Silvia Bernardi, Alessandro Delpiano and Francesco Selmi from Metropolitan City of Bologna, informed that one of the key aspects to develop within the Metropolitan territorial plan is the institution of an equalization fund. The fund shall involve 55 municipalities and aim to support a public service system on a metropolitan scale, with particular attention to ecosystemic services, landscape, mobility, health and affordable housing. Such an innovative element shall be investigated within the framework of ESPON IMAGINE.

From the targeted analysis, Silvia, Alessandro and Francesco expect to receive inputs for designing territorial policies and examples of innovative solutions in order to foster new collaborative approaches to planning, especially among the territories of Milano-Bologna region, and promote effective and inclusive developments.

Antonio Colnaghi and Vittorio Silvia, from Provice of Piacenza, are looking for evidence from  IMAGINE that can support to better frame the set of functional and economic relationships linking Piacenza to Milano and, at the same time, to develop scenarios that can guide Piacenza in the development of the territorial planning and in the dialogue with the institutional bodies of the Emilia Romagna Region.

Carlo Berizzi, from Associazione Interessi Metropolitani, highlighted the potential role for feeding the public dialogue, being its members very relevant stakeholders in the urban region; this is crucial for setting a cooperative process, in particular also with the largest cities.

Taking into account the development of the Warsaw metropolis, Andrzej Czajkowski is looking for good practices in the functioning of the metropolitan areas of Milano and Bologna, in particular  what kind of developed cooperation can be used as example in the Warsaw metropolitan area and also the possibilities of cooperation with neighboring metropolis (Łódź). Warsaw will also share experience related to the management and implementation of ITI in Warsaw Functional Area.

Henk Bouwman, secretary general of Metrex, the network of European metropolitan regions and areas, highlighted that developing a common narrative will acknowledge the importance of specific regional approaches to be successful in both improving our living environment and enabling the inclusion of all inhabitants.  Henk thinks that it is important to tie back the process and results of IMAGINE to the new EU agenda, focusing on the Green Deal and Social Cohesion policies on which METREX upcoming conferences will focus on. METREX will support the exchange of experiences and dissemination of the interim and final outcomes of IMAGINE with all its members. 

POPSU, the French observatory platform for urban projects and strategies, will contribute to the research with their experience in demographic, economic, environmental, societal transitions as well as linkages between metropolitan urban regions,  their neighboring areas and other governance levels. Aurore Meyfroidt informed that POPSU is looking for good governance practices and thinks that the Milano-Bologna area could be an interesting case to further assess the robustness of the French territorial systems.

Politecnico di Milano will coordinate the implementation of IMAGINE in team with Globus et Locus and Sciences Po. With their work, researchers and experts aim at supporting cities and metropolitan areas to explore the conditions for designing a new spatial narrative, in order to strategically think the Milano- Bologna urban area as a functional urban region.

Valeria Fedeli from Politecnico di Milano said that the capacity to adopt a transcalar and regional spatial imaginary is seen as a crucial step towards the elaboration of an integrated territorial strategy, to be supported through the experimentation of an ITI. Stakeholders need new spatial imaginaries able to feed new governance frameworks and generate new visions and strategies.

Livia D’Anna, from Globus et locus, which will develop the  work package “Regional imaginaries as the basis for developing an Integrated territorial strategy” through an interactive co-design process based on a series of workshops, explained that  the process is expected to help local stakeholders to elaborate scenarios and to identify policy tools/governance approaches able to support the development of an integrated territorial strategy for the Milano-Bologna urban region.

Finally, Piera Petruzzi (ESPON EGTC) highlighted that the current crisis is an opportunity to take into consideration the impact of COVID-19 on the context of the research.

ESPON IMAGINE team will meet again in July to discuss the first delivery (inception report).

Further information

  • ESPON IMAGINE - Developing a metropolitan-regional imaginary in Milan-Bologna urban region
  • ESPON Targeted Analyses are powerful means to transfer knowledge, share experience and facilitate the use of territorial evidence rooted in real place-based policy development processes. They provide a European perspective for stakeholders and are related to their policy contexts.
  • Photo: courtesy PRIN Postmetropoli Research Project (www.postmetropoli.it). Elaboration by Daniele Pennati (Università del Piemonte Orientale) and Francesco Curci (Politecnico di Milano).
  • Contact: Piera Petruzzi, Senior Project Expert, responsible for ESPON IMAGINE [email protected]


IMAGINE-Milano Metropolitan City.pptx

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IMAGINE Kick-Off-Stakeholders inputs.pdf

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