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Beyond high-rise housing: urban policies in Italy

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“Beyond High-rise housing in Italy”, in R. Turkington, R. Van Kempen, F. Wassemberg, a cura di, High-rise housing in Europe, Routledge, 2003.

The high‑rise housing issue stands in between different approaches, as the simple matter of definition points out quite clearly. The high-rise “label” (here in after, a building with 5 storeys upward, plus ground level) is meant to indicate a dwelling type different from the common ones: a highly abstract and impersonal physical environment, or a distinctive pattern of social life, often held together by a prevalent public provision. No one of these definitions is easily tenable with the Italian case.
So, what is meant by high-rise?
High-rise buildings are quite widespread and, although they are far from being the majority of buildings, they are often the dominant feature of urban outskirts in major metropolitan areas. In fact, a massive belt has been built since the post war years around the old industrial cities.
Taken as a way of living, high-rise buildings gained a bad reputation (Coleman 1985) for anonymity, lack of facilities and segregation. But direct links between buildings and people are highly problematic. The problem is than to deal with the urban as well with the dwelling condition. These peripheral areas have played the role of a “learning machine” for, for instance, new immigrants in towns. Many post-war films by “neo-realismo” directors, or even by Pasolini (Fofi 1982) narrate the hard urban apprenticeship of the immigrants from the most deprived rural regions in cities like Rome, Milan and Turin.
Finally, as a form of housing provision, social housing and high-rise do not coincide at all, partly due to the small size of the social housing sector in Italy (actually, about 5% of the overall dwelling stock: Ferracuti and Marcelloni 1982; Padovani 1984 e 1996; Tosi, 1990).

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