Today was the first day of the second module, titled Planning Systems. Dr. Sonia Hirt began the day with an introduction of the program highlighting what to expect for the next couple of days. She then led a lecture regarding land use planning in Europe versus the United States. We learned about the five different European urban planning families; British, Napoleonic, Germanic, Scandinavian and East European. We then discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each and the core differences between these five planning families, and how that compared to Planning in the U.S. We were assigned a short writing assignment exploring one of the planning families, giving our opinion on its advantages, dynamics, and implementation. The readings we looked at were written in the 1990’s so I wrote my paper with an emphasis on how things have changed within my chosen planning family over the past 20 years.
After the lecture ended, we traveled to the nearby city of Lugano for the evening. We explored the city and were impressed by its breathtaking beauty. The city has a plethora of small shops and local restaurants where one can enjoy a taste of local flavor. We eventually made a decision and decided to eat at a small Italian restaurant along a cobblestone street within the city center. After our meal, we traveled to a local viewing party for the Brazil-Columbia world-cup soccer game. The viewing area was packed with passionate fans rooting for both teams. Seeing the sense of community established within Lugano was inspiring, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie as we all cheered and enjoyed the game. The city has an amazing blend of many cultures, which is evident in its cuisine and buildings. We were watching a game among Brazilians and Columbians, in a city that speaks Italian in Switzerland, now that is cultural diversity.
Our first week-end in Riva San Vitale was one of adventure, relaxation, exploration and exhaustion! After an exciting night in Lugano watching the World Cup game while celebrating the 4th of July, we felt the need to extend our adventures and go on a long hike the next day. On Saturday, we decided to hike to the top of Monte Saint Giorgio, one of the Swiss Alps, where we had a panoramic view of the Ticino Region in Switzerland. Although it was an exhausting hike, the view was well worth the 2-hour climb to 3,600 feet. Following the hike we all decided to take it easy and enjoy the nice day on the local beach. Sunday was a rest day for most of us; we needed the rest after a day of exploration – and hours of climbing. We went to a local windsurfing club and rented kayaks and paddleboards to go across the lake. Although there was a weak current, it was a rather enjoyable group activity.
After enjoying our first weekend in Riva San Vitale, we came back refreshed and ready to take on the second module headfirst. In the second module, we explored the issues of policy and regulation among the different planning families. Each planning family has a regime deeply routed within its historical background. We covered a wide variety of topics including the different governmental influences and its regional vs. local impact, lifestyle choices, differing cultural values and so forth. We have come to the conclusion that sustainability is a very relative phenomenon. We were given the example of the Soviet Bloc, an area that we wouldn’t usually associate with sustainable means of living. Many people live in compact apartment complexes, use mass public transit, have a smaller obesity rate, and produce less pollution because of the predominance of public transit instead of cars. Development has been restricted to the urban ring, leaving room for vast multi-use public spaces and greenbelts. Essentially, everything we look for in a sustainable city. Coming from a market0oriented democratic society, many people would not find it sustainable being forced to live in this condition. Sustainability is relative to location, administrative distribution, history, and various other factors that make it difficult to pin point a system that can apply anywhere.
After the exciting lecture, we all took a nice break to work on our individual papers and preparefor our trip to Milan, Italy the next day!
Mohammad Attar and Harlan Lawson
Friday July 4th and Monday July 7th