Mixing Up Our Land Use In Italian Switzerland

July 14 & 15

Ben Pickus & Michael Stapor

As we are winding down our time in Riva San Vitale we decided to take a closer look at our home and surroundings.  The bed head haircut I’m sporting and the pajamas I am wearing are a testament of the interesting mixture of uses, in terms of land and building that we have experienced in our town nestled in the Swiss Alps.  I’m speaking directly to our Villa where we sleep, study, eat, and work, all within the same space.  The doors lining our classroom don’t open up to more class space; they mark the entrances to the rooms we live in and the dining hall we eat in.  This not only greatly reduces the amount of time we need to get ready in the morning, but also forces us to take a more encompassing view of our studies and our time here.

By taking away they physical separation between our leisure and our study space, the line between the two is muddled.  We used the same projector to display PowerPoints on the future of our global water supply as we did to watch Germany trounce Brazil 7-1.  This live/study mentality we have established in our Villa has had an interesting effect on how we have learned.  We don’t just see our professors during lecture and work sessions, but we sit across from them in the dining room.  This mixed use means we don’t stop learning when class ends.  We have continued to think about sustainability in a broader sense throughout our time here.  Compared to life back at The University of Virginia and its polytechnic counterpart in Blacksburg, it feels like we spend more time thinking about what we have learned because we never leave the classroom.  It also doesn’t hurt to have the Swiss Alps and Lake Lugano outside our window as well.

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Often it seems the “nicest” areas in Virginia are quaint towns or new developments with housing situated near or above stores as if Americans see a certain charm in mixed-use areas. I would personally say this assessment is correct when one walks around the streets we’ve seen in Europe thus far and sees the roads upon roads of houses, stores, and parks all nestled side by side. Here in Riva San Vitale we’ve been fortunate that everything is in walking distance. Our grocery store, pharmacy, and favorite places to hang out are all within less than five minutes away. While it is true this is a smaller town, we’ve been well connected to necessities for our entire trip. Whether in Freiburg, Basel, or Riva everything we need is either a walk, short bike ride, or quick public transit trip away. This is not a coincidence either, it’s in the way they plan these denser mixed use areas to cut down on traffic and commutes and boost quality of life.

Our evening plans today revolve around enjoying the last of our time here. We’ll be walking past the soccer field, grocery store, and town square to a very fortunate asset to the town. The beach is an excellent spot for recreation and our time in and on the lake has been incredible. To think we are doing the things we’d travel miles for in the United States right next to where we live is interesting and another testament to how mixed use planning partners everything for a higher quality of life together.

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