EngAGE CEO/Founder Tim Carpenter has just returned from a three-week visit to Italy. While there, he shared his musings on place and people, and intentional design.
7/5 in Rome:
Feeling grateful. Claire Peeps and Carrie Avery of the Durfee Foundation, my work, my life has been altered, because of you. I am on a Stanton Fellowship adventure in Italy with my research intern, Zoë Carpenter. We met today with an amazing architect and urban planning strategist around public space. We see elders everywhere here, walking, riding, sipping espresso in outdoor cafes, dressed to the nines, respected, adored. Deborah thinks they can do better, wants to be the Amanda Burden (NYC Planning czar under Bloomberg) of Roma. I think we can do better. We can normalize aging, we can create engagement and connection between public and private space. We can help people smile and ride bicycles or scooters if they want, at any age. Deborah rode one across town to meet Zoe and me, braving the mean streets of Rome, excited to talk design and public space planning with two strangers from across the globe, to lend a hand, bettering my work. Because I said I was a Stanton Fellow. Feeling grateful.
7/8 in Florence:
The challenge of my inquiry for my Stanton Fellowship, funded by the Durfee Foundation, is how to create community, not just build buildings. During my travels, I see that an intentional linkage of public and private space, a place that offers people somewhere to go, and more importantly a reason to stay, succeeds. People. That’s the prize, right? People bring people. What do people want? Comfort, greenery, water, walkability, ARTS, culture, a respect for history and neighborhood, education, fun, food, parks, views, a sense of connection and community, a sensory connection to the human spirit. We want all ages, curiosity and diversity and open acceptance to who we are. We want outside the box use of space to create a sense of place, of purpose and belonging. We want gardens and, did I mention the arts? Music, dance, visual art, performance. We want to smile and look around and see others smiling. We want accidental spill-over between our circle of life to inhabit and infect the circles of others, to feel part of something larger than ourselves. Connection. We can design buildings and places but it’s only the hardware. We are the software.
7/22 in Venice:
Thinking about place and the part it plays in our lives. Walking after dinner last night to the public gardens here, we passed an older man reading in his window. Two buildings were connected by an interior courtyard and there was art everywhere. All the people we saw were older. The man’s window looked out onto the Grand Canal and he had a glimpse of the Adriatic if he leaned out a bit. The place beautifully balanced connection and solitude. Walking back after exploring the gardens by the sea, I caught a glimpse through the man’s window again. His wife had returned and she was tossing a salad while he opened a bottle of wine. Three other residents, all older and dressed eclectically, all colorful scarves and berets and beards and wildly large hair, arrived for what was surely a Friday night dinner party. When I was a child, sneaking a peak from the adjacent racetrack, I caught glimpses of artists convening at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY, a colony of like-minded seekers, and thought, hmm, wouldn’t that be a cool place to have a conversation over dinner. This little enclave made me feel that same sense of connection and purpose, excitement, joy. Place… and how it brings together people – designing this in advance, with intention, I think we’d have something.