Aminah Ricks

Aminah Ricks

Founder & Creative Director
interVIEW|Italian Urban Planner, Paolo Avarello


Paul Avarello is a professor of urban planning at the Universita’ degli studi Roma Tre, in Rome, Italy.  Since 1995, he has been a leading faculty member in its Architecture Department. He is the director of the graduate course “New Urban Policies.” Previously he was an urban planning professor at the Università degli Studi “G. d’Annunzio” Chieti in Pescara, Italy.

Throughout his career he has researched the relationship between housing production and planning, as well as overseen the implementation of formal planning and public action in housing in Italy and Europe.  From 1992 to 1998 he was national head of INU, Instituto Nazionale di Urbanistico (the National Italian Urban Planning Institute).  During his tenure, he curated national and international events as well as conducted in depth research.  Avarello collaborates with the magazines “Building and Territory” and “Guide to Local Entities” for the group Sole24ore.

Avarello Photo“To give urban planning an effective meaning it takes first a great patience and then a certain amount of stubbornness: if the architect can create, or pretend to do so, the planner must instead necessarily clash with a reality much more complex and difficult…”
Arch. Prof. Paolo Avarello


What led you to choose a career in Urban Planning and what have you enjoyed about it the most?
Cosa ti ha portato a scegliere una carriera in Pianificazione Urbana e che cosa, di essa, ti gratifica di più?

I enrolled in Architecture at the university, when I was younger.  Before I had completed the two urban planning courses (fourth and fifth year), I used to audit the classes of urban planning 1 and 2, fascinated by the complexity of the subject. It is very different from architecture itself; I did not know that I would eventually be an urban planner, and working as a university professor afterward.

Fin da quando mi sono iscritto ad Architettura e non avevo ancora fatto i due esami di urbanistica (quarto e quinto anno), seguivo le lezioni di urbanistica 1 e 2,affascinato dalla complessità della materia, molto diversa da quella dell’architettura vera e propria, ma non sapevo ancora che avrei fatto l’urbanista, prima nel lavoro e poi nell’università.

What would you describe as the biggest challenges faced today in this field in Rome, in Italy and globally?
Quali sono le più grandi sfide affrontate oggi in questo campo a Roma, in Italia e globalmente? 

Urban planning in Rome and in Italy has never had a lot of success among builders, who saw it as a limitation to economic expansion when there was a healthy market.  But when the market stalled, the thrust of the public entity became a salvation (ie. in the postwar period Ina Casa).  [Editor’s note: Ina Casa is public residential housing]

Today, these trends are slowing down, despite immigration from poorer countries, but there is still a gap in the field of restoration and renovation. This is because in Italy more than 84% percent of the apartments are owned (and not rented), while in other countries (ie. France, England, etc.) it is reported to be just 50%, which favors change.

L’urbanistica a Roma e in Italia non è mai piaciuta molto ai costruttori, che la consideravano un limite all’espansione economica, quando c’era mercato, ma quando questo stagnava la spinta dell’intervento pubblico diventava una salvezza (es. nel dopoguerra l’Ina Casa).

Oggi questi andamenti si vanno rallentando, nonostante le immigrazioni dai paesi più poveri, ma esiste ancora un gap nel  settore del recupero e della riqualificazione.  E ciò perché in Italia più dell’84% cento degli appartamenti sono di proprietà, mentre in altri paesi (es. Francia, Inghilterra, etc.) il rapporto arriva appena al 50%, il che favorisce i cambiamenti.

In what project or endeavor have you found the greatest success in affecting positive change on the urban landscape?
Quale suo progetto o impegno ha avuto maggior successo nell’influenzare un cambiamento positivo sul paesaggio urbano? 

In this case it is not a “project”, but an (exhaustive) collective work, done with my colleagues from the National Institute of Urban Planning (INU), of which I was President.

Italy, the first country in Europe, had for some time issued a law to protect cultural heritage and landscape locations. With Legislative Decree 1089, Cultural Heritage and Legislative Decree 1497 specifically, these laws were for the protection of the landscape (Legislative Decree 42, 2004 and its Regulations, Legislative Decree. 1497). With this foundation, two new decrees were established: the Code for cultural heritage and landscape, 2006, and the Environmental Regulations 2006 (Decree 152).  As often happens, however, the weakness of the management and the rigidity of the bureaucracy have often negated much of this protection.

In questo caso non si tratta di un “progetto”, ma di un (faticoso) lavoro collettivo, svolto con i miei colleghi dell’Istituto Nazionale di Urbanistica (INU), di cui allora ero Presidente).

 L’Italia, prima in Europa, aveva già da tempo tutelato i beni culturali e del paesaggio con Lg. 1089, Beni culturali e Lg. 1497, specificamente per la tutela del paesaggio (D.lgs 42, 2004 e il relativo Regolamento, L. 1497). Si ottennero cosi due nuovi decreti: ilCodice dei beni culturali e del paesaggio, 2006 e le Norme in materia ambientale 2006 ,(D.lgs 152).  Come spesso succede, tuttavia, la debolezza delle gestioni e la rigidità della burocrazia hanno spesso vanificato gran parte di questa tutela.

What advice do you have for young urban planners?
Che consigli hai per i giovani urbanisti? 

To give urban planning an effective meaning it takes first a great patience and then a certain amount of stubbornness: if the architect can create, or pretend to do so, the planner must instead necessarily clash with a reality much more complex and difficult.  Essentially, you have to put together, and possibly in an effective way, the various “pieces”, starting from the configuration of places, situations, types, infrastructure, costs, to the various constraints, the existing structures, possible inhabitants, etc. etc.

Being able to assemble all these things is exhausting, but if it succeeds, it can give great satisfaction, even when the client does not pay the entire bill (which is quite often).

Per dare un senso effettivo all’urbanistica occorre anzitutto una grande pazienza e poi una certa quantità di testardaggine: se l’architetto può creare, o illudersi di poterlo fare, l’urbanista deve invece scontrarsi per forza con una realtà molto più complessa e difficile: in sostanza, si devono mettere insieme, e possibilmente in modo efficace, i vari “pezzi”, a partire dalla configurazione dei luoghi, alle situazioni, alle tipologie, alle infrastrutture, ai costi, ai diversi vincoli, alle preesistenze, ai possibili abitanti, ecc. ecc.

Riuscire a montare tutte queste cose è piuttosto faticoso, ma se ci si riesce, può dare grandi soddisfazioni,a volte anche quando il committente non paga tutta la parcella (il che è piuttosto frequente).

What is your favorite city and why?
Qual’ è tua città preferita e perché’? 

The city that I prefer is the one where I was born, Rome.  I still live happily, despite its several flaws, I live and work here, now only for the university. But I am not “provincial”.  In fact my wife, who was not born in Rome, but near Parma, enthusiastically endorses this position of mine.  She even yells at me when I complain, or get angry, about the major flaws which exist here.

La città che preferisco è quella dove sono nato, Roma, dove ancora vivo volentieri, nonostante i suoi diversi difetti, ci abito e ci lavoro, ora solo per l’università. Non sono però “campanilista” e per altro mia moglie, che non è nata a Roma, ma vicino Parma, condivide entusiasticamente questa mia posizione, e anzi mi sgrida quando mi lamento, o mi arrabbio, dei grandi difetti che pure ci sono.  


Photo Credit: diario di borderline

Top 5 Urban Escapes

Top 5 Urban Escapes

The city offers a symphony of sounds. Sometimes these sounds are welcoming – an impromptu jazz trio in the park, children laughing or the brisk sweeping of a storefront sidewalk.  Sometimes these sounds are unwelcoming – police sirens, garbage trucks or the screeching of brakes, avoiding a pedestrian.

We city dwellers accept the noise and chaos.  It seems a small price to pay for all the incredible benefits urban life can provide daily.  However, many city dwellers seek to find a balance between the calm and the crazy, to gain back a bit of serenity and to keep us even keeled within the urban landscape.

dining alone

Here is a curated list of our team’s favorite five Urban Escapes:

  1. Take a book, magazine or tablet to a park or street bench and pretend to read while actually people watch, being mesmerized by the un-rehearsed street theatre.
  2. Visit a favorite neighborhood cinema to watch film after film, with cell phone off and imagination on.
  3. Step into a yoga or meditation center for any class that focuses on deep breathing and relaxation.
  4. Eat alone, in a quiet café or restaurant with no need to make any effort except to enjoy a complete meal, its smells, its texture and its tastes.
  5. Go to any tall building with public access to the rooftop and take a macro view of the city as a whole, above the noise and distraction, simply appreciating the view.

 Photo Source for both images:

Love Note to Hyde Park, Chicago

Love Note to Hyde Park

I love the neighborhood where I was born and raised. Hyde Park was and still is a champion of integration and harmony, of people from various income and education levels, all living together in one area, in a city that is famous for its segregation.  An anomaly, quite special.

Hyde Park, for my sister and I, held so many wonders.  We began our educations in Montessori school, and then later we entered William H. Ray Elementary.  We lived in Madison Park and then on Blackstone, near 55th Street.  Our mom, an Alumni of the University of Chicago, gave us access to the Regenstein library.  We used the beautiful campus grounds as our second backyard.

Hyde Park illustrated map                                   Illustrated Map Credit:

Our actual backyard had grape vines growing on the back fence. We played so many games back there.  We even buried Chicu, our first pet, a parakeet bird in our backyard. We played outside with our friends until the streetlights came on.  After we moved to 52nd Street near Dorchester, very little changed. We went shopping at the local pharmacy for treats. We were vegetarians so the famous Ribs and Bibs Take-Out was off limits to us.  However, that did not stop us from walking by and enjoying the smells, as we babysat for a family that lived right across the street from there. We learned to swim, tap dance, gymnastics and archery in classes from the YMCA, until it was torn down and replaced by commercial shops.  As we continued to grow, we went to Harper Court movie theatre for group and eventual one-on-one dates.  The streets were safe; the streets were tree lined.

I have not lived in Hyde Park since the 1990s but have been back to visit.  There is a great feeling of not only being back home, but being proud of the community in which I learned a little something about myself and a whole lot about my little world.  It set the standard for the type of neighborhood where my husband and I want to raise our daughter – in a place full of diversity, some nature, lots of culture and endless spirit.

Photo Credit: Adam Jones

“Good Eggs” Comes to Town

When local farmers and food-makers wed via the internet, you get a culinary love affair. And with Good Eggs as the officiant, amazing local, fresh foods can be delivered to your door, any day of the week.

Good Eggs is simple and genius. They take the current craze for sustainable eating into a new paradigm. This new food model connects local farmers/ranchers/fisherman/ who work diligently to produce/raise/catch organically to growing numbers of customers seeking more options and increased frequency of availability for locally grown organic, sustainable foods.

Good Eggs come to town 2

Perhaps most importantly, their business encourages them to delve even deeper, by creating direct opportunities to unite farmers to consumers. Good Eggs hosts events in their growing list of locations that includes Brooklyn, Los Angeles, New Orleans and San Francisco. From potluck lunches to tours, they create opportunities for all to “shake the hand that feeds you” (Michael Pollan).

Growing numbers of conscientious eaters get to:

Eat great quality food,
Help local foodmakers &
Build up your local food system.

Good Eggs - How it works

So how does Good Eggs work? Here is the 1,2,3:

1. You shop direct
Order exactly what you want—no commitments or surprises
See who grew or made your food and buy direct from them

2. Farmers harvest, foodmakers make
Locally-grown produce is picked riper and arrives tastier
Farmers & foodmakers reduce waste by knowing exactly how much to pick/make.

3. Delivery
Home delivery is FREE for orders over $30!

Eating locally helps to ensure better health, which makes a better world and sustains this love affair of fresh food.

Watch more about Good Egg’s mission here

Order and start eating amazing food (in Brooklyn, San Francisco Bay Area, New Orleans, Los Angeles)

Photo, Illustration and Video Credit: Good Eggs

Why Walk?

Why Walk?

A monthly column on the obvious and unobvious benefits of walking as a means of transport and for life.

Many moments in our lives, live in our favorite music. So why not start this series of Why Walk? essays with the words of the prolific Prince: “The sun will shine upon you one day, if you’re always walkin’ your way”. Exactly right! The benefits of walking are endless and this featured column will attempt to highlight many of them and motive you, through the words of our writers and guest essayists.

Walking for me is a mission, it is my politics. It is how I learn about the world around me, the people around me and even about myself. It is how I sustain mental and physical health. And I am not alone. Walking is man’s first mode of transport: it should remain our primary mode to get from A to B. This is not about strolling or exercising, but walking as a way of life, as the primary consideration to how to get where we need to be.

What I really enjoy about walking is that walking is free. You do not even necessarily need shoes. If you choose, walking with bare feet is an option for many people. It provides the perfect scale in which to see our neighborhood, our city.

City living promotes this quite nicely, or at least in cities that are developed with people instead of the car in mind. These cities use sidewalks, paths, alleys, all as a continuing network of walkways for people to move through with ease. Good lighting and well-placed greenery as well as mix use buildings, all do their part in supporting walking. As Jaime Lerner so aptly describes, “the car is like our mother-in-law. It is important to keep her in the correct perspective and to not let her run our lives.”

My aim is to get everyone to question, reflect and truly consider where we can augment walking into our lives. It can be as minimal as taking stairs instead of the elevator. Or if you are ambitious, leading all the way towards taking the car out of the equation for daily life and depend on public transport, car pools or, bicycles, to supplement our “walk-commuting” (my term).

Being free of the car and being full of the outdoor elements of Mother Nature frees us from road rage, traffic jams, and/or parking hassles. Walking provides us with the sunshine we need to give us the vitamin D that our bodies crave. After all, “The sun will shine upon you one day, if you’re always walkin’ your way”.

Photo Credit:

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Elevating City Life