Expert article
Modifier 14 December 2021
by DANIELA Patti, UIA Expert

Urban Jungle: Prato truly means it

Legambiente Toscana
Legambiente is a non-profit association, made up of citizens who care about the protection of the environment in all its forms, the quality of life and a more equitable, just and supportive society. It bases its mission on scientific environmentalism and has been fighting for beauty, protection and a better quality of life for 40 years.

Prato Urban Jungle (PUJ), a project launched by the City of Prato, will revitalize districts of Prato by developing four areas with a high density of green, the so-called - urban jungles. PUJ aims to increase social inclusion and promote widespread sustainable development, therefore in this framework, it is necessary to sow a new environmental culture capable of understanding the importance of greenery in our cities. Legambiente, as partner of the project, created two manuals “The City of Plants” and “Green Generation”, and an educational course “Create your Jungle” to increase awareness of the citizens in regards to greenery in the urban areas.   


The role of scientific environmentalism in sowing a new environmental culture

In 2018, the Municipality of Prato adopted a new masterplan that outlines the land use rulesfor the territory of the entire municipality in relation to the types of intervention on an existing building, from renovation to expansion, or on the land use, whether agricultural or building. Among the thematics tackled by the masterplan, the environmental one finds its expression in the urban forestry strategy, where the urban green analysis is supported by PNAT, whilst the Forestry Action Plan by Boeri Architects. As part of this strategy, the Prato Urban Jungle (PUJ) project aims to renovate the districts of Prato in a sustainable and socially inclusive way by developing urban jungles, e.g. redesigned areas with a high density of greenery, immersed in the urban structure, which multiply the natural capacity of plants to break down pollutants, restore the use of soil and space in the community and transform marginal and decaying areas into active green hubs within the city. These redesigned areas not only will contribute to improve the quality of the air, but also will activate precious social, cultural and economic dynamics.   

Legambiente is one of the main Italian environmental associations, active since 1980. A non-profit association, made up of citizens who care about the protection of the environment in all its forms, the quality of life and a more fair, just and inclusive society. Legambiente bases its mission on scientific environmentalism and has been fighting for 40 years.  

Estra headquarters, the social housing in via Turchia, the new covered Market at Macrolotto Zero in the Soccorso neighbourhood and the commercial area in via delle Pleiadi are the areas that will undergo this urban transformation. But in order to activate and produce a cultural and environmental impact on the whole city, it is essential for Legambiente to raise awareness of all citizens through many initiatives and overall support. In short, students, local realities, associations, and in general the inhabitants are involved in a sustainable urban transformation. 

The City of Plants guides the citizens to logically link the project of PUJ with the reality of Prato, of the existing planning system, with a new awareness of the world of the plants, currently relegated to a pleasant setting of some places in the city. The overall goal of the manual is to transfer the knowledge and strengthen the skills of civil society to choose and apply nature-based solutions to improve liveability of the city and its quality of life. The toolkit has a set of operational instruments through which everyone will be able to identify and organise its own green strategy. It contains general information and useful practices that support a process from the beginning, obtaining results that can be spread and self-regenerate over time.  

This initiative seeks to give citizens the knowledge and power to create, cure, renovate and maintain green areas. This can only be achieved if citizens recognize the value and usefulness, and at the same time know how to operate.  

Green Generation is designed to support teachers in carrying out educational activities dedicated to Urban Jungle themes. The goal of the toolkit is to inspire and help teachers in modulating the proposed activities, adapting the work to the group, to the programme and to their schedule. Therefore, the toolkit implementation fits within the regular educational planning. The different modules are designed so that the teacher can use them autonomously and personally; modules can be used both individually or inserted in a teaching path that have more modules to be developed throughout the school year. After a theoretical part of a specific topic, it is usually followed by one or more practical activities. The different activities described can be declined in multiple methods of implementation: lectures, group works or individual activities. Additionally, activities can be either carried out at schools or as an independent activity to be done at home.  

This initiative sees, above all, young students as an ally who are increasingly becoming leading players in influencing the public opinion towards climate change, by being today more than ever, voices of cultural, social and environmental transformation.  

create your jungle

Build your Jungle a cycle of five meetings, lasting two hours each, to learn how to create your own "urban jungle", thus contributing to the development of a greener, healthier and resilient cities. The modules address various topics, ranging from the theoretical foundations that govern urban forestry interventions to the design of various types of gardens, up to small useful and ecological suggestions for the care of greenery, and the analysis of some case studies. A course to stimulate, not only the understanding, but also action, to activate skills, energies and sow seeds that develop and grow that lead to increase and improve the presence of greenery in our cities. 

This initiative sees to involve everyone in the green revolution that need to occur in cities nowadays.  

PUJ is an ambitious project that certainly disseminate a new way of appreciating and forming both citizenship and the vision of a modern city. A solidarity citizenship and city, social and environmentalist. Adding green to the sense of community is one of the solutions to protect the environment and climate change as well as giving to the cityscape a new urban aesthetic sense. PUJ is 'sowing' a new environmental culture capable of understanding green as the foundation and substance of the world, through a participatory approach, free from prejudices and clichés.