(English) Urban Laboratory “I live in Florence” (May 23-24-30-31, 2023)

Working in strict collaboration with the students of the Master’s Degree in Geography of the University of Florence, the LaGeS has organized an Urban laboratory titled “I live in Florence”. The laboratory took place in the Casa del popolo in San Niccolò (Florence) on May 23-24-30-31, 2023.

The urban laboratory has put in practice principles of active learning by engaging with creative methods in human geography. The students have explored methods such as individual biographies and life charts, mental mapping, one-to-one interview, field observation and urban diary, reflexive notes, as well as place-based storytelling and story boards. The final visual products of the laboratory are short films shot and edited by the groups of students, through which the latter narrate their own experience of, and relation to, the urban space of Florence.

The laboratory has sought to facilitate the emergence of the subjective, situated dimensions of the urban experience, to highlight the potency of creative methods and of continuous reflexivity in research practice, as well as to create links between the individual urban experience and the social, cultural and economic issues that affect the city of Florence. To do so, students have been involved in activities on the individual, the inter-personal, and the collective level, while the urban laboratory has taken place at the Casa del popolo di San Niccolò, in the center of Florence. Conducting such an educational activity in this specific spatial context not only has revealed the catalytic role of non-academic places in a socially sensitive and open active geographical learning, but has also allowed for powerful connections to the local micro-contexts of the city of Florence.

Titles and storyboards of the five video clips filmed by the students:

Group  Title Plot summary
1 A way to the university Five students move everyday from different places inside and outside Florence and reach the University in the city center through different transport means. The different mobilities of the students become the place where thoughts, ideas, feelings and observations on the relationship between students and the city are shared, and mobility is elaborated as a way to engage with the city and its social space, and a lens through which urban space is seen, perceived, and experienced.
2 A day in the life of an international student Three students are found in a simulated video call to one student’s daughter, who lives abroad with her grandmother. The smartphone becomes the place through which Florence is narrated to the daughter, in the contrast between touristic landmarks and more private spaces where they meet for studying and spending time together. 
3 Home away from home Three students leave their home and come to a new place in Florence. The clip alternates scenes in black and white, when the students feel homesick, alienated, and out of place, and scenes in colors, when they find places which make them feel like home. 
4 Sounds of Florence Two different characters, a student and a worker, each wearing a white face mask, cross the overcrowded spaces in the city center, expressing and sharing feelings of alienation and anonymity along their way. Eventually, they escape the crowd in a small beach close to the Arno river, where they remove their mask and finally find some personal and shared space. 
5 Three Dimensional city Three students reaching the city center from different origins impersonate different dimensions: time, sound, and perspective. They sense the city in different ways as one hurries to catch a train; the other isolates himself from the surrounding loudness by listening to its own soundscape; the third one descends from the terrace of Piazzale Michelangelo to the city down-below. They all end up at the same location by the river, where they finally together they can relax, enjoy the music and look at the blue sky over them.