Urban Lab Community
Urban Lab Community

Urban Lab Community

In collaboration with Hostwriter, we have asked the Tandem community to share their stories. In this story, Daniela DeLorenzo reports on Anna Moretto and Amina Mourid's collaboration.


Architecture and Art.
What do these fields of practice have in common and what can they learn from each other? What is their level of compatibility?
At first, one might not think about it, but there are lots of similarities. Both talk about places, people and their interactions. They critically look to the reality in which we live in, identifying its problems and coming up with solutions in order to change reality for the better.

This is what has been happening in the Tandem Shaml between the Italian architects’ lab Laboratorio Zip+ and the Moroccan artistic collective Think Tanger: an exchange of competences that wanted to cast attention to local communities and the space in which they live. In an attempt to foster a re-appropriation of places and enhance a sense of belonging and trust.

From a more practical approach by Laboratorio Zip+, to a more artistic and abstract one by Think Tanger, Anna Moretto and Amina Mourid found themselves able to complement each other and highlight strength points of both approaches.

Since the first meeting of the Tandem Shaml, Amina knew that, among all participants, she wanted to collaborate with Anna. “The vision, the philosophy of the projects matched with ours,” said Amina. In fact, both groups work on public and urban spaces. “The logic behind the collaboration was to focus on the transfer of competences in both directions,” said Amina. “It was good because it could have brought to our collectives competences that we did not have before,” she continued.

Laboratorio Zip had past experience in working on the ground. In the past years, with the project Salottino Urbano (in English “Urban Living Room”), they aimed at casting a light on urban spaces such as bus stops, turning them into comfortable living rooms and meeting places.

However, their urban guerrilla did not involve citizens in directly creating architectonic installations to be placed at the bus stops. This is where Think Tanger got to work mostly when Laboratorio Zip+ decided to create a neighbourhood party with urban installations created by citizens. “We helped them with budgeting and organization of their association, as well as in artistic directions. We helped them in designing an event that could involve citizens in the process of the reappropriation of space,” said Amina.

Amina and Cecilia Pasini visit the square to brainstorm about the use of the space during the event.

In order to build this neighbourhood party, they managed to involve several local realities they could rely on to host workshops and reach communities. They chose to organize it in a semi-abandoned square, a small space, which had not been appropriately used by the community.

As the majority of the population of Barriera di Milano has North African migration background, and the project is the collaboration between a Moroccan and an Italian organization, Amina and Anna decided to call the event Tabadol. “In Arabic it means exchange,” said Anna. “We immediately loved this word, because it contained everything the Tandem Shaml project wanted to mean. It is the exchange of ideas, the exchange of practices, the interaction with citizens and between cultures,” she continued.

At first, Laboratio Zip+ had not thought about the contribution that youngsters from the area could have brought to the project. Until Kenza and Alda from Circolo Banfo approached them. Circolo Banfo is an association which uses its space to host recurrent events and activities for the community. “People in the neighbourhood think I am a teacher,” says Kenza. In the past three years, she has been volunteering, giving basic services to the migrant community. She studies Economics at university but helps tutoring kids each Saturday. Thanks to word of mouth of her students and parents, they have been able to reach about 60 pupils, offering help that they are unlikely to receive at home as their family might not be proficient in Italian: “I wanted to be a point of reference for the community. And we can see we have a big impact”. Kenza and Alda have been intermediaries within the local school and Laboratorio Zip+, that then organized creative workshops to build decorations with recycled materials. The workshops were hosted at Circolo Banfo and students spent hours interacting with each other and creating vegetable-shaped installations to be placed in the square on the day of the event.

Amina and Anna visit Circolo Banfo where kids have crafted installation with recycled materials.

Just a few steps away from square, the open air market runs everyday. Laboratorio Zip decided to create installations with materials which recalled the neighbourhood, such as the orange vegetable boxes that are placed all around Square Foroni during the market. Anna contacted Alberto and Giulio, who work at the 3P Piemonte’s greengrocer stand every single day. Laboratorio Zip borrowed over 200 boxes thinking of using these iconic tools to build installation. Via Baltea, a social cooperative and multifunctional space which hostcraft workshops, was the perfect place to involve citizens in turning scrap wood into inserts to be placed on boxes to form comfortable chairs.

Laboratorio Zip have collected over 150 boxes for the market and engaged citizens in build workshops to create stoles.

Barriera di Milano is a neighbourhood with many social cooperatives that work to favour the integration of citizens, as well as to give citizens a space to interact and engage. One of them is Bagni Pubblici. In the past, it served as a place where people could take showers and some rest. Nowadays, the space offers way more than that: recreational activities for children, a café, Italian courses as well as exhibitions, courses for mothers and their babies. During the event Think Tanger proposed to bring an artistic practice in the public space: “ “We are a cultural platform that explores the themes of urbanism through different programs such as experimentation and research.” said Amina. Hence, she and Anna met two representatives from Fucsianauti, a collective of artists, who were going to help Amina and Think Tanger in brainstorming and developing the workshop. They met at Bagni Pubblici, which also hosted some workshops to involve kids in the creation of the fruit and vegetable installations.

“Loneliness makes you more vulnerable,” said Edit, who is leading the sewing workshop in Almaterra, The intercultural Woma Center aims at creating a safe and inclusive place for migrants and marginalized women. “The activity was held on Sundays so they could find a place open,” continued Edith: some of the women live on the street and it is hard to find refuge on that day. Laboratorio Zip+ and Almaterra created workshops that could engage the women on those days, learning how to sew basic pieces of textile to be then installed in the square on the day of the party. “Tailors from the neighbourhood donated extra textiles we could use during these workshops,” said Anna. Around eight women learned to sew and shared moments together, replacing empty hours on the streets. And while they were finding a safe place were to be, they returned the favour to event participants, as their textiles were turn into tents used and cast a shade to protect participants from the hot sun of a typical Italian summer afternoon.

On the event, Think Tanger have printed colourful papers representing the Tabadol poster. It was intended as a form of communication strategy, as t participants with be left with a souvenir from this day”.

But for the two girls, it had been an intense year of work with a lot of memories of mutual understanding, collaboration, opinions and exchange.

Event management practices were what Think Tanger could offer to the development of the project in Turin, while Laboratorio Zip+ helped them on a more architectonic way, for their project development in Tanger. In fact, the aim of Amina and her colleagues is to create transportable wooden rooms that the people from the neighbourhood could use to organize educational activities. “The collaboration we know it does not end here with the Tandem programme,” said Amina. “We want to find the conditions for us to continue to collaborate together”. Tabadol.