Geographical transition of urban areas. When regeneration not necessarily means gentrification. A case study from Bologna (Italy)

Filippo Pistocchi


Some cities or neighborhoods with a specific socio-economic vocation suffer the phenomenon of change and abandonment, which generates socio-functional and economic redefinitions. This has also happened to the city of Bologna which, over the last 150 years, has experienced a rapid process of economic development, moving from a primary sector economy to a economy based on the industry, to then end up with the most advanced specializations in the tertiary sector. Thus, industries and factories (which had attracted a substantial national workforce) were closed. This has produced the formation of numerous «urban voids», which have turned into abandoned and degraded areas, such as in the Bolognina neighborhood. The consequence was initially the abandonment by the resident population: dwellings remained empty were subsequently occupied by new arrived inhabitants. At first this transition generated contrasts between the pre-existing citizens and the new ones. For this reason, the municipal administration has initiated a series of interventions, aimed on the one hand at the regeneration of the neighborhood in its ethno-socio-economic peculiarities, on the other at the refunctionalization of abandoned areas, to the point of generating a partial process of gentrification. With reference to the territorial Municipality data and according to some published essays and field researches through the Bolognina neighborhood (site inspections and conversation with residents), this article confirms the idea that urban gentrification, urban transition, and urban regeneration are territorial processes in opposition to each other. Each of them can have characteristics and features that are appearently typical of the others, but which, taking shape in a particular territory, are complex geographical phenomena.


city centre, urban regeneration, neighborhood, inclusion, Bolognina

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