“The people save your life” Sumiti says. In a nutshell this sentence sums up the meaning of this short story linking Soprasotto and Ri-Maflow, two “good practices” in Milan already interviewed for the Commonfare research. Sumiti and his associate, Andrea, are architects-artisans who started a joiner’s workshop (Pesce Rosso lab) within Ri-Maflow, previously a factory and now a space for several ventures, labs, coworking and the like. Maddalena instead, with Emanuela, Samantha, Nuria, and many other parents, four years ago opened the self-managed playschool in Soprasotto, an educational laboratory made up of young precarious and freelance parents who decided to autonomously cope with the lack of public pre-schooling services. Maddalena and Sumiti met, started a collaboration, and soon they agreed upon the intention of making child-friendly the spaces in Soprasotto, as some teachers had suggested. “Sumiti and Andrea were already involved in social design projects, so they easily accepted to discuss with us our ideas. We adopted the participatory design approach; the role of the designer and the top-down approach are questioned”, says Maddalena.
“In a competitive and time-challenging city like Milan, there are some spaces like Ri-Maflow and Soprasotto where we can find relationships, help, support, and a human sense of time. These are small but wonderful villages outside official spaces”, Sumiti explains. These two villages speak the same language of needs and desires and from their collaboration a beautiful project was born for the making of modular wood furniture for playschools; “we created it step by step by following everyone’s suggestions. Each parent expressed her opinions, whereas teachers explained concrete needs”. Mums and dads helped in assembling the furniture, too. “Work was paid as usual”, Maddalena clarifies, “however, in order to lower costs, a father provided very cheap materials and everyone helped”, so that “someone sanded and someone painted”.
Those living in Isola neighbourhood, where Soprasotto is based, participated in two fundraising events thus contributing for the grocery shopping at Isola Pepe Verde market. After all, Sumi concludes, “everyone’s commitment is to make this space alive, more functional and pleasant. At the present moment, how could Soprasotto be what it is without the kids in their wagons along the streets?”.
This first collaboration prompted another one: together with WeMake, a space in Milan equipped with production and prototyping technologies available for use to everyone, Soprasotto and the artisans from Ri-Maflow are now realizing an open-source kit for the playschool furniture previously invented, so that other experiences can download the models, mill the wood, and quickly create the object. Put simply, it’s a DIY kit for furniture, which will become part of a DIY kit for building your own playschool. This is the power of social collaboration. Stay tuned, this new story is coming soon!