This week, we talked to Chiara Pirro, who graduated from our program in 2014 and returned to her native Italy. Inspired by her experience during her time at our university, she decided to change move away from an international career and go back to rural Italy, where she is now focussing on urban regeneration and local development of regions that are suffering from depopulation and abandonment of agricultural practices. We will welcome Chiara at our 10 year anniversary event on May 29th, for our conversations between alumni and teachers. Check out the details!

Name: Chiara Pirro
Age: 31 years old
Nationality: Italian
Year of Graduation from Program: 2014
Internship placement: Parc Agrari Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park
Current Occupation: Architect (Co-Founder DDuM studio, Creative Director Vazapp)
Location: San Marco in Lamis, Apulia, Italy
Area of interest/specialty: Urban regeneration and local development
Professional goal: Building a solid team work for long term regeneration programmes

What have you done since graduating from our program?

I left Barcelona in 2014 and I moved to Italy, Naples, where I initially won a scholarship from the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage. This experience led me to work on the local development of the buffer zone of UNESCO sites, specifically that of Pompei. Later, the decision to contribute with my experiences to the sustainable development of my own territory of origin led me to return to my birth town where I founded the “DDUMstudio” with two colleagues. A design and architecture atelier with a strong imprint linked with the themes of the “fair-shared city and landscape”, where we carry on urban regeneration projects in the Gargano region, exploring the role of inland South Italian areas in sustainable development processes.

Simultaneously, the search for an active and scientific work group in the area led me to match with “Vazapp” (where I am the creative director today), a rural hub in the Apulia region that deals with social innovation in agriculture and rural development.

Tell us a bit about your current job.

I am currently working on two main projects: an urban regeneration project of a peripheral area within the municipality of the city where I live, which won a regional public funding with European funds. At the same time, I am working on the evolution of the Vazapp project within the entire regional territory, which sees the activation of communities working on rural regeneration through training and the study of specific social innovation formats.

Images above: Urban Regeneration project ( DDuM studio with arch. Adele Villani) “MURAPERTE” in the city of San Marco in Lamis (Photo Credits: DDuMstudio)

What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of your job or of working in development in general?

Surely, my biggest challenge was to return to southern Italy, in an area subjected by heavy depopulation, and characterized by the emptying of urban centers together with the abandonment of agricultural areas. Making innovation and transferring knowledges in these areas are the hardest process and the challenge was to first establish a dialogue, enforcing trust in new ideas, with communities and local government. However, some years later I can say that the first results are visible but the challenge is open yet.

What are the most important lessons you have learned throughout our career?

Working on city issues is increasingly complex, but I think the younger generations of professionals have something to say and to carry forward if we connect with multi-disciplinary team. However as architects, we have to start from the assumption that the physical dimension is not the only answer in our work, and for this reason it is necessary to build new words and a new dictionary of questions. Thanks to my career process I hope I’m re-writing the right questions day by day.

Tell us one of your most memorable experiences related to your work.

Last year I had the opportunity to build a really interesting project based on a bottom-up process. With Vazapp we implemented a cultural program of rural regeneration of the agricultural communities. Together with a theater company we achieved the “Shakespeare to farmers” project with the mission of bringing culture to the countryside. In July 2018, we co-design and co-built a straw theater for 300 spectators with the same farmers who attended the sold-out events in the following evenings. The process is still open and we are working for the next steps.

Vazapp project “Shakespeare to farmers”, Teatro della Medusa (Photo Credits: “Vazapp”)

In what ways did the master program influence your professional life? 

The UIC master definitely changed my life by allowing me to analyse and feel things in a new way. When I finished the programme I didn’t achieve the change I was experiencing, but soon many of the words and concepts I had learned changed my perspectives and professional goals. First of all I understood the need to contaminate one’s own professional definition with different skills and visions far from just the technical background: and I’m happy today of working with farmers, story tellers, researchers, digital communicators, etc. Simultaneously thanks to the master program I refocused my professional path and saw the possibility of moving from an “international” to a “local” scale. Finally, the experience of the master influences my professional life on a daily basis through the choices I make during the whole design processes, and by asking the right questions and hoping that I can give an answer to myself and to the communities.

What advice would you give to our students or anyone interested in a similar career path?

Be patient. In this field personal goals and common results need time to come out! But also be self-critical and ironic. Never forget to continue studying and look for a group that represents your own soul-searching. Get together and achieve common goals!

Image above and feature image: Vazapp project “Shakespeare to farmers”, Teatro della Medusa (Photo Credits: “Vazapp”)

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