U-Lab project

U-Lab is a participatory lab dedicated to the university zone under the ROCK Project (Regeneration and Optimization of Cultural heritage in Knowledge and Creative cities), financed by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, which has expanded a new period of observation, ideation, and experimentation in support of actions in the project.

U-Lab is promoted by the City of Bologna and the University of Bologna in collaboration with Fondazione Rusconi and the Municipal Theatre and is coordinated by the Fondazione per l'Innovazione Urbana. U-Lab is a transverse route to different planning ideas in the university zone. It began in 2017 to accompany regeneration in the area, develop new ideas for enhancement, unconventional use, and the creation of services and to promote experimental actions for different spaces in the district.

In 2018 these aspects developed through:

  • a process of listening and co-design to collect ideas and proposals via meetings.

In particular, meetings were held on: the issue of accessibility, sustainability, and collaboration; strategic places in the area to enhance the potential of specific areas, connections, and integration in a potential shared management plan for the area; technology applied to the urban environment.

  • experiments and entertainment in the area.

Sixteen companies chosen through a call were charged with enhancing the community and suggesting new visions to contribute to transforming the lifestyle and caring for the area, with particular attention to new social, environmental, and economic processes. The initiatives promoted by each formed a programme of events and integrated initiatives that was held from March to May 2018 in different areas of the university district.

In 2019 U-Lab developed ‘U-Area for All’: a process to create and experiment with a guided tour service including the university zone. The goal was to create a service that would enable the richness of its museums, cultural centres, and the university to be experienced in a more accessible way by those wanting to discover the area or those who already frequent it daily.

To this end, the Fondazione per l’Innovazione Urbana has launched:

  • a call to select the subjects that participated in the ROCK project working group to design the service
  • a co-design process that, through numerous meetings and activities, involved institutions and the various actors in the area, together with students, residents, and people with disabilities.

Among the most important results of the entire process, the following are worth mentioning:

  • temporary arrangement of Piazza Rossini with a grassy area of 300 m2, flower beds, and new lighting elements
  • the app ‘BOForAlL’ and inclusive guides that provide useful information about the historical/artistic places of interest in the city, accessible services, and thematic routes with particular attention to people with disabilities.

Final report: U-Lab Bologna, a story of participation and inclusion to the cultural heritage of the university district

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