Following Izmo’s very first project, Cittàscopia (2003), which combined urban data analysis with citizen interactions using various technologies, the group’s work now focuses on encouraging and sparking change among urban residents through installations and local projects. According to Izmo, we need to “regard the quality of life as being conditioned by ordinary spaces, movement, urban conditions, the environment, and social relationships.”

While the general public invariably plays a key role in their projects, Izmo have learned a great deal since the early days: In order to involve and intrigue the general population, it takes an equally enthusiastic task force behind the scenes, one that adopts its own strategies to improve ongoing and upcoming projects. Their motto is to “give something to the citizens first before asking them to give something back – even if it’s just a cup of tea,” according to architect and Izmo member Alessandro Grella.

The Izmo team during a workshop

In 2009, Izmo raised funds for its Pallet by Pallet project, a drive aimed at redeveloping an abandoned green space in Turin. Designed to play host to events as well as leisure and cultural activities, the area was spruced up with a range of DIY furniture made in a workshop that was open to both local residents and architecture or design students. However, and although the project was sponsored by public administration, after the 2010 elections a new right-wing government withdrew support for Izmo’s vision and decided to fence off the popular space.

A similar project, Urban Mobile Square (2012), aimed to “organize a self-built workshop and create an installation in order to sustainably redevelop public space.” Faced with a clear design challenge and constraint – a wheel-mounted frame – participants were invited to create a 3 x 2-meter Mobile Urban Square, now available for public viewing in a private location.

Active in Italy since 2003, Izmo have overcome plenty of obstacles, from fundraising to working with public administration, but remain undeterred by such everyday stumbling blocks – and even endeavor to expand their efforts to the international sphere.

“We are growing and, having learned from our summer and winter schools, now prefer to work internationally and involve citizens in semi-public spaces; spaces open to the public, but privately managed. We think that such semi-public spaces are the solution.”

With ten years of practical experience under their collective belt, Izmo are now all set to improve public spaces around the world, involving the local population to create on-demand improvements: not only through their architectural acumen, but often enough by simply listening to the people on the ground.

Text: Lilly Wolf
Header image by garu-garu for Izmo CC-BY-SA
All other photos by Izmo CC-BY-SA