Lorenzo Maria Centioni
london, uk  

JULY 5th, 2020 

In the lifespan of an espresso  

I wake up, walk down the stairs and move to the kitchen to prepare me a nice espresso, rigorously with a moka. While sipping the caffeine-loaded drink, I open the window to get a breath of fresh, summertime air. A glimpse of the green backyard garden fills my eyes despite its modest size. This micro private outdoor space, squeezed in between my neighbours’ backyards, form a heterogeneous ecosystem connecting the rear side of the flats from two different streets. Every backyard is separated from the next one by tall wooden fences as to suggest that no one should look into the eyes of the neighbors. There is a narrow communal corridor that links them all up and eventually leads to the main roads. This corridor is cluttered with any sort of trash and remnants of fallen tree branches. No one uses it, and its derelict state evokes a sense of sadness and incompleteness. Conversely, inside the courtyards, beautiful roses grow and happy children laugh. If time could unfold simultaneously you would look at my backyard and see me doing barbeques with flatmates, yoga, reading, sleeping, shadow boxing, music, lifting weights, cleaning, listening to the sound of birds, inflating bike tires, hanging clothes to dry, talking to my neighbors over the fences, looking at the sky. A chain of expected behaviours appropriate for this space.

Looking over my backyard, straight into the eyes of that weird, ugly, abandoned space, something magical draws my attention: the beauty embedded in the interplay between the animal, the vegetable and the human worlds that unfolds in it. There are two squirrels running after each other, two fat pigeons sitting on the fence and a bunch of green noisy parrots overlooking the bucolic scene. Foxes sleep now, recharging batteries for another nocturnal raid aimed at stealing as much rotten food as they can from our trash bags. I admire the squirrels being able to play in the tall trees and expertly descending along the branches with extreme agility in search of some berries for breakfast. I feel miserable eating plastic wrapped blueberries, so I throw some at them. Lying tired on the fence that divides my garden to my neighbors’, the pigeons observe me.It’s funny thinking about how they could live so comfortably in the interstitial space between properties. They literally need five centimeters of fence to balance on. I notice this community of animals takes full advantage of any space independently from the purpose for which it was designed.

As a spatial practitioner, I notice how all these animals are immune to the notion of public and private, messy or tidy, accessible or not, wrong or right, inclusive or exclusive. The space in which they live is not designed for them, yet they thrive in it. We don’t use this space anymore, they constantly do. We design and construct our world according to concepts and ideas unintelligible for other forms of life and often we deemed abandoned spaces to be redundant and strive to turn them into something useful from the mere perspective of economy.

As an innate optimist, I like to think at this dramatic time as a moment of self-reflection and pause. A period of reconsidering design from a renewed perspective of care and inclusiveness for every person, animal and plant that lives upon this planet.

I finish my coffee and go back inside my house.

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