Homes bedecked with jewels and painted flowers. Whimsical garages with yawning mouths, and lampposts adorned with cast-metal birds. A road cobbled to look like a snake. It’s the idyllic stuff of a best-selling children’s book, a fantastical Neverland. It also describes one of the world’s most wonderful neighborhoods.
The child-and-adult-designed community of Coriandoline was conceptually born in 1990, when a construction co-op in the northern Italian town of Correggio made the radical decision to become for abitanti (inhabitants) rather than for abitazioni (habitations), reports Landscape Architecture (June 2009). Shifting to this philosophy meant getting input about housing development design from all members of the community–including children.
Teachers collected ideas from 700 local kids, who spent time learning about architecture and drawing and building models. Their suggestions were published in 1999, in the Manifesto of Children’s Living Needs. In 2006 the first residents turned their inspiration into brick and mortar and moved into Coriandoline, which now consists of 20 homes built around a central square.
In describing their “ideal” houses, Landscape Architecture notes, the kids listed “essential features rang[ing] from ‘transparent,’ ‘hard outside,’ and ‘soft inside’ to ‘playful,’ ‘decorated,’ and ‘magical.’ ” These insights clearly informed the neighborhood’s final design. It’s impossible to play around on Coriandoline’s sprightly website (www.coriandoline.it) and not crack a smile.