Since 2017, the University of Genoa has been offering interactive lectures and workshops to primary and secondary schools located in the Savona area. These activities allow to promote the culture of sustainability among the younger generations, showing the projects developed within the Savona Campus in the energy-environmental field. In the pre-pandemic period, about 200 students per year have been involved. In addition, the University annually activates several school-to-work programs with secondary schools in the province of Savona. Thanks to this opportunity, young people have the opportunity to acquire specific knowledge and skills, in the field of sustainability and beyond, useful for facing the world of work.
The sustainability mural: the SDGs reinterpreted by teenagers
The Savona University Campus was established in 1992 as a redevelopment of the former Bligny Barracks. The area of just over 50,000 square meters is bordered by a large wall that once served to enclose the military area. Over the years, the military facilities have been converted into classrooms, laboratories, spaces for student services, teaching and research, and open spaces for citizenship.
In 2021, the University of Genoa decided to renovate an interior portion of the boundary wall by proposing a collaboration project to the "Chiabrera Martini" High School of Art in Savona. The aim of this partnership was to depict on a portion a wall the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN Agenda 2030 reinterpreted by the students, leaving free space for reflection and creativity of young people. The portion of the wall is just over 60 m long and 2.4 m high and it is well suited to represent the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as it features a 21-panel structure.
In 2022 the project has been activated upon the approval from the school. The main phases of the project were 4:
- Theoretical lessons on sustainability
- Presentation of the final design
- Wall painting
Theoretical lessons on sustainability
On May 2022 the UniGe staff provided formative lectures to the high school students. The aim of these lessons was to disseminate the sustainability culture among the young peoplein order to build a resilient future generation. For this reason, an in-depth analysis on the sustainability concept and the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) of the Agenda 2030 was done. Moreover, the UniGe staff described the Savona Campus context and shared all the best practices followed to build a Sustainable Campus. All these information allowed the students to learn and deepen the area of design required by the project.
Teachers supervised the class involved in designing sketches by dividing the students into 5 groups, each tasked with developing 4 SDGs. An initial brainstorming phase allowed them to select different ideas that were then compared and unified into a common design that was easily understood and clear for any kind of viewer. The aim of the work was to be able to communicate the concepts inherent in the SDGs in a complex of images that were not isolated but related to each other in a single mural painting. Having finished the ideation phase, the class began the creation of the sketches during which it was decided to use primary color tones (magenta, cyan and yellow) to make the didactic function of the work more intuitive. To finish the design, each student chose a target and developed the final drawing of it, reproducing it on digital media.
To make the design easily understandable, the themes, even the complex ones, were represented through the use of simple and humorous images or symbols that could immediately communicate the message, using positive and original iconography. For example, the planet being stitched symbolizes the desire to safeguard the environment and rectify the mistakes made by mankind towards the Earth and the other creatures that inhabit it; the scales depict the struggle for gender equality; the kneeling men picking up books from the ground figuratively represent the cultivation of culture as a tool of freedom and growth for man and society.
Focusing on the sketches, Goal 2 (zero hunger), Goal 4 (quality education), and Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation) were graphically joined in the first part of the mural because of the macro-topic that binds them together: nourishment. In fact, goals 2 and 6 are related to the primal human need to nourish one's body, while study and education (goal 4) represent the nourishment of the mind that occurs when basic needs are met. World hunger was not depicted with emaciated faces and gaunt people but it was chosen to make the image more positive by portraying food, specifically a plate of spaghetti, being bitten by human figures in the foreground. A positive reinterpretation was also chosen for water, directing it around a concept of abundance, even making (unrealistic) use of pipes as a revisited, fantastical element. Education, on the other hand, was represented with a skull from which letters of the alphabet and books come out.
Another theme the teenagers focused on was consumerism, which has become a pressing global problem in recent decades. The representation begins with sustainable cities (SDG 11), depicted with buildings arranged on different branches of a tree to symbolize the care for the environment. The drawing then focuses on Goals 12 (responsible consumption and production) and 13 (climate action) with the intent to improve the quality of life by minimizing the use of natural resources, toxic materials and limiting the polluting emissions to safeguard the environment and the needs of future generations. The students thought to represent these messages with a spinning wheel, a laborious machine that refers to exhausting work, whose thread is understood as progress, something continuous and infinite that will come to stitch up the globe trying to find a solution to the evil that plagues it.
The last part of the work is devoted to the themes of partnership and peace (SDGs 16 and 17) that allow the actions that institutions have committed and will commit to protect the world. For millennia, humankind has erected walls, dividing men into factions and then exterminating themselves in bloody wars, as still happens. The high school students wanted to end their journey in the most possible direct way, drawing on the iconography of the dove as a symbol of peace and cooperation, pursuing these values through diplomacy and awareness represented by a handshake. Indeed, the final drawings emphasize the importance of putting aside diversity by working for a common good: SUSTAINABILITY.
The presentation of the final design
On October 27, 2022, the students of the "Chiabrera Martini" High School previewed their final design as part of the ASviS 2022 Sustainable Development Festival, as part of the Workshop “Rotta verso un futuro sostenibile” (Route to a Sustainable Future) organized by the University of Genoa, the Municipality of Savona and Costa Crociere. In the following, it is possible to see the full development of the design by the students.
In March 2023, the implementation of the project began on the chosen portion of the wall. Teachers from the Savona High School of Art projected the drawings on the long wall with the aim of sketching the outlines. By April 2023, the high school students and some UniGe staff representatives will complete the artwork by coloring the figures and emphasizing the importance of collaboration in achieving the global sustainable development goals.
The wall will always be visible to all the campus visitors as an example of a fruitful collaboration for the dissemination of the sustainability culture.