TOWN PLANNING DESIGN WORKSHOP
The Town Planning and Urban Design Studio aims to allow the students to get the main necessary elements to deal with the topics of urban change and regeneration processes. The outcome of the Studio work has to do both with physical planning and urban design proposals at different scales and with the complexity of the planning issues shared by social actors. The teaching program is structured through the integration of the modules of Urbanism and Urban and Architectural Design. The main focus of the design experience is coherent with the definition of urban design as “the collaborative and multi-disciplinary process of shaping the physical setting for life in cities, towns and villages; the art of making places … (UDG)” and with Peter Buchanan’s statement that “urban design lies somewhere between the broad-brush abstractions of planning and the concrete specifics of architecture. It implies a notion of citizenship: life in the public realm. It is not just about space, but time as well”. The Studio aims at training and improving the understanding and use of a set of tools used in the design process, and in the process of translation between concepts and ideas, analysis and interpretation, proposals and projects.
The main goal of the Studio module of Urbanism is to allow the students to get the proper tools for the interpretation of the spatial characters of the project site and of the context where it is located and to propose and discuss strategic and operational issues for its change. The idea of context means either the physical and the social features of sites, but also the historical and cultural events which define the specificity of places. The project areas are located in the peripheral neighbourhoods of Milan, in continuity with the “first ring” of periurban municipalities, where conditions of abandonment and poor quality of areas and building ask for interventions re-framing uses and re-shaping spaces. The choice of Metropolitan Milan is due to the interesting urban dynamics involving this territory. Besides, we think that it is essential for design students to get a direct experience of the features of the site, through personal inspections and surveys and meetings with municipal officers and local actors. The students will also be requested to take into account, with the support of the teachers’ team expertise, the specificity of the development of modern and contemporary urban planning in Milan and of the morphology of the city’s major contemporary urban schemes and architectural projects. The strategic and regulatory framework of the planning tools will be also considered as an important element for the orientation and control of the transformation and for the projects setting.
The Studio's activity is developed within the framework of “Re-forming Milan” a didactic and research initiative promoted by the AUIC School of the Polytechnic of Milan in cooperation with institutional local actors. The Studio focuses on four main urban planning and design themes, which are strategic for Milan: social and affordable housing; localization of urban scale attractive functions and regeneration of small scale mixed activities; reorganization of obsolete manufacturing spaces through innovative destinations; spaces to improve urban connections in the perspective of slow mobility programs. A theoretical approach is required to understand in depth the four main themes and to define the meaning of urban space quality, taking into account sustainability as a pre-condition for an approach which cares for environmental and social issues and economic feasibility. In order to fulfil these requirements, students will analyse specific case studies, pay attention to contemporary urban design debate, consider multi-scalar relationships in between the project site and its context, interact with local actors. Moreover, each proposal should take in account a phasing strategy for a potential construction process by considering issues as flexibility, priority, temporary uses to prevent built and open spaces degradation. The general planning and design goal is to generate opportunities for sustainable local economic development, either in the case of the localization of new central functions or by realizing or regenerating mixed-uses and mixed-income communities and to create or improve the open and public spaces network, avoiding the creation of segregated and gated urban environments.
The final outcome required to each design team is the definition of a new scenario through the presentation and discussion of a master plan (1:2000) of the study and project areas. The master plan (together with conceptual schemes, maps at the territorial scale and with architectural scale details and models) is considered as a tool to understand the specificity of a project site and to explore - eventually with alternative solutions - the functional and spatial issues and the quality of the urban space.
At the beginning of the Studio activity, students will be individually required to explore a given site following some of the thematic issues, merging objective information and subjective interpretation. They will convey the findings into a booklet, which will be delivered at the end of the activity. This kind of exercise will create some "common ground" for the conceptualization of the design issues as the interpretation of the relationship between the site and its context and the understanding of the typo-morphological features. Students are required to work not only with digital tools: schemes, sketches, physical models, mostly realized while students are in the classroom, will be highly regarded and encouraged as the primary means of expression and of understanding of the critical relations between issues, representational form, and proposals.
The design activity will be developed in three main steps:
The first step consists in the urban context investigation through surveys and inspections. The project areas will be posted to groups of 2-3 students, requested to realize a synthetic diagnostic of the context and of the area’s problems and opportunities and to discuss it in pin up sessions.
The second step consists in the discussion of the proposed urban design concept aimed at outlining the main strategic issues and guidelines for the transformation. The interdisciplinary approach due to the integration of Urbanism, Urban and Architectural Design together with the different cultural backgrounds of the international students are taken as an opportunity to create an educational environment where the learning atmosphere reflects some aspects of the professional environment.
The third step is the drafting of the scenarios, their discussion and the development of specific and detailed proposals. The control of the contents of the proposal at different scales, and the coherence of the masterplan with the territorial and local framework are important requirements for the design activity.
Seminars for the discussion and evaluation of the projects are organized during the semester with the participation of Italian and foreign guest academics and practitioners.
All the technical documents useful to develop the proposals will be provided by the teaching team.
Present-day changes in the use of public spaces are linked to urban mobility and transport and hence to the nature of roads and streets. How can we interpret them in relation to the original function and “etymology” of such features? How can we bring to bear a more aware, interdisciplinary approach in order to define new instruments and techniques for the designing and planning of such spaces, which are increasingly seen as integral parts of the networks required by multi-scale systems of mobility?
In response to these questions, this class focuses upon certain key features in order to define some principles and approaches to urban design that might achieve such an interdisciplinary method. It aims to identify specific solutions for the handling of the spaces between roads and buildings, for the improvement of urban connections and increasing accessibility for all users (design of street layouts and paths for pedestrians and cyclists).
Through across-reading of the relationship between urban mobility and public spaces, this class intends to propose a critical approach to urban design as a complex discipline, in which also mobility techniques, such as traffic calming, can be integrated and included in the toolbox of urban designers.
Streets, squares, intersections, edges should therefore be designed considering both the “roadway” dimension (link status) and the “urban-relational” dimension (place status), in order to balance crossing functions with local accessibility for weak users and qualification of community places.
This shift of paradigm moving from a conventional design culture starts from a multi-scalar dimension and a multi-disciplinary point of view to integrate design criteria in infrastructure and settlement systems. From sectoral roads design to a comprehensive urban design, we try to encode some methods and tools for a more inclusive Context Sensitive Approach.
This approach to urban mobility has to take in account safety and accessibility for all road users, through a change of understanding of public space patterns, from a single minded to an open minded process (moving from a critical interpretation of Modern Movement and functionalism, i.e. with contributions of Cullen, Lynch, Jacobs, Rogers and other more contemporary theories).
Fixing some design principles as well as operational frameworks (innovative design guidelines and traffic calming techniques), we will make a critical selection of regulations and standards, to provide an effective and flexible set of design elements.
Some of the most important key features taken from this approach are:
- quality of the urban space: in a way to define and give meaning to the quality of the urban space and exploring its characters as a specific physical and spatial design issue, aimed at producing flexible spaces open to temporary and mixed uses;
- sustainable mobility and inclusive design, considered in its different aspects of: environmental, social and economic as the necessary background of contemporary urban design facing the current situation of recession and crisis of governance;
- context and sensitivity: to give priority to the interpretation of the characters of the project site and of its context, taking in account the specificity of the development of modern and contemporary Milan urban region;
- planning and design tools: to work within an innovative framework of strategic planning and of regulatory tools adapting programs to current and real needs
The methodology develops upon some suggested theoretical precepts to look at concrete applications, outlining a set of instruments that might be used in planning and designing public spaces as well as urban streets: these instruments form an overall toolkit of design features. By this way the class proposes a toolkit to be used as a practical instrument for action on a local scale: in particular focusing on the relations of connectivity between the local and the regional scale, the primary and the secondary network within central Milan, the first belt of the suburban towns and the outskirts, the conflicts between hard cuts generated by the highway corridors and local green routes (foot and cycle paths). The aim is to define a coordinated framework of principles and “type” solutions associated with the various practices of urban planning, starting from the design and planning of streets as urban or green “routes” (these “routes” to be understood in the widest possible sense as embracing the entire network of public open spaces and paths).
The goal of the Studio is to investigate the relationship between town planning strategies, urban and architectural design issues. The Architectural Design module aims to stimulate a critical insight on some particular issues involved in contemporary architectural design, such as specifically innovation in residential typologies, social housing, open, public and shared spaces, modification of existing buildings. Towards these themes we will pay attention to the characters of the physical context, to the “connective” spaces and to the features of the places as conceptual and operative tools for design.
The aim is to improve the students’ skills in reading and understanding the urban fabric at different scales and in different urban conditions and to use the masterplan as a tool to shape the space, taking into consideration the different scales involved in the design process. This will be reached through the approach of urban and architectural design, having a particular attention in the definition of the relations with the context and between the different parts of the project itself, at different scales, taking care of the quality of the designed spaces, both open or built up and examining in depth the typologies involved in the design.
Lectures and reviews will focus on theoretical points of view, methods, references, techniques and tools concerning the morphological description and interpretation of urban settlements, design strategies and typologies, and aim at outlining the architectural strategies entailed in urban design. Students will be led to the understanding of the relationship between urban and architectural design and to realize an interpretative map of the projects site context, reading in a simultaneous way the urban materials, the buildings' types and the shape of the different spaces involved. The use of maquettes (both conceptual and in different scales) will be required as a relevant tool in the development of the design process.