The city is the place where the challenge of sustainability, social inclusion, resource scarcity, and economic crises is played; here, designing transformations is a dialogue, even harsh, between very different disciplines and knowledge, between theories and practices, between constraints and visions. Designing transformations is a complex alignment of difference and uniformity, immutability and instability, continuity and discontinuity.
Within such a complexity, although some constraining norms and rules, there are no best formulas or guidelines to design the city: there is a need to manage large margins of uncertainty over which no “project” can be considered as a final, enduring product; a project is rather a process in which actors constantly reconfigure in relation to temporary and ephemeral outcomes which, all together, shape the transformations. Therefore the focus is shifted to the urban transformation process, to a field of action in which the production and organization of the city's spaces emerge from the project's “becoming”.
Far from being merely a future image or representation, the project interacts with the context (immaterially and materially), deforms it even before any transformation starts, involves it, collaborates with it. Fundamentally to such “project as process” are the actors who, in the cities, are the protagonists of transformations by playing very different roles: urban designers, citizen professionals, communities of interests and places, public institutions, and many others. There are many resources available for urban transformation but the interaction mechanisms between them are far from being known and the project works in wide uncertain conditions: how does a green area work, or rather a parking lot? What phenomena will trigger in a peripheral public space? Will there be cyclists on a bicycle running? Who will be the users of a new public spaces? Many of these questions are not answered in the project as a prefiguration of the future but rather in the project as a dialogic tool for transformation management, thus growing in complexity due to the high number of resources the city produces throughout its making.
In coherence with this complex vision, the Studio aims at exploring the action fields of urban planning and design within current urban contexts as characterized by a complex socio-economic transition that challenges technical knowledge, its theoretical tradition, and its practices. Within this perspective, new, even experimental, forms of urban planning and design are experienced in the Studio, able to deal with emerging problems of urban transformation and development which, more and more, require new design skills and competences that overcome the traditional figure of urban design experts and enrich it with abilities to shape new governance models, to mediate between public authorities and local communities, to elaborate frugal solutions, to behave inside frequent phenomena of urban activisms. To be interdisciplinary dialogic tools, design (in many cases small scale design) alternatives are preferred to feed the debate rather than governing the transformation towards an alignment effort the regulatory dimension and the needs for transformation.
Finally, the Studio focuses on the crucial issues of space making and spatial identity by involving students in a problem mapping and design alternatives planning for the collective public space of Grande Parco Forlanini.
THE GRANDE PARCO FORLANINI AREA
The Urban Design Studio (UDS) will be mainly focussed on the area of the Grande Parco Forlanini (GPF) in the eastern area of Milano. This park is currently in a condition to be connected, completed and activated. Two parts of it are old parks of the Milano metropolitan area in proximity of the Linate airport: the old Forlanini Park and the Idroscalo Park. Both belong to the so-called area of Parco Agricolo Sud Milano, a large agricultural land bordering the urban area of Milano from east to west throughout the south borders. Also, the GPF includes another area only recently annexed to the park; this area is mainly agricultural but infrastructure with bike-lanes and play-grounds.
The whole GPF area is cut by the Lambro river although the city users are barely aware of its presence: the Lambro river is part of a wider plan aimed at recovering it from pollution and benches “artificialization”. Parallel to the river a huge highway infrastructure underlines this cut and makes the park hard to be perceived as a whole in its incredible richness of spaces and practices opportunities.
Finally, the GPF lays in two different municipalities that hardly coordinate and reciprocate their actions although recently they showed the common intention to align their interventions in the area to have an entire valuable metropolitan park.
The UDS will be oriented to reflect on the park as a whole and to create transformative scenarios to reduce the current material and immaterial (some key actors show opposition behaviour to the creation of the park) dis-connections. The entire Studio work will be carried out considering the complex geography of actors acting in the park area and possibly contributing to its making.
CONTENTS OF THE STUDIO
The UDS will interpret the theme of urban planning and design by looking at the city as a socio-environmental system in which transformations result in and from intense dialogues between spatial contexts and actors throughout the making of a project. Within this vision of project, the UDS provides three main theoretical/practical contents:
Urban planning/design and governance. This content refers to making explicit the criticalities regarding the governance of planning and managing urban transformations. This domain will be operationally experienced by students due to the deep interaction the UDS will have with a real urban transformation processes and its actors: the creation of the Grande Parco Forlanini. The governance of urban transformation will be discussed theoretically and in practice and will feed the whole UDS.
Urban Living Labs. This part will involve the students in the experimental dimension of urban design. From co-design, to small-experiments; from space prototyping to complex incremental project to foster situated organizational learning and city making.
Urban design for tactical and civic-oriented urbanism. This part will take into account both new form of projects as well as new roles for urban designers. It will be based on several seminars that will be organized for students and will present Italian and foreign experiences so to guarantee students to get in touch with real initiatives and project’s form/model.
Structure of the Studio
The workshop activities will be organized along three sets of activities:
- Exploring the area
- Visiting the site
- Criticalities and resources
- Transformation concept
- Strategic initiatives
- Designing transformation triggers
- Scenario development
- Small Urban Experiments
The UDS will be composed of several activities: lectures, seminars and WS with key actors and experts, design work. A complete agenda will be supplied to students on day one of the teaching activities.