The objective of the studio is twofold: firstly, to provide basic knowledge on the topic of sustainability and resilience applied to urban planning, policies and design, and secondly, to explore possible future scenarios for implementing sustainability in place, through a practical application and a design project that intentionally takes into account the implications of the different urban forms for the construction of specific environment and energy-oriented urban strategies. Both objectives will guide the structure of the course and the calendar of the lectures.
The workshop poses the question on how should we act as planners to achieve more sustainable and climate change adaptive urban environments. We will explore two main ways to approach this question: one is related to the policies that cities can adopt in order to promote more environmental-friendly practices; the second one is related to the physical design of the urban environment and how this can impact on sustainability and resilience.
In particular, the main research question will be: How can Nature-based Solutions (NbS) become a design element and part of the toolbox of urban designers? How can we envision original and innovative ways to integrate nature in cities, taking into account available and future technologies and at the same time including all, citizens and stakeholders, to co-create shared solutions? We argue that urban nature offers a terrific field of application for experimenting inclusive design approaches towards a truly environmental, social and economic sustainable growth.
Design studio topic: PLANNING FOR A GREEN URBAN TRANSITION
This year the studio will investigate the topic of diffusing and integrating Nature-based Solutions (NbS) in urban regeneration processes in the Milan area, in particular focusing the attention on Municipio 6 and the neighboring municipalities of the first ring as a case–study application.
Context: space for action
Core principles and inspiration for the design brief assigned this year will be the crossing of urban sustainability and smartness principles, based on the recent theoretical and policy frameworks as follows:
- The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by the United Nations in 2015, aiming at paving the path towards the Agenda 2030 (http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html) represents the holistic framework for action. In particular the course deals with topics concerning the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG11); related goals which are relevant for our work are also SDG12, SDG13 and SDG7. We will address if and how SDGs and specific targets can be effectively be applied at the urban scale.
- How cities can address Urban Resilience, Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change is a second mayor concern for our design activities. Can cities play a major role and promote sound energy transition solutions, reduce risk and vulnerability and increase human well-being and environmental quality of our environment? The European strategies for mitigation and adaptation will represent a starting point for including resiliency into design concept and provide tangible solutions. Recent experiences of European cities with Sustainable Energy Action Plans and Climate Action Plans will be investigated having in mind the local context of the Metropolitan City of Milan (its background, experience and challenges).
- The investigation and implementation of Nature-Based Solutions at the urban scale through greening and cooling strategies will be addressed as well, through a link to the 'Clever Cities' project, funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Programme.
Specific context: Work teams will refer to plans and projects active in the Milanese context, in particular the Urban Resilience Strategy, the CLEVER Cities project, the Climate Change and Territory project and the Metropolitan City of Milan funded by Fondazione Cariplo and the recent Milan Urban Forestation program named ForestaMI.
Structure of the studio
The studio is composed by different packages. The most important one is the studio, i.e. the implementation of a design project. This should carry all the theoretical content offered by the lectures given by the main instructors, which are the second most relevant package. For instance, the lectures are integrated by complementary activities, like readings and short reports assigned to the students, in order to enrich the theoretical framework. Moreover, a number of seminars with invited guests organized along the semester will be the occasion to hear about on-going programs and projects implemented at different levels and by several municipalities.
A short explanation of the packages follows.
The goal of the studio is to develop a design project that envisions possible sustainable future scenarios for a number of different cityscapes within the proposed urban transect. Students are asked to work in groups of three people; each team should be composed by students with different backgrounds, in order to better integrate their skills.
The studio will focus on a sample transect of the Metropolitan City of Milan as case-study area application, by considering different urban textures that describe that region: for instance, if we trace a transect through the territory, we will encounter very different conditions: the compact and dense urban fabric originated from the traditional layout based on the urban block; the urban edge, i.e. the periphery where modern urban planning has produced a landscape of infrastructures and a mosaic of specialized ensembles that completely lost the human and the urban scale; the sprawl, i.e. the low-density landscape characterized by single-family houses and introvert and anti-urban lifestyles. This categorisation is reductive, of course, and a more complex hybridisation of morphologies is evident: therefore, students will be asked to give back a more comprehensive picture of the areas of interest.
Milan has recently launched a series of relevant urban strategies that strongly relate to our studio, in particular: the urban resilence and forestation strategies, the sustainable energy action plan (SEAP) and the committment to the its evolution that integrates climate adaptation (SECAP), the launch of the new update of the city plan and the vision for Milano 2030. In addition, two EU funded research projects that involve the City of Milan are particularly relevant for our studio, i.e. Sharing Cities, and Clever Cities as already introduced above.
The design project will be developed according to the following main phases:
- the development of the concept plan based on the mapping of the current landscape conditions (mainly socio-demographic. Energy, environment and mobility); the review of current policies and strategies related to urban resilience and energy transition;
- Mapping Climate Change related hazards and vulnerability assessment
- Mapping urban greening and adaptation action potential
- Climate planning - adaptation strategy
- The design assessment through the calculation of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) before and after intervention, in order to assess the progress obtained through the suggested design scheme;
- and finally the design of focus design schemes; meta-design projects where adaptation and greening actions are applied to the physical space, with specific attention to work spaces (industry and retail) and living spaces (residential areas, especially in historical and peripheral areas).
The instructors will constantly assist the design process at the class, by offering revisions and suggesting the most suitable tools to implement the design schemes.
Beside the reference to the SDGs, four themes will direct our observations on site: energy (energy efficiency and renewable energies), environment (environmental quality and comfort), accessibility (sustainable mobility, smart linkage of places, way-finding), people (intended as the social aspects). The proposed themes are deliberately broad to encourage an interdisciplinary approach, are interrelated, may overlap and be understood as an opportunity to focus on specific actions that will inform the following design phases.
The concept plan: The four themes will also help students in structuring possible strategies and finalized actions to define design solutions. The concept plan is a preliminary design phase that includes observations at a higher level in order to understand the role of the urban district inside a larger context (hierarchies among districts, specific characteristics).
The masterplan: The final step will be the masterplan, which in this case gives back a vision of a possible future for each specific case-study area. In this last insight, the actions related to the four themes (energy, environment, people, accessibility) will be made visible, and some clues that an answer to more sustainable urban futures is possible will emerge. The vision will be supported by the theories and readings, and by the previous phases of the design.
The lectures aim at covering the two main topics offered at this studio and presented above. The lectures are organized in order to cover main topics addressed by an energy-conscious urban planning. These topics are mainly the following: Introduction to Sustainable Development Goals, Energy considerations and sources at the urban scale, climate change and local action to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, adaptation and mitigation towards carbon neutral cities, policies (mitigation and adaptation) and analyses issues related to energy sources and the market to figure out possible scenarios, urban form and energy mapping. In particular, we will tackle how urban designers and planners can work on the physical layout of the urban form in order to improve the overall sustainability of cities and reduce the environmental footprint of ecological cycles, by improving the efficiency of mobility and energy management (savings and production based on a short energy chain).
The content has the goal to introduce the students to the topic of sustainable development applied to the urban planning discipline. Most of the lectures are given during the first half of the semester.
A series of complementary activities are finalized to give students a better insight and deeper understanding of the knowledge presented through lectures. Students are asked to actively deal with the presented theoretical framework through a series of tasks: these can be readings, assigned to complete the content presented at the lectures, or a short written assignment (the glossary of terms, short reporting on case-study applications), with the aim of building common resources to be shared among the class and finalized to feed the design project. Moreover, a series of targeted tools and models will be presented to increase the practical toolkit of students.
A number of seminars with invited guests will be organized during the semester. This activity will be promoted in order to inform the design project. Getting informed about the experience of local stakeholders and best practices will be a great opportunity to improve the feasibility and efficacy of the design objectives.
Specific references (articles, scientific papers and book contributions) on the topic energy and the city will be assigned during the class (please, refer to the package ‘Complementary activities’).
For more information
Please, visit our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/energyandurbanplanning/
and the Urban Simulation Laboratory website, where the main research projects conducted by the main instructor are listed: http://www.labsimurb.polimi.it/