Place-identity should be understood as a dynamic process, moving beyond the dichotomy between old and new to detect instead the “latent order” embedded in the built and unbuilt environment, resulting as it does from a sequence of superimpositions and erasures.
According to Ernesto Rogers, old and new are two facets of the same sense of awareness, which architects must deal with whenever challenged to embed historic buildings and sites into a new framework, be it functional or symbolic.
Currently, “building upon building” is a challenge that architects, and even more so students of architecture, cannot escape. Hovering between preservation and radical change, this process requires a case-by-case approach.
Students attending the Studio Class will be guided to explore what urban and architectural regeneration actually means in a specific context, namely Busto Arsizio, a town located in north of the Milan area quite close to Malpensa Airport.
Together with Legnano, Castellanza and Gallarate, Busto Arsizio is part of a conurbation stretching along the Olona valley from NW to SE for about 15 kilometres. This conurbation bears witness to the development of textile and cotton industries which begun in the first half of the 19th century and ended in the late 1970s. All this left a complex legacy as evidenced, for example, by the buildings for health and education. In this context, Busto Arsizio was the centre of entrepreneurial and financial activities. Until the end of the 19th century, the city hardly overran the historic core; the presence of two railway lines to Novara and Simplon directed urban development.
The Istituto Comprensivo Nicolò Tommaseo identifies the core of the project site. The school is located in the 'Frati' district, an industrial area that developed in the early 20th century near the railway station. The building, realized in 1911 to a design by the engineer Carlo Wlassics, today houses a kindergarten, a primary and a secondary school.
While exploring a comprehensive urban regeneration strategy, students will address various and multifaceted site-problems, identifying the specific issue and site to be developed at the architectural level.
The Studio brings together three different disciplines, with a view to integrates different perspectives vis-à-vis the problems posed by the design assignment.
Architectural and urban design. This module entails concepts and methods to understand, and interpret, the urban structure in its historic dimension, with a view to achieve a critical thinking about the city and distinguishing features, namely its form in a constant tension between the original foundation scheme and the slower consolidation of the urban and monumental fabric.
The interaction between infrastructures and the urban layout will also be addressed.
Specific lectures on architectural composition issues, design themes, and comparative case studies will also constitute a basis to support the architectural design work.
Preservation. Essential tools for a proper approach to restoration project will be integrated with specific design solutions for compatible reuses of historical buildings. Ex cathedra lectures and practical exercises will explain a viable approach to existing architectures, starting from the knowledge process up to the preservation techniques. The knowledge process, as a foundation for the preservation, will consider the role of history, the knowledge of materials and construction techniques, the investigation of deterioration forms based on international standards. The preservation project will develop theoretical assumptions, methodological approach, technical choices, and design implication (guidelines).
Sustainable Design. The activity focusing on building sustainability will provide students with an environmental conscious approach, methodology and advanced design tools to support their design. Special emphasis will be given on solar study, the rational use of low energy technologies and renewable energy sources in the design process. Case studies will be presented and discussed.
At the beginning of the Studio class, students will be given a calendar of the activities; the studio class will start by “getting to know each other”: students will present themselves showing three projects of their choice; in a following session, they will be engaged in an extempore.
In the second phase, students will approach the project site, producing conjectural maps, surveys, re-drawings, as well as an anthology of texts translated into English. This phase will include a series of lecture, also by invited guests.
In the third phase, also supported by lectures, students will focus an informed design narrative, proposing, relevant architectural themes, and precedents, with particular reference to the relationship between architecture, preservation and sustainable Design.
The fourth phase will be entirely focused on the project, and will conclude with a crit-day, with invited guests. The aim is to anticipate the finalisation of the project, in order to use the remaining time to better explain its original contents.