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 teaching program is structured through the integration of the modules of Urbanism and Urban and Architectural Design.The approach 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 use and understanding of a set of tools used in the design process, and in the process of translation between concepts and ideas, analyses 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 characters of the project site and of the context where it is located and to discuss strategic 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 city of Milan, as 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. Special attention, even with a critical approach, will be dedicated to the recently approved general plan for the city – Piano di governo del territorio PGT -, which allows to get detailed documentation and city maps at different scales. The Studio's activity is developed within the framework of “Re-forming Milan 2015” a didactic and research initiative promoted by the School of Architecture and Society of the Polytechnic of Milan in cooperation with the Department of Urban Planning, Private Construction and Agriculture of the Municipality of Milan. Three study and project sites have been selected among those indicated by the Municipality through an investigation about the phenomena of abandonment and underutilization of buildings, spaces and facilities in the territory of Milan. The areas are located in the western sector of the city, two of them being former, underused barracks and military sites and one a large portion of peripheral mixed uses fabric, with some open spaces to be requalified. In defining the program and the guidelines for the new destination of the areas, the students will take into account their proximity to the Expo 2015 site and its impact on the redefinition of the social, economic, functional and morphological features of the surrounding environment.
The Studio focuses on four main design themes, which are strategic for Milan: social housing; localization of urban scale attractive functions and regeneration of small scale mixed activities; open space design of different typologies: reservoir green spaces, urban parks, neighborhood gardens and playgrounds; spaces to improve urban connections in the perspective of slow mobility programs. A theoretical approach is required to understand in deep the four main themes and to define the meaning of “urban space quality”, taking into account sustainability as the outcome of an approach which cares for environmental, social and economic feasibility. In order to fulfill these requirements, students will analyze specific case studies, pay attention to contemporary urban design debate in Milan, consider multi-scalar relationships in between the project site and its context, interact with local actors. Moreover, each proposal should implement 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 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 realization of the master plan (1:2000) of the study and project areas. The master plan (together with maps at the territorial scale and with architectural scale details and models) is considered as a tool to control - 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 can expect to not only work with digital tools: schemes, sketches, physical models, especially 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.
During the first week of class, each student should bring a portfolio of previous work in order to allow the teaching team to get a sense of each one background. For the choice of the project site, priority will be given to students with design studies experience.
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 realizea 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 masterplan, its 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. A written reflection about the relation between theory, analysis, and design proposal will be presented by each team.
Workshops 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.
Contents. Contemporary urban design in our cities: the close relationship between public spaces and sustainable mobility
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 city spaces, which are increasingly seen as integral parts of the networks required by complex 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): “context-sensitive approaches”, “site specific” criteria, flexible design standards, “inclusive design” are some of these new proposed features.
Through a cross-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 transportation techniques, such as traffic calming, can be integrated and included in the toolbox of urban designers.
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 also a toolkit to be used as a practical instrument for action on a local scale. 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 and city “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 module aims to stimulate a critical insight on some particular issues involved in contemporary architectural design, such as specifically innovation in residential typologies and social housing. 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’ skilness in "reading" the urban fabric at different scales and in different urban conditions and to use the masterplan as a tool to shape space through the approach of urban and architectural design.
Lectures and reviews will focus on theoretical points of view, methods, techniques and tools concerning the morphological description of urban settlements and aimed at outlining the architectural strategies entailed in urban design.
Three exercices (shelling operations) are proposed as the operational tools to lead students to understand 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 in the observation activity.