Copyright (c) 2020 Maria Teresa Lucarelli
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
In a time of great urban transformations linked to the rapid and uncontrolled growth of cities, talk about “public space”, focusing on the aspects related to the project, construction and management, it is undoubtedly a central theme in the debate that, in this matter, recalls multiple cultural and scientific interests, other than socio-political ones. The role of Technology of Architecture as a discipline capable of addressing its complexity with an innovative approach in terms of both reflection/vision and research/experimentation is confirmed on this topic, placing itself in a proactive dialectical relationship with the other disciplines of the project. The interesting contributions presented in this issue of Techne.
A theme, therefore, that evolves with the socio-economic and environmental changes of cities and buildings, differently articulated in various international contexts, in which the concept of “public space” intended as a space for the community, accessible, stimulating and safe, in able to foster social and above all fair relations, does not always correspond to a desired and pre-established model but requires renewed attention to the place taking into account the complexities and changes, very rapid, linked to the changed needs of the community.
In the European reality and in particular in our country, the public space has consolidated over time through physical and cultural sedimentations that have characterized the evolution of the historic city: although with different destinations and uses, it has always taken on a strong value social connotation, meeting place, knowledge, exchange. With the second industrial revolution, urban expansion outside the historic core and the birth of the “industrial city” brought about a significant change: wider streets, for new commercial exchanges, tree-lined avenues, gardens, squares, and urban parks lead to an improvement of quality of life and relationships. However, the lack of adequate urban planning with the consequent wildfire development of the city, determines a slow but progressive loss of aggregating function.
A substantial change in the concept of public space has manifested itself since the first decades of the last century: on the push of the theories of the “functional city”, supported by the Modern Movement, large neighbourhoods are mainly designed for public residential construction, the idea of space is conceptualized “open” – not built, empty and without specific function – with the conscious intention of reducing the negative effects, often of a sanitary type, determined by the compactness of the historic and industrial cities. A premise, however, to the precariousness of future urban suburbs.
In the years following the post-war period and in conjunction with the economic and building boom, the role of public space underwent a substantial modification due to the rampant building speculation and the absence of adequate urban planning, conspicuously bent to precise economic interests; it is reduced or distorted due to the effect of forced cementing, progressively losing identity and recognition: no longer a place for and for the community but for alienation and degradation where social tensions feed; a very evident condition in the suburbs of the big cities that still pay, especially on a social level, inconsiderate choices. As Fabrizio Schiaffonati (1994) claimed, «[…] a metaphor for modern complexity, the scene of the representation of its lacerating contradictions».
From some decades, the renewed interest in the regeneration of urban and peri-urban neighbourhoods has reopened, in the scientific world, the debate on the “quality” of the public space which must guarantee accessibility and connectivity, flexibility and ease of use, livability and safety, as well as maintenance and management as closely as possible. A different design approach is therefore urged to which technological culture is particularly attentive: the theme of the “equipped” place at the service of the community has already been addressed since the 1980s, with attention to the material, fruitful and performance aspects, in a balanced time- cost-quality. Today the topic is enriched with additional values, in particular environmental ones, in which the sustainability of the interventions and that, very current, of the adaptation to climate change add up and compare to rethink their design through innovation, including digital, preluding to a new use. A way, therefore, to «[…] reinterpret the potential of ecosystemic service […] of technological design […] able to respond to the growing demand for well-being and environmental quality»1.
These brief premises give relevance to the 3 topics proposed by the call for papers2, stimulating the presentation of theoretical, methodological and research contributions, representative of the contemporary debate on the topic.
The first, which identifies it “as an ordering element for urban phenomena”, mainly focuses on experimenting with innovative processes, including collaborative ones, aimed at temporary and/or permanent configurations or at the transfer and application of advanced material-type technologies and immaterial. The second, which interprets the “public space as an environmental infrastructure”, functional to the pursuit of urban sustainability objectives, identifies issues related to the use of nature based design solutions or in a “green” and “blue” key to face the social and social challenges environmental and climate change. The third, focused on “public space and governance”, suggests a critical analysis more closely connected with the management of the same: from the regulatory and procedural tools that allow the creation and “care” of the public space, to the advanced bankruptcy procedures for the project and the realization of the interventions; from design innovation to management of the construction phase.
Topics thus very timely that led to the submission of a large number of abstracts, 114 in total, as it shows the great interest of the scientific community. Of the 21 articles selected after the double blind review, 14 are focused on research and experimentation, 7 on essays and points of view, with a slight prevalence of the topics of the second topic.
To strengthen the content of the issue, the Dossier offers interesting contributions from national and international scholars who, analysing from different points of view «[…] the new configurations of the open space that derive from the transformation of social demand and the methods of perception and fruition»3 confirm the progress of research on the various aspects of urban and environmental quality of open spaces and of which the Technological Area is the bearer, making well known the need to raise the level of awareness on the social value of public space.