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Password: integration

Many projects have conditioned me in some way and contributed to my training, both as a student and as a teacher. These projects are not, in principle, referred to a single architecture, but to complex interventions that concern urban portions and that deal with large areas, on which their effects come. I am thinking for example of the Villette di Tschumi project, one of my favorites, I am thinking of the overall program of the Darsena di Ravenna, I am thinking of the High line project, with its ability to involve a large portion of a very degraded area of New York and to trigger a massive process of urban regeneration. I am thinking of the very interesting intervention of Praça das Artes in San Paolo in Brazil. But, again, I am reminded of the Parisian Promenade plantée, the Madrid Rio of the West 8 studio or the Millennium park in Chicago; I am thinking of the projects for Battery Park or Ibirapuera Park or Tianjin Bridged Gardens. In short, I am thinking of “choral” projects that have the ability to involve different skills and points of view, capable of dealing with the stratifications of the city [1].

However, one project, which I have been following for some years, has perhaps influenced me most of all and has changed my life a little: it is the informal city redevelopment program. In reality, more than a project it is a trend, a disciplinary sector, in constant growth. In its deepest meaning, in addition to responding to those requirements of integration between parts of the city I was talking about, it has, at least from my point of view, an ethical value that should always be present in the commitment of an architect. In fact, I believe that the architect, in addition to (duty) being an "intellectual goal" (this is the task that society reserves for him), also has a social task: to elaborate proposals to resolve the urban contradictions that manifest themselves in materialization of settlement fabrics. The issue of informal settlement is certainly one of them.

The project I am referring to is therefore a disciplinary but also a social project, aimed at tackling one of the major problems present in the current urban landscape (a large part of the urban literature speaks of it in depth, from Planet of Slums by Davis to the recent La città of the rich and the city of the poor, Secchi's latest book, not to mention the "more traditional" production of novels).

I recently had the opportunity to approach the question of the informal city closely in a series of researches. It is a path born almost by chance during a trip to Brazil made with Carlo Pozzi at the Escola da Cidade in San Paolo. During this trip there was the meeting, in Florianópolis, with a friend (we can define him that way) of Carlo: Father Vilson Groh, engaged with great effectiveness in the struggle for the rights of the least. It was he who, on that occasion, invited me to reflect on the meaning of the settlement in the favelas, a way of dealing with the housing problem for a population that has little or no ability to access the primary real estate market.

This type of approach makes it possible to systematize different research interests. The main focus of this intertwining lies in the way in which environmental, social, qualification issues of the collective space and more interact. To the environmental risks [2] are added the anthropogenic risks, from the reduction of biological diversity, to the overload of waste, and more, up to the social risks, generated by the crowding of people in poverty, inevitably subjected to the blackmail of criminal organizations.

The project for the favelas, which then expanded to become the more comprehensive view of the informal city, concretely expressed in the "Informal city laboratory" of the Department of Architecture, takes on all these themes. This is certainly the project that has most marked me, because it forced me to materially confront a series of problems that are now far from the European city, a city that even in the most disadvantaged parts, except for some very small and invisible niches of total poverty , does not have the characteristics of an informal settlement.

From a disciplinary point of view, tackling a theme of reflection so rich in suggestions has influenced, in the inevitable contaminations, my way of interpreting those projects I mentioned at the beginning: it is not enough to think of the project as a tool for beautification, but it is also necessary to think about it as a tool for social improvement. Basically, the roots of urban planning lie precisely in this, in the architect's moral tension towards a better condition of life for the community.

[1] This obviously without detracting from the splendid architectural projects that I have been lucky enough to meet in my life.

[2] In particular: the dangerousness, that is the geomorphological and hydrographic conditions, the exposure, that is the presence of artifacts and functions in places considered dangerous, and the vulnerability, how much the exposed heritage can be damaged in relation to the conditions of natural danger (earthquakes, floods, landslides and landslides, etc.).

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