The historic evolution of the city can be tied to “regular systems” that have allowed for rational forms of development, which can be understand as “urban grids”. Diverse cultures have provided varied interpretations of urban grid systems that serve as an active underlay for multiple urban domains: street networks, public spaces, and a diversity of grain, responding to many different development strategies. Then is an “open process” to designing the city.
On the contrary, large fragments of our territories are reorganized by “big Projects”, like Expos. We highlight the importance of local factors (climate, urban context, political governance) that make them unique in each of the realities in which they are set. However, some conditions are repeated over time, such as the fact that they are ephemeral and always presented with great spectacularity. By definition, the Expo serves to demonstrate the future, pressing it as an innovative aspect by means of constructions (such as infrastructural inventions, symbolic landmarks, hybrid morphologies, parks with multifunctional areas) that come to represent specific times. This could still be one of the challenges of Expos in the future.
In the last few decades, urban interventions have reached an unprecedented level of complexity and ambition, increasing the level of design operations. In this time, the value and metrics of the grid and network have likewise become more operative than ever, and in more inventive ways than in the past. The new spatial demands of contemporary society require more flexible and open-ended systems. The Expo is ephemeral, but it has a big impact on the host city. This apparent contradiction is a fundamental element in the seminar, because the Expo can be both the germ of future urban sectors and an element of transition towards less predictable developments. Then its urbanistic legacy can be presented as a different “open process” to build a large urban fragment, inducing other uses around it.
The course targets understanding both the theories and “project” features that make grids—their design and/or their construction of the city—relevant and of interest to the current issues of contemporary cities. The ultimate objective of the course is to develop new understandings of the ways we are approaching the design of the city by means of “grids and networks” and/or “special urban fragments” confronting the new urban challenges of the 21st century.
The class contains eleven lectures and three seminal research assignments with presentations. From architectural and urbanistic perspectives, the lectures intend to help the audience build an academic understanding of the evolution of the ways in which cities have been designed, developed, and discussed across history. The study of these components builds an understanding of how “urban grids” or “big projects” can be designed as “open forms” that allow cities to incorporate changes and to be resilient to society’s demands.