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IFHP's 49th Congress International Federation for Housing and Planning

October 2-5, 2005 - EUR Palazzo dei Congressi

Comune di Roma - promoter
Provincia di Roma - institutional partner
Risorse - Rpr Spa - general organisation
Dipartimento di Architettura e Urbanistica per l'Ingegneria (DAU) - University of Rome, La Sapienza - scientific organiser

IFHP The International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP), founded by Ebenezer Howard in 1913 under the historical name of The International Garden Cities and Town Planning Association, is the oldest international association involved in town-planning.
At present IFHP ( has its head office in the Hague and has hundreds of members in 60 countries, belonging to the top management of local, national and international institutions, businesses, professions, universities and architecture and urban-planning disciplines. The Federation promotes seminars, study groups, relevant conferences and equally important, training activities through numerous summer schools (1).
The most important event of IFHP is their annual congress, dealing with the latest urban themes of a general interest, and bringing together hundreds of participants from every part of the world. It is held in different cities, which are examples of situations of particular urban culture in different continents and are undergoing important changes (2) at the moment.
The Congress, like the Federation, has a very marked trans-disciplinary character - the highly- qualified guest speakers, also to create a geo-political balance, come from different continents and from the sphere of universities and international institutions. They are often important international figures with impressive backgrounds and experience, as we saw in the congress in Sendai opened by Tadao Ando and that in Barcelona by Richard Rogers.
The majority of speakers are architects and planners, not representing, however, a "corporation". The terminology of the congress is a fully international one, the predominant language being English (even if the other official languages are French and German, apart from that of the host country and as in this year's case, Italian). It is also non-cryptic with a minimum of "specialisms" used. This is due to the fact that the participants, other than being from very varied geographic and cultural backgrounds, are highly professional and generally expect to listen to discussions based on, for example problem solving.
The congresses follow standard agendas - an opening session on Sunday afternoon with greetings from the heads and the official conference opening, plenary sessions and relative debates in the mornings of the 3 following days, parallel sessions and workshops in the 2 afternoons and the closing plenary session on Wednesday afternoon. In addition there will be study visits, excursions and evening get-togethers.

The 2005 Rome Congress

The next congress, the 49th in IFHP's history, will be held in Rome from October 2-5 and will be officially hosted by the Municipality of Rome in the Palazzo dei Congressi in EUR (3).
As a choice for the congress, Rome, without doubt, represents a special opportunity and as such is looked forward to with anticipation by the Federation. When it was announced in Oslo at the 2004 congress that Rome was to be the next venue, it was received with extreme interest and high expectations (4).
We of the Dipartimento di Architettura e Urbanistica per l'Ingegneria (DAU) of the University "La Sapienza", who have been the core promoter of this initiative, see this as an opportunity to widen the circle, up to now quite limited, of Italian participation in IFHP activities, one of the last important members being Luigi Piccinato.

The General Theme of the Congress: "Urban Futures: Continuities and Discontinuities"

The general theme and the issues of the 3 sessions have been proposed by the core promoter DAU, then discussed and outlined by the Scientific Committee, made up of institutional and academic (5) figures who for IFHP guarantee the cultural aspects of the congress. The choice of the theme follows the long tradition of IFHP congresses that have always posed urban problems in a very broad sense, selecting them depending on whether they are thought to be relevant or not at a specific moment. It could be said that "continuity/discontinuity" represents a dichotomy that spans the entire history of the city (or rather, of the cities, so as to be clear from the beginning of the completely plural and non-similar character of the urban phenomenology) and, more broadly speaking, of humanity. On this dichotomy - it would have been wrong to call it an antinomy as it has no contradictory nature - history has developed and the future built. Thus, "history/future" becomes the other binomial, no longer dichotomic, but simply diachronic, that for us could represent not only a key to the readings but also to the forecasting and designing of the present urban situations. A particularly appropriate key on the occasion of Rome being proposed as the venue for the congress.
We began with the thinking that most of what is happening, and also of what is being "done" and "projected", often, on the one hand, doesn't take into account the history, and on the other hand, doesn't look beyond the present or the immediate future.
History doesn't only provide us with the degree of identity and differences but also the similarities and analogies. It warns us that some of the so-called major turning points and important phenomena, considered to be original and particular to the contemporary period, are often recurring phenomena appearing in different forms but having qualitatively similar consequences. History shows us that continuity and fractures always alternate, while differentiation and standardisation have always co-existed.
From this viewpoint we established the general theme. Discussing the future of cities using the above-mentioned dichotomy implies comparing the existing dynamics that appear to be leading towards the planetary standardisation of the urban environment, with the historical and geographical features that make each city quite different from all the others and investigating to what extent the genetic roots of the cities and the material history has deposited, may determine and influence the behaviour, policies, strategies and projects.
Therefore, the proposal is to discuss the policies, the tools and the techniques that the sciences of the city and, more specifically, the urban-planning and design, can and must make use of so as to strengthen and renew the identity of the different urban contexts.

The Session Themes

The first theme - "Urban dynamics and historical values" - deals mainly with the factors of change in cities and their interweaving/conflict/co-existence with the respective historical roots.
The mobility of the financial capital, the spread of information technologies, natural and migratory changes, economic inequalities, climatic changes and energy crises affect the whole planet and influence the individual urban histories creating a map of similarities and differences that also pass through the cities.
If phenomena of this type are not new in the history of the world, the leap in scale and the change in speed render them qualitatively different, even if they were similar, from those in the past. While, for example history shows that innovation develops in a city and that this determines its success, the current rate of urban growth and the consequent crisis of the megalopolis challenge the idea that large means "primacy".
In the second session - "Ancient cities and progressive policies"- linking the "changes" in the first session to the "projects" in the third, it is planned to analyse the cases of 5 important cities in different continents (Rome, Cairo, Buenes Aires, Shanghai, San Francisco), characterised by a very wide "stratography", comparing the morpho-genesis and the historical evolution with programs that are underway, innovative policies and possible future scenarios.
Given that the discontinuities of the last century between the cities, inappropriately, but casually, called "historical" and the contemporary city have produced unknown metamorphises in previous periods, we plan to verify, using some concrete cases, whether and to what extent cities can rely on their historical patrimony to preserve or reconstruct their identity and renew their factors for success. The third session - "Strategies and projects for an identity"- will discuss the contents and the meaning of experiences in urban design happening in the world.
If, on the one hand, the marked differences in the characteristics of urban phenomenology in different regions of the world require differentiated and widely varying strategies and approaches to planning, on the other hand, the the most "design-based" responses sometimes seem to be marked more by "styles" of the authors than by adhering to contexts. Should we also consider this the effect of a rupture from history? What are the elements that preserve or confer urban identity and to what degree do they depend on the project?

The program and the guest speakers

The general theme will be presented in the opening session chaired by Vittorio Gregotti, who we would like here to thank for having accepted our invitation. The three specific themes will be the subject of the morning plenary sessions and further discussions in workshops, in the paper sessions and working parties in the afternoons. Each session will conclude with a round table of guest speakers, led by a moderator and stimulated by two commentators (journalists and critics), and with a public debate. The sessions will also be accompanied by a multimedia art performance, a type of aesthetic "comment" on the congress themes. A brochure will be distributed to entities, institutions and professional orders outlining the Congress program, the events and the speakers' backgrounds (6).

Competition for Students

The Congress will also host a design competition for students from all over the world on the theme of "Redeveloping an urban or rural space to promote identity". The proposal will have to be based on the local context and real conditions of a pre-selected site, specifically referring to the quality of the public space and its possibilities to encourage socialising among locals. The theme leads to thinking about the features of identity - Urban identity/Rural identity - in the global society and in the "cities in movement" also taking into account the theory of "non-places", considering that the direct inter-personal communicationis only intrinsic to human society, even if fragmented and segmented, it will become even more necessary. This is not only in the new and changing paradigms created by the information society, but also in an urban society characterised by a focus on free time, entertainment, cultural meetings, democracy, tolerance, and urban and cultural diversity and integration (7).

(1) One of these is held in Sabaudia by the Dipartimento di Architettura e Urbanistica per l'Ingegneria (DAU) of the University of Rome "La Sapienza" and coordinated by Paolo Colarossi, DAU director and member of the IFHP Bureau.

(2) The congresses of the last years have been held in Vienna, Tianjin, Barcelona, Rotterdam and Glasgow.

(3) The company entrusted with conducting the conference is Risorse per Roma, being the organizer and involved in drawing up the agenda.

The 2005 Rome Congress was presented in Oslo by an official delegation from the Municipality of Rome, made up of Councillor R. Morassut, the director of the Department of "Programming and Planning Policies for the Territory - Roma Capitale", V. Proverbio, director of Director of the Organisational Structure for "General Planning and Design, D. Modigliani, the administrator of Risorse per Roma, U. Mosso and the President of the Scientific Committee, E. Piroddi.

The Congress's Scientific Committee is made up of E. Piroddi, the President, Elsbeth van Hylckama Vlieg, P. Avarello, L. Carbonara, D. Cecchini, P. Colarossi, P. Gabellini, P. Jacobelli, G. Imbesi, C. Mattogno, L. Mazza, D. Modigliani, U. Mosso, V. Proverbio, R. Radovic, F. Rubeo, E. Scandurra and F. Storelli. The Scientific Secretary is made up of L. De Bonis, C. Di Berardino and E. Luzzi.

There will be 17 speakers - 4 Italians (other than V.Gregotti and the myself in the first session, C. Gasparrini in the second session on the Rome case and P. Colarossi, assisted by the scientific secretary, for the final report) and 13 foreigners from 5 different continents: J.M.Llop Tomé, School of Architecture, Barcellona; L. Sandercock, director of the School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia, Vancouver; W.J.Mitchell, program director of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT (Cambridge, USA); A: King, Department of Art History, State University of New York (Binghamton); D. El Kerdany, Department of Architecture, Cairo University; A. Gorelik, Universidad National de Quilmes (Buenos Aires); Zheng Shiling, vice-president of the Architectural Society of China University, Tongji (Shanghai); R. Radovich, director of the Faculty of Architecture in Novi Sad; R. Freestone, president of International Planning History Society, University of New South Wales (Sydney); J.Gehl, architect, School of Architecture, Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen; P-M. Syagga, Department of Land Development, University of Nairobi; R. Bender, professor emeritus in architecture, University of California (Berkeley); A.G.O. Yeh, Centre of Urban Planning and Environmental Management, University of Hong Kong.

The three best proposals will be awarded - First Prize €4,000, Second Prize €2,500, Third Prize €1,500. As well, three to eight other proposals will receive a formal recommendation. The projects will have to be delivered to Rome by and no later than Septmber 15, 2005. Further information and the competition regulations can be requested from the IFHP Congress Department .