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+città, catalog of the show - Review

by Silvia Crivello

The catalog of the show “+ città”, which was held in Genoa from November 2004 to January 2005 while Genoa was the European City of Culture 2004, is devoted entirely to urban themes. It offers a reflection on the role of architecture in processes of urban regeneration, and draws attention to the European city, dismissed as finished but able to rediscover time and again an urban ”vitality”, continuing to represent extraordinary places of innovation, transformation, and remaining competitive. In spite of the theories of those that depict scenarios of apocalypse for the future of cities (seen as places of crisis and conflict, of the negative aspects in terms of livability, pollution, civil coexistence, environmental quality etc.), for a little more than ten years European cities have strengthened their central position, redefining the physical structure of many of their parts and being able to reverse the tendencies of decline in areas both economic as well as social. Thanks to their capacity to put into action resources of a design, economic, social, environmental, cultural, regional, and tourist nature, today they are becoming places with an elevated quality of life.

The reflections on the different values of the concept of urban crises and of the merit of regeneration become therefore the bearing elements of the entire narrative structure in support of the theses just presented. How European cities are transforming, what they are becoming, and if it is correct to speak of true and proper processes of regeneration or if, instead, even in the presence of interventions of urban redevelopment, it is still far from real urban regeneration, are the questions at the base of the work.

Several interventions are recounted by urban experts and pertain to the different disciplinary veins through which are imposed a reflection on the strategic capacity of the city to be promoted through urban and regional politics. Then it is explained how the phenomena of urban regeneration are different according to the contexts in which they occur, but how, in any case, they include interventions of an infrastructural type, of conversion, of redevelopment, of rehabilitation (acting upon physical, economic, social, environmental, cultural aspects, through diverse involvements of participants and resources) and how regeneration assumes a character of permanence and contributes to the construction of urban identity.

Following this, interviews of eight major figures of European architecture (Stefano Boeri, Marco Casamonti, Alberto Ferlenga, Manuel Gausa, Ariella Masboungi, Carlo Olmo, Nuño Portas, Hans Stimmann) are included, with the aim of involving experts, scholars, and university faculty in a discussion of the exemplary cases of processes of urban transformation underway in European cities that seem particularly relevant to the theme of the quality of the design projects and of the realized works. These interviews represent a series of parallel encounters, a sort of multi-voiced reflection on what is intended in projects of regeneration. They encourage a dialogue among the participants in processes of urban regeneration, networking the interlocutors that operate within diverse disciplinary and institutional fields with the aim of striking a balance of the experiences with respect to the different strategies of various European cities (examples of an improvement of the quality of life through redevelopment projects, with regard to principles of environmental sustainability, of public spaces and places in which it is pleasing to live; examples that treat large urban projects or single works of architecture of renown or a multiplicity of diffused interventions that have the capacity of reintroducing the image of the city; examples centered on the processes of bettering the infrastructure for mobility or on the conversion of abandoned industrial areas to other uses or even on the creation of new opportunities for employment; examples of a push toward a city with more vocations, or toward an entrepreneurship based on culture and tourism; examples that have shown an endogenous capacity to innovate the very nature of economics, etc.). The aim of such analysis is precisely that of taking into consideration their experiences with respect to the different strategies taken in different cities and of articulating good practices in the processes and design projects (with particular reference to the people involved, the ideal circumstances for starting, the innovative elements emerging, the role of architectural quality to the internal workings of the processes themselves) with the objective of drawing up possible guidelines.

The second half of the catalog is instead dedicated to the presentation and cataloging of thirty-two case studies of European cities (Genoa, Turin, Brescia, Zurich, Barcelona, Salerno, Vienna, Bari, Maastricht, Lille, Leipzig, Budapest, Cosenza, Eeklo, Dunkirk, Nantes, Almere, Saint Nazaire, Amsterdam, Berlin, Bilbao, Hastings, Nottingham, Malmö, Manchester, Newcastle, Athens, Porto, Göteborg, Seville, Stockholm, and Tallinn) all situations that have demonstrated a great capacity in taking advantage of opportunities arising from diverse channels of financing, of organizing them according to a framework of consistencies directed by strategic development guidelines. The criteria used in the selection of the cases are articulated on the basis of various aspects of urban regeneration (read as an integrated and multidisciplinary phenomenon in which the elements of physical regeneration intersect with those aspects that are cultural, socio-economic, environmental, etc.) and the strong acceleration of the development processes or of a repositioning of the city within scenarios of international competitiveness (that can be both examples of overcoming an urban crisis as well as examples of cities that have understood how to lift themselves to a higher status in recent years). Moreover, they represent cases not necessarily exemplary but significant to the degree that they can furnish the widest possible frame for delineating the principal characteristics of urban regeneration in Europe.

Each city is analyzed within its own regional networks, the projects are articulated (objectives, design characteristics, etc.), the particularities of the process are outlined (phases, time frame, resources, participants involved) and the strategies set out are highlighted, making particular reference to the themes of the environment and culture.

The catalog is concluded with a discussion forum related to the general trends of urban regeneration of several European countries and cities.

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