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About this book

This book equips readers with a deeper understanding of the challenges posed by radical socioeconomic, environmental, and cultural changes due to globalization and describes effective, sustainable solutions to these challenges. The focus is especially on the rapid urbanization processes in countries of the Global South, which are giving rise to dramatic new problems of spatial and social inequality and difficult environmental challenges in relation to climate change. Readers will gain skills and knowledge that will help them to develop an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to planning, design, and management of urban settlements and territories in contexts with a high level of social, economic, territorial, and landscape vulnerability. The coverage includes, for example, strategies to promote social inclusion, improve housing quality, ensure adequate education, protect cultural heritage, enhance risk management, and address issues in the food-energy-water nexus. Among the authors are leading experts from the Polytechnic University of Milan, where a multidisciplinary set of studies and research projects in the field have been undertaken in recent years.

Table of Contents


Urban Growth and Rising Socio-spatial Inequality: Research Pathways and Approaches to Urban Planning and Governance


Development Against Sustainability? Marrakech as a Case Study

Due to a fast-growing economy, Morocco is facing several issues concerning a local way to a global modernization. The Islamic society is slowly changing towards new forms of rules to achieve a balance between traditional values and new emergent needs. While the vast rural world keeps a stronger resistance to mutations, cities are laboratories for innovation. In terms of spaces, among the famous imperial cities, Marrakech is the one in which the phenomena are more acute and accelerated. The ancient heart of the medina is the great object of external pressures for new touristic uses and consequent gentrification, while the colonial modern parts of the city are progressively replaced and new urban expansions are looking for a development model. Starting from this point of view, the essay describes and interprets the main dynamics in place and attempts to indicate the contradictions and critical aspects that will be the most difficult challenge for Moroccan cities in the next few years: Is there a local way to modernize in a global world? Which tools and strategies for a sustainable development?

Laura Montedoro

Metropolitan Public Realm Frameworks for Coastal East African Urbanization: The Case of Malindi Waterfront as Socio-Ecological Infrastructure

East Africa is one of the least urbanized regions in the world, but living one of the fastest urbanization under the threat of climate change. This unprecedented uncontrolled phenomenon is producing hybrid metropolitan systems with inadequate infrastructure, polarized development, unsafety, socio-spatial inequality and environmental fragility. How to shape rapid growth towards original low-carbon and livable models in a context of informality, scarcity and misgovernment? Through a historical exploration and an overview on the contemporary situation, the chapter investigates the attempts to recentre the problem on the city as public framework, with an inclusive attitude towards whatever considered informal. A designed-based approach explores the role of socio-ecological envisioning scenarios, set on the strengthening of public/common assets, as decision-making tools to facilitate resilient urban processes. The resulting adaptive metropolitan frameworks integrate physical operations on continuous infrastructural systems and nodes, together with in/formality gradient patterns for their sustainable implementation and stewardship. The case study of a project for Malindi, Kenya, elaborated for an UN-Habitat competition in 2016, is discussed. The proposal to intend and design the waterfront of the city as socio-ecological infrastructure is reviewed according to preconditions, expectations, stakeholders, methodology, design and results, with emerging transdisciplinary issues.

Alessandro Frigerio

Mobile Urbanity in Southern Africa. The Socio-Spatial Practices of Informal Cross-Border Traders Between Johannesburg and Maputo

The paper investigates the interplay between informality, mobility, and urban space in Sub-Saharan Africa, by focussing on the practices of the mukheristas, Mozambican informal cross-border traders. In the mukhero, informality and mobility intersect and constantly reshape each other, in a way that has turned a customary survival strategy into a phenomenon well-blended with the global logics underpinning contemporary urban processes. The mukheristas deploy movement across transnational distances as a livelihood strategy to overcome structural constraints and, by doing so, they interconnect translocal urban spaces and heterogeneous networks. By re-tracing their socio-spatial practices between Johannesburg and Maputo through a grounded-theory approach based on multi-sited ethnographic explorations, the paper tries to unfold crucial, but underestimated process pertaining to the constitution of the urban life in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Paola Piscitelli

Humanizing Urbanism. On Embracing Informality and the Future of Johannesburg

This paper aims to give an evocative rather than technically descriptive portrait of the city of Johannesburg, attempting to reveal how a logic which structured the city around control and segregation is disrupted more by the informal flows of life than by the rhetoric of spatial and economic transformation that characterizes the city since the demise of apartheid. In the face of a specifically engineered physical dispersion and segregation, and in tension with both physical realities and government policy, the urban poor have been re-territorializing the city, undermining the legacy of rigid apartheid spatial segregations. This is opposing the paradigm of a world shaped and controlled by power and rational social planning with one built around relational networks and basic needs, and characterized by informal practices. The paper argues that if liberated by the vocabulary of a hegemonic Westernized culture, informality can reveal itself to be a counter-strategy capable of generating a means of response to the failure of certain urban mainstreams tied to a market economy.

Costanza La Mantia

Urban Planning in Islamabad: From the Modern Movement to the Contemporary Urban Development Between Formal and Informal Settlements

The purpose of this research is to identify the planning principles for the capital city of Islamabad in Pakistan located in the homogeneous cultural area known as Punjab region, during the late period of the Modern Movement. The establishment of new cities in Indian regions created the possibility to observe physically some solution of late modernism theories. Nowadays, it is possible to verify their positive or negative relapses and contributions along with the critical analysis of existing literature made by contemporary researchers. They meditate on the theoretical improvement that a recent planned city like Islamabad could give towards the contemporary architectural discipline in a defined region of a developing country. In addition to these aspects, this study will focus the attention on the spreading of contemporary formal and informal settlements that are nowadays supposed to be in a critical point; past and actual planning policy and the differences of urban growing in strict planning city like Islamabad and in the more organic old city of Rawalpindi identify two different characters in occupying the free soil and reshaping the city in its physical qualities and social strata. Beyond the diagram system developed for Islamabad by Constantinos Apostolou Doxiadis, based on the linkages between new way of life with the presence of machines in urban context and the preservation of community identity, is it possible to think about planning and pluralism in the city of Islamabad? Could the studies of traditional cities play a role in shaping the most sustainable community? These questions are investigated having qualitative nature of the data that reminds us to be careful with any conclusions drawn and to use this research only to lead further studies.

Daniele Beacco

Pacification of Favelas, Mega Events, and the Creation of New Inequalities in the Global South: The Case of Rio de Janeiro

Since the 1980s in Rio de Janeiro, local authorities have conducted the so-called drug on war policy, which has fought mainly within the favelas between the police and drug gangs occupying these territories. Because of the high level of violence that characterized the city since that time, it has been perceived globally as a “city in war.” In recent years, with the aim of attracting investors and private capital within the city, Rio de Janeiro’s policymakers favored a global-scale urban competitiveness strategy aimed at organizing mega events. In fact, the city hosted the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics Games in 2016 among others. However, in order to prove itself as a competitive city, Rio had to clean up its image as a “violent place.” For this reason in 2008, authorities created the “Pacifying Police Units,” a program to recover some of the favelas previously occupied by criminal groups. This policy created inequalities for the lower strata of the population.

Sebastian Saborio, Giuliana Costa

The Role of State Involvement in Slum Improvement: A Critical Examination of Cofopri Approach into a Peripheral Barrio of Lima, Peru

International agencies and local governments have implemented a wide range of approaches to the problem of informality in many cities of the “Global South.” However, these approaches have some failures and problems. In the case of Lima, Peru, the land titling program was implemented through the creation of the Commission for the Formalization of Informal Property (COFOPRI). The net impact of this organization related to slum improvement has been questioned. Therefore, this study analyzes the COFOPRI interventions and current conditions; its effectiveness in A.H Cantoral informal settlement of Lima, the most largest and intervened area; in order to have some results from the past experiences as well as stipulating important hints and some ideas for the future. The study adopted a qualitative and quantitative methodology based on literature and secondary data. The study revealed lack of cooperation between informal residents. The findings from this research also impact upon housing improvement, social integration, and economic opportunities. Significant challenges were identified related to collaborative planning, political interest, and management capacity.

Nilva Karenina Aramburu Guevara

Undergrowth Urbanism: The Role of User-Generated Practices in the Informal City. A Methodology for Analysis and Intervention Based on the Case Study of Paraisópolis in São Paulo

Undergrowth Urbanism is defined as an urban dynamic generated autonomously by the inhabitants and independently of official planning mechanisms. By analysing the nature of these dynamics, an attempt is made to demonstrate how they are essential for the functioning of the city even though they have no direct link to the conventional channels. Because of the level of consolidation and evolution it has obtained, Paraisópolis is taken as the main case study and representative of many dynamics existed in the informal city. The most relevant phenomena are identified to distinguish the invariants and variables, the points of convergence and divergence of actions taken, and the possible shared principles and phenomena that might be useful for a comparative analysis. The results of this process is a matrix that enables comparison of different cases by referring to constant parameters that bring out the components and the disturbances of the system. The significance of the matrix is to bring out social dynamics and tactics for self-administration that can be used reactively in the regeneration process. The aim is to arrive at the identification of sensitive points where regeneration projects could have more success.

Valentina Mion

Share for Care. Communication Technologies and Social Inclusion for Empowerment in Guayaquil, Ecuador

This paper presents the main deliverable of Improving Access to Resources at Reduced Risk for Urban Areas with Strong Informal Settlements (IMPARAR), a project belonging to the realm of social innovation and development. IMPARAR aims at promoting social development and inclusion in the deprived neighborhoods of Guayaquil (Ecuador) by increasing citizen accessibility to public resources and services. Living conditions in informal settlements present several challenges, such as the lack of community management strategies, especially regarding access to services and risk prevention. Key determinants for such challenges are the poor communication between local communities and public administration, and the lack of territorial data in informal contests. To address these challenges as output of IMPARAR, we designed Share for Care, a two-way communication-intervention system, which is a composed solution characterized by a Digital Tool System and a Community-Based Organization. Share for Care is designed to support the communitarian and collaborative work of the population, by means of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). In the paper, the features of the system as well as the participatory approach adopted along the whole IMPARAR project are described. By combining communication technologies with policies of inclusion and social mobilization, Share for Care is designed to provide benefits to both public administrations and local communities.

Veronica Vasilescu, Francesca Vigotti, Andrea Cominola

Enhancing Participation Through ICTs: How Modern Information Technologies Can Improve Participatory Approaches Fostering Sustainable Development

The involvement of the communities in decision-making is a key strategy to enable compliant policies. This is particularly true to foster a sustainable development. ICT systems can allow information to flow down from the government to the citizen: they create the possibility of flows upwards of information, as a citizen of government creating “feedback-loops” between “communities,” “decision-makers” and “environment” catalyzing participation empowerment and the perception of local knowledge. Even if they bring a great potential, the use ICT for development actions is not free of controversies and side effects. In particular, they regard the effectiveness of participation mediated by informative systems, the problems related to data quality, and data security. The work will offer a critical excursus of different participatory mapping approaches mediated by ICT, like public participatory GIS (PPGIS), participatory sensing and crowdmapping and how they influence the relationship between communities and lands in a vision of sustainable development.

Domenico Vito

Design Strategies and Building Techniques for Development in Marginal and Rural Areas


Architectural Design in the Cities of the Global South

In recent years, architecture for international cooperation has been the focus of lively discussion, occupying larger spaces inside the disciplinary debate, while new and recurring “natural catastrophes” punctuate the agendas of international policy and threaten global economies. This paper will describe certain problematic contexts and settings that pertain to architectural design in contexts of poverty and alienation, in the conviction that these observations can reveal questions which on a wider scale have to do with the architectural discipline. For this reason, the thinking is not limited within geographical boundaries (Global South as opposed to a hypothetical North of greater development), but instead maintains a problematic perspective capable of observing crossover phenomena through the ways in which they manifest themselves.

Camillo Magni

Bioclimatic Design for Informal Settlements

In this paper, a review of the reasons hindering the use of bioclimatic design principles in informal settlements is attempted and the perspective of bioclimatic design in those contexts is discussed. Among the main candidate reasons is the habit of mind induced by the belief that informal settlements grow organically, so as to invariably end up being optimized for their functional tasks. Another reason lies in the very nature of bioclimatic design, which is based on integration, that can be perceived as too a “weak” guarantee of perspective features, not very suitable for competing with clear-cut and powerful strategies like active climatic control. A third reason is constituted by the technical challenges which are presently still posed by the environmental simulation of open and intermediate spaces, especially in hot climatic conditions. In this context, some promising research lines related to climatic control and passive cooling are identified in this text. Those approaches are likely to benefit from an integrated blend of practice and theory and may contribute to increase the attractiveness of bioclimatic principles for the rehabilitation of informal settlements.

Gian Luca Brunetti

Housing in African Rural Contexts: The Nubian Vault. Opportunities for the Economic Market in the Rural Savannah Environments

It is well known that the level of human development of most parts of West African nations is among the weakest of the whole planet. The housing sector, which responds to a primordial necessity, constitutes one of the greatest potential for exploiting resources that are still available and unexplored. The debate on housing issues is today mainly focused on the phenomenon of urbanization, where large megalopoles are fed with uninterrupted streams of populations from the countryside. It follows that most researches on the conditions of habitat ignore the state of rural housing where valuable case studies are virtually absent. An oblivion of research that hides an area of architectural intervention in which there is still a lot be done. The rural context is a decisive factor for a challenge to which the debate on architecture is also called to respond.

Emilio Caravatti

National Public Primary Schools Strategic Planning: A Key Factor to Ensure Quality Education Enrollment in Developing Countries

The lack of proper, adequate, and accessible school facilities represents one of the main reasons of student dropout in most developing countries (UNICEF and MDG-F 2011). Indeed, if a school is easily accessible and is able to provide an inclusive, safe, healthy, and stimulating environment, students will more easily attend and learn. If not, sooner, or later, they will give up. This is true especially in rural areas, where today still more than 30% of the children do not attend primary school, mostly because they would have to walk for hours to reach a remote, overcrowded, inadequate, or unhealthy learning environment. Because of the utmost importance of this issue, humanitarian organizations (HOs) normally invest vast parts of their resources to tackle this problem. HOs aim at expanding and reinforcing education infrastructure networks either directly or jointly with local governments. UNICEF alone invested more than three hundred million dollars per year in school construction only (UNICEF 2016). Nevertheless, school construction is usually among the most unsuccessful and controversial sectors, with very low impact on the enrollment rates and high costs for involved agencies and NGOs. This is caused mainly, as it will be explained in following paragraphs, by the overall lack of adequate policies able to tackle the issue from a strategic point of view. In other words, national school construction programs are still very much focused on the stand-alone outcome, the school itself. To this date, national plans do not appear to tackle the processes and tools necessary to ensure that the school network as a whole is properly designed and functional. This article will explore the issue of lack of strategic planning, starting from the current state of the art to analyze current common practices along with their limitations. Finally, this contribution will attempt to highlight some of the core matters that, in the author’s opinion and experience, should be the key steps in a new, more strategic, and efficient approach for primary education infrastructure development.

Luca Bonifacio

The Tourism as Local Development Leverage: The Restaurant/Guest house of Olga’s and the Professional School YCTC in Livingstone, Zambia

The paper illustrates a project which is much smaller in scale compared to the large aid international programmes which aim to provide valuable benefits in terms of health, education and population well-being. Nevertheless, even small initiatives, like the one presented, can have significant positive impact on local development, because they can be replicated by the indigenous population and are sustainable. These projects are deeply embedded in the local context; they originate from specific contextual needs and aim to improve the well-being, using local resources and tapping on local potential. According to this logic, Olga’s Italian Corner is a project that aims on one side to foster educational development and on the other side to find ways to support financially the activities of the Youth Community Training Centre (YCTC). In addition, the guest house of Olga’s which is a small structure with good quality standards can become a family model of tourism facility in areas with high tourism potential like the one analysed in the present paper.

Lidia Diappi

The Mantra of Modernity

Modern Architecture and Urbanism are the concrete results of a series of urban and design experiments that, during the first and second industrial revolution took place in Western and Eastern European countries and came to define the practices of the world of construction, prefabrication and design in the context of full industrialization. Five words could be identified that describe the methods and the processes underlying modern urban design, building a Mantra of Modern Architecture still in vogue: Technocracy, Hygienism, Formal Reduction, Cost-effectiveness and Communitarianism. This paper aims at analysing and clarifying how the Mantra of Modernism has been applied in non-European settlement and how it can constitute the conceptual base towards the construction of an alternative contemporary modernity.

Maddalena d’Alfonso, Jacopo Galli

Protection and Enhancement of Cultural Heritage Amid Conservation and Development


Research, Interventions and Training for Cultural Heritage Safeguard and Enhancement. Lesson Learned from 50 Years of Studies and Projects Implementation in Armenia

Since 1965, a long series of initiatives have been realized in Armenia, aimed at the study and preservation of Armenian Cultural Heritage with the Politecnico di Milano acting as a promoter or supporter, guaranteeing a scientific approach and always working in coordination with local authorities, namely the Ministry of Culture. The activities have been designed to respond to the needs that were identified adapting to the possibilities available in a context in continuous evolution (Armenia became independent in 1991 after being part of Soviet Union and is still in the process of improving the legal framework for monuments preservation). For its little dimensions, Armenia is a very interesting case study and this paper, after describing the main cooperation interventions realized, analyzes their characteristics in order to assess strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches adopted and to identify the problems to be addressed and the key factors that would entail the success of eventual future initiatives.

Mariacristina Giambruno, Gaianè Casnati

Landscape Quality and Multifunctional Agriculture: The Potential of the Historic Agricultural Landscape in the Context of the Development of the Contemporary City

If we examine the costs and benefits of agricultural activity in terms of its productivity, it is clear that the fate of the historic agricultural landscapes has been sealed for sometime. It is, however, necessary to reflect on the traditional role held by agricultural activity: it does not solely involve the production of consumer goods but also continuous and careful maintenance of the territory. But this second job is not directly compensated. The abandonment of marginal lands and the traditional forms of agriculture, the destruction and degradation of traditional irrigation systems, the removal of the walls, hedgerows and tree lines that marked borders, the neglect of roadsides and terracing, the abandonment of low-yield or unmarketable crop varieties can led to the alteration of historic ecosystems, the interruption of natural food chains, and a significant reduction in biodiversity. Desertion of the mountains and the forests has initiated processes of hydrogeological instability or put large swathes of land at risk of fire, while expected construction in peri-urban areas has discouraged any land maintenance or improvement work. Today, the costs of these phenomena are only partly at the expense of the agricultural producer, but they have certainly not disappeared, being in charge of the community. We need to promote a new way in agricultural activities and find new forms of economic support for them. It will be to seek the involvement of farmers in other, socially necessary, activity, such as hydrogeological analysis of the soil, landscape maintenance, protection of biodiversity, environmental management of the territory, cultural and environmental tourism, the preservation and management of cultural goods in rural areas, and energy saving. This is what we name ‘multifunctional’ (Huylenbroek Van and Durand (2003), Jones (2002), Plieninger and Spek (2006), Palang et al. (2015) agriculture. The paper illustrates, starting from a project realized in Milano in occasion of the 2015 Expo and promoting a multifunctional approach to agriculture, a proposal of an agricultural park for the protection of the cultural landscape of the Hakka settlements situated on the borders of the Chinese city of Hui Yang (Guangdong).

Maurizio Boriani

Cultural Heritage for Urban Regeneration. Developing Methodology Through a Knowledge Exchange Program

The topic of urban regeneration shows a high complexity for the large number of issues and stakeholders involved. Within the city, the social and political dynamics interact and link together with the physical recovery of places. This complexity appears even greater in context that has just started recovery processes. What is the role of cultural heritage in the transformation processes? The existing built is an extraordinary condenser of micro-stories, material culture, traditional construction techniques and therefore identity: recognizing its potential and working for its recovery means to give to the cities more opportunity for their revitalization. Working for a better life quality of the inhabitants and improving their general conditions means strengthening the identity and the sense of belonging. The paper illustrates a path that, through a concrete knowledge exchange experience, tries to develop a methodological process. A learning from practice method was built through a study of local realities that finds in the knowledge exchange with the local authorities and administrators a real opportunity to increase the tools to face the future challenges. The object of investigation is represented from eleven cities in Europe and Central Asia, which are passing through real development phases and, because of their rich diversity, are an interesting subject of discussion and comparison.

Mariacristina Giambruno, Sonia Pistidda

Learning by Practice from an Early Researcher Perspective. Investigating Widespread Heritage in Transition Countries

Through the description of three experiences of field-based research in transition countries, the paper wants to give an insight regarding how the working methodology of an early-stage researcher can be conditioned, passing through the changes imposed by diverse contexts on time. Specifically, the contribute underlines the importance given to widespread heritage safeguard in different geographical contexts (Albania, Montenegro, Myanmar) and develops reflections regarding the influence given by the context over applied conservation policies. Starting from the challenge in trying to adapt a background of knowledge and studies developed in a determined culture and environment to radically different time by time, the paper then argues over the confrontation needed to further mature theoretical tools to manage diverse situations, so as to set in discussion and adjust to each context the methodology acquired in time.

Francesca Vigotti

Minor Settlements: Setting up a Network of Creative and Sustainable Communities

In the last few years, both national governments and international organizations such as UN-Habitat and UNESCO have given increasing attention to the abandonment at a very big scale and fast pace of small settlements and intermediate towns in all regions of the world, as a consequence of the accelerated growth of urbanized areas. It is in this perspective that various projects and initiatives have been launched to see how to deal with processes of this relevance and impact. Among them, there is the research programme on small settlements in different regions of the world, promoted by European and Chinese universities along the lines of the UNESCO Global Report on Culture and the UN New Urban Agenda. This paper examines the issues faced and the strategies developed by villages in China, India, Japan, Italy. It also suggests alternative lines of action.

Paolo Ceccarelli

The Heritage Value of the Craft Sector in Fast-Growing Cities

Culture is a key dimension in the history of cities where the design of urban development strategies combines the aim to preserve the wealth of cultural heritage with the search for contemporary progress. Along the centuries, arts and crafts have always occupied an important place in the life of cities because they contribute to preserve local identity and traditions through skills, they provide jobs and contribute to the local economy, and they are a source of interest for cultural tourism. Historically, artisan workshops are to be found in cities, where the high concentration of people and products provides the perfect framework for buying raw materials and selling the final products in markets. Today, workshops have often been substituted by industrializations and those left are increasingly being forced out of the city or to die to leave space to new businesses. What is the place of handicraft today? Is there still a strong linkage between handicraft and places? And what has been the role of public policies in encouraging (or discouraging) this kind of activity in the past century? The article discusses these questions and provides examples taken from the observation of the historical and sociopolitical context of handicrafts in India. The conclusion reflects over handicraft as a marginalized sector with great potential to become a driver of sustainable development in cities.

Laura Pierantoni

Integrated Strategies to Reduce the Territorial Risks


Resilience Thinking as a Useful Approach to Reduce the Territorial Risks

In developing countries, built areas that are most affected by high levels of natural disaster risk are typically areas where there are informal settlements. The mitigation and management of these risks require good availability of economic, professional, technological and human resources and good organizational capacity, aspects that are often lacking in these countries. However, through a resilient approach, it is possible to optimize the scarce resources available and, above all, to leverage human resources, which in developing countries are often relevant to improve the organizational capacities of communities and their institutions. This contribution framed the meaning of resilient thinking and shows the main theoretical references and intervention criteria that characterize a resilient co-evolutionary approach, that is, aimed at seizing the opportunities associated with subsistence or potential critical events to improve the system itself, thus making it less vulnerable and more prepared to respond to both known critical events and other critical events that may occur.

Marcello Magoni

New Strategies and Four-Layer Approach for Disaster Risk Management in Complex City Environments

The research introduces an innovative approach including four layers: spatial, organizational, tactical, and public layers, and their interaction with an agent-centered perspective as a response to three challenges: (1) disregarding the interdependency among components within a complex city system, (2) underestimating secondary effects of a hazard, and (3) not fully considering the social system that is embedded within the spatial pattern of a city. The research provides examples from real cases. Indeed, failures or incidents during a disaster are emergent phenomena that are hard to predict. Furthermore, outcome of actions, which are defined in the plan by regulations, could be different from those anticipated due to constantly changing environment during disasters. The system gets stuck when people insist on applying written plans to fluctuating circumstances instead of reorganizing strategies and priorities. During disasters adapt the plan according to changes, and reorganizing resources in an environment that is changing constantly is key to enhancing resilience.

Funda Atun

The Economic Impacts of Natural Hazards: Lessons Learnt from the PDNA International Damage Assessment Project Implemented in Haiti After the Earthquake of 2010

On January 12, 2010, an earthquake of magnitude 7.3 on the Richter scale shook Haiti for 35s. It was the most powerful earthquake to hit the country in 200 years and one of the most severe at the world level. Such earthquake caused an unprecedented situation in Haiti, with enormous repercussions affecting all sectors of society, well beyond the areas directly affected by the catastrophe. The essay, after introducing the issue of the economic impact of natural catastrophes, offers the example of the Post-Disaster Needs and Assessment Report for Haiti as an innovative reference instrument for damage reporting and reconstruction organization. The Report, developed with the assistance of many international organization, from the UN to the European Community, has been designed not only to assess the whole of the territorial values destroyed or damaged referring to direct, indirect, and systemic damage, but also to enlighten the most important impacts and the reconstruction needs for different economic sectors and territorial resources. It therefore offers a complete list of elements to take care of together with the timing and organization of the reconstruction phase.

Giulia Pesaro

Perceiving Urban Resilience Within Post-quake Recovering Processes. An Experimental Approach for Emergency Housing in Emilia Romagna, Italy

Traumas do not only erase but also produce. Opportunities could be tackled in order to examine the city systems and modify it within the reconstruction process. This mind shift shall take place starting from the recovering phase in order to fulfill one vision of transformation that gained consensus of different stakeholders. This intention protects it from deviation or deformation within an atmosphere of uncertainty. Emergency housing installed after disasters create temporary environments fertile for examining new transformation visions and evaluating its pragmatism, opening up chances for people to participate in the reconstruction phase through modifying, evaluating, or proposing integrated ideas. In this sense, the recovering phase would be an effective action guaranteeing the sustainability and durability of the proposed transformation plan. The article proposes an alternative scenario for emergency housing urban environment, through methodological strategies and practical applications, responding to the short- and long-term social and physical needs of the city. The proposal tackles challenges related to food security and distribution, mobility and transportation, temporary housing construction, energy production, scarcity of building materials, risks of post-disaster’s social fragmentations. The study is experimentation for both the design as well as the recyclability of the proposed temporary environment during and after natural disasters that will be practiced in Finale Emilia town after Emilia Romagna earthquake in 2012.

Doaa Salaheldin Ismail Elsayed

Climate Change and Heat Waves in Colombia. Possible Effects and Adaptation Strategies

The purpose of this article is to describe the phenomenon of heat waves in various realities such as the Colombian one. The main characters and effects of heat waves are at the beginning described for the main geographic areas of the country. Following, the strategies and actions for adaptation to the heat wave at national and local levels are exposed. In particular, the measures to the territorial and urban infrastructures, the economic-productive systems, and the behaviors of the inhabitants are considered.

Marcello Magoni, Carolina Mesa Munoz

Managing the Agro-urban System and the Food-Energy-Water Nexus


Social–Ecological Implications of the Quinoa Market Teleconnections: Intervention Criteria on the Southern Bolivian Altiplano

During the last decades, emerging global commodity chains have been re-shaping local growth and shrinkage processes, by linking far away consumers and producers. Regional transformations are complex and long-term phenomenon lead by the interplay of forces acting from and at different scales. This paper explores the teleconnections’ local implications embedded within the Southern Bolivian Altiplano transition, from being a remote rural area of subsistence farming to a global leading quinoa cropping market driven territory. The essay identifies lessons that are likely to be relevant for increasing adaptive capacity, fostering sustainability solutions, avoiding unsustainability lock-ins by the relationship between cereal market at the national scale, an uncontrolled growth of a specific crop (quinoa) and community actions in the Southern Bolivian Altiplano.

Guido Minucci

Socio-Environmental Effects of Large-Scale Land Acquisition in Mozambique

The growing global demand for food, fibers, and biofuels and the consequently, increasing prices of agricultural products have made investments in agriculture a priority for some governments and corporations. Since 2008, about 50 million ha of arable land have been purchased or leased worldwide, with an alarming and unprecedented increase in the number of land negotiations. When land acquisitions occur disregarding the rights of former land users and the socio-environmental impacts of these investments, they are often termed “land grabs.” Not only do large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) entail the purchase of fertile land but also the appropriation of land-based resources, such as water, with potential effects on the local population and the environment. Recently, a number of studies and reports have documented the process of LSLAs, while the associated effects on land and water resource availability to local communities have remained poorly investigated. Here, we develop an in-depth analysis of each land deal from the standpoint of land fertility, water scarcity, distance from roads, rivers, and villages. We focus on the case of Mozambique, a country affected by intense large-scale land acquisition, malnourishment, and demographic growth. Results show that, presently, LSLA in Mozambique covers an area of about 2 million hectares that account for roughly 30% of the currently cultivated land. Water resources appropriated through LSLAs are estimated around 39 billion m3 y−1, including 31 billion m3 y−1 for rainfed agriculture (green water) and a potential use of 8 billion m3 y−1 of water for irrigation (blue water), which corresponds to about 8 times the blue water currently used for agriculture across the country. The majority of land deals (29 out of 51) target fertile land and/or land with easy access to water resources and infrastructures.

Maria Cristina Rulli, Corrado Passera, Davide Danilo Chiarelli, Paolo D’Odorico

The Narrative Structure of the Agro-Urban Metropolitan Territory. The Metropolis as Hypertext for the History of the Twenty-first Century: A Network of Middle Cities as an Operational Topography

Hypertext is a set of documents placed in relation to each other using keywords. In the context of the metropolitan discourse, it can be considered as a network of emerging urban epicentres. The reading of a metropolitan territory can take place in a nonlinear way. The citizens’ self-consciousness and the ability to move around freely are the backgrounds for the metaphoric transposition of the hypertext concept in the metropolitan dimension. Reversely, to understand the metropolitan issues using the hypertext concept, the individual choices among a wide range of elements placed in relation to each other become significant. The relations of various types of space and nature are managed by a subjective mapping that is constantly updated. In the contemporary urban narrative, especially from the governance perspective, there is a lack of storytelling, to establish a new physical metropolitan paradigm and discourse. To introduce the metropolitan hybrid agro-urban territory to the new metropolitan population requires a process of building a narrative of the territorial identity and citizenship, through a powerful metaphor. The goal of a metropolitan project is to define a space with collective and public dimensions through the new hybrid urban forms that are public, common, entertaining or productive. In order to build this gradient of metropolitan space and define its functional and symbolic values and forms, it is necessary to develop new syntax and grammar for the design.

Antonella Contin

Resource Efficiency and Resilience in Sub-Saharan African Cities: Towards Community Metabolism

The integration of sustainability and resilience strategies is the key in order to achieve successful urban regeneration. The introduction of “community metabolism” as a concept is the thesis of this work. Taking into account resource efficiency as a mayor driver for urban planning projects in combination with the recent concerns of the consequences climate change offers the opportunity to deliver more informed and monitorable actions towards shared targets of urban sustainability. Sub-Saharan African cities represent the appropriate context where to test urgent environmental and social challenges. Recent academic projects supervised by the authors represented the demonstrators for testing community metabolism principles.

Maria Chiara Pastore, Eugenio Morello

The International Workshop “Transforming Johannesburg”. A Multi-disciplinary Action Research on Collaborative Approaches to Socio-ecological Urban Development in Informal Areas


The International Workshop “Transforming Johannesburg: Reshaping Socio-Ecological Landscapes Through Collaborative Practices”

This chapter presents both the premises and the general outcomes of an International Planning and Design workshop held in Johannesburg from September 12–26, 2015. The workshop was organized as a partnership between the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies—DAStU from Politecnico di Milano (Italy) and the Wits City Institute and the Centre for Built Environment Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). Starting from an existing engagement between scholars from the University of the Witwatersrand, and the Kya Sands Community in Johannesburg, the two universities decided to mobilize resources and expertise and organize a two-week collaborative upgrading workshop in Johannesburg. The workshop, framed as a laboratory for technical and social learning, was open to international postgraduate students and young professionals willing to challenge their knowledge in a trans- and multidisciplinary setting. By framing design both as an exploratory and exemplification tool—able to foster negotiations and collaborations while triggering creativity—the workshop aimed at responsively rooting and contextualizing solutions in the community. Through the exploration of experimental collaborative design and planning methodologies, the workshop explored a holistic, incremental, and integrative development strategy for the settlement.

Costanza La Mantia

Engaging the Informal and Formal in an Expanded Notion of Urban Infrastructure: How Healing Human and Ecological Networks Could Lead to a More Equitable City

This chapter reviews the processes and findings from the alternative infrastructure work stream within the larger international, trans-disciplinary workshop Transforming Johannesburg: Reshaping Socio-ecological Landscapes Through Collaborative Practices (12–25 September 2015). The five parallel work streams making up the workshop (rethinking infrastructure, eco-incremental housing, place making, alternative economics and governance for collaborating upgrading) aimed at producing a master plan for the in situ upgrading of Kya Sands informal settlement in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Rethinking Infrastructure work stream focused on service provision through cross-examining the connections between different scales and different systems: the local and the regional scales, and the human and natural systems. After initial site visits, the group chose to concentrate on the concerns of water (drinking, waste, storm and river) and waste management. Inputs from data collection, Kya Sands Residents, City officials and external experts, were explored through the lens of dialogue and debate and distilled into three pragmatic regenerative strategies towards settlement upgrading. The chapter is constructed as both an account of and a reflection on the specific results and experiences of this work stream.

Alessandro Frigerio, Kristen Kornienko

Eco-Incremental Housing: Researching Typologies and Systems in Pursuit of a Community-Based Approach to Housing Upgrades in Informal Contexts

This paper examines the socio-spatial contexts of the Kya Sands informal settlement, documents existing housing typologies, and proposes in situ, user-focused housing designs. Through constituent interviews and field research, the designs aim to be responsive to resident desires, needs, and capacities. Goals for the project include a more efficient, in situ delivery system that allows residents to remain in their homes and customize their self-built structure. The research-design team, made up of faculty and students from Politecnico di Milano (Italy), Thomas Jefferson University (United States), the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), and City of Johannesburg planning officials, embraced the self-built ingenuity of residents in solving immediate design problems with local resources while recognizing the support government can provide. Following extensive research on the processes of incrementality, from tectonic to social and economic dynamics, the group developed incremental design solutions buildable by residents, to be supported by governmental intervention.

Chris Harnish


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