Monday, December 29, 2014

Luciano Pia, "Considerations on façades and masterplans"

Luciano Pia, "25 Verde", Torino, 2007-2012. Image:

Our towns are the portrayal of our ways of life, habits, culture and social relations.
We live in urban , suburban, rural and alpine environments that we built through history, as history passed by, adapting the built-up areas to our needs and technological development. We have adapted the environment to those different visions of society we have conceived in the centuries; the way we move, by cars, trains, ships or planes has deeply transformed the landscape with roads, railways, harbours and airports. 
Commerce has shifted from small shops to big surfaces transforming the commercial network of our towns by removing the nearby points of sale which were often located not far from the place where products were made, in favour of a more  impersonal commerce, in areas at the edge of towns , in order to satisfy the need for large parking lots for many people and goods which are essential to shopping centres.
A change in the producing system and the ways we manifacture and exchange goods, informations, knowledge and culture has widely modified the image of our towns.
Towns and more in general all the built environment do represent who we are, what we think, our values and ambitions: they are the image we have about our present time.
If we analyze the  different ways of building towns  through  time and think  at the transformations they  have undertaken,  we see that they follow the changing ways  of thinking life and therefore they adapt  to new usages and customs: the major radical changes ( from handicraft to industry, for example) replaced and wiped out the former  dwellings. 
When we are asked to develop a  urban project, we analyze the build-up areas to get information on our way of life, dwelling models and economic development, there we live and are part of it, so it is difficult to have both a general and total vision, while a distance in time would certainly help.
The  designers of contemporary cities know that any planning choice at any scale has correlated effects on all activities and functions that will occur eversince.
If we compare the old Medieval towns which were entranced for reasons of defence and control to the Renaissance towns  open to arts, research and technical developments, we can learn a lot about the ways of life that were carried on because of totally different urban spaces . They  persecuted similar basic aims but both the urban systems offered to their inhabitants different opportunities of development and perception of the present and future.
If we compare a town with a density of 1 mq/mq, I am thinking to Renaissance towns, to a town with a density of 10mq/mq like most of today's vertical towns, we know that different conditions  made it possible and the result is a way of inhabiting towns which in its turn influences people's life.
Because of the complexity of our present time, it is getting more and more difficult to project our living space.    Nevertheless,  we feel  the responsability for trying to correct all those glaring mistakes which are due to a lack of a forward -thinking planning,  in order to build up areas according to our expectations and future needs.
For these reasons , when we draw a masterplan indipendently from its extension and formulation, we are carrying out a task that will deeply condition the future development of the area. From the way of organizing functions depends everything will grow in that context, for example services and their quality, people’s interplay and life quality.
Our cultural models and the vision we have of our society, interactions among people and among people and Institutions is converted into an image of town, in its local and volumetric organization that is what we expect from a plan of urban development.
Since we know that the living space affects thoughts and behaviors, then the masterplan is one of the main elements in the development of our society and sets the fundamentals of wellness and life quality.
The organization of built-up areas shows our way of life and behaviours, leeds choices and limits possibilities.
The masterplan gives a shape to towns and a framework to people’s interactions, while the image we give to our buildings acts as an intermediary between ourselves and the others: the masterplan represents the image of society as a whole but our image as individuals is given by the “skin” , once called façade, of our buildings.
We understand other people mostly by the way they present themselves and by their behaviours , similarly the “skin”of the buildings tells about both the designers and developers of those buildings and their users.
We immediatly associate a façade to a specific use of the space which means to precise social and economic circumstances, cultural attitudes and trends.
The arrangement of the façades witnesses the sensitivity and attention to a sustainable development or to speculative choices. Today we are all able to design efficient buildings that contribute to a general improvement of our habitat, but there are often heavy economic restrictions which endanger the quality and performance of the buildings.
The built-up areas are a mix of buildings which are often private and inscribing a private place behind an external “skin” which marks the boundary between what is private and what is public so the image of public places is largely featured by the skin of private buildings.
The quality of our towns is made by the total of the different ways of life of the people whose buildings overlook public spaces such as squares, museums, libraries, parks……
Our communities are the sum of each personality, similarly a urban environment is the sum of the images of the ways its inhabitants live.

It is necessary to deploy all our knowledge and planning skills to project urbanized places in coherence to a sustainable development and able to meet those requirements which depend on the values embodied in the society we are aiming at.

Luciano Pia

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