ACCADEMIA DI ARCHITETTURA 2017-2018 | Corso: “Bergamo: città sociale e città fisica”


Urban transformation projects have an formal and spatial dimension, which is at the core of the learning process in a school of architecture. Yet urban transformation projects are associated with changes in the social (and economic) morphology of city – changes that produce direct and indirect effects on the city’s welfare. And precisely on the basis of these effects the community judges the social rationality of urban transformation process – and it authorises, when required, their implementation or gives its organisational and financial support. There are two necessary steps in the assessment process of the urban transformation projects conducted by the local community. Firstly, the short- and long-term effects of the project on the community welfare have to be identified. Secondly, the effects of the urban transformation project have to be evaluated with regard to the city’s ‘social preference function’, which in recent decades in Europe as taken the form of a ‘development strategy’ more or less fully articulated. An increasing number of European cities have endowed themselves with a ‘strategic plan”, which is the framework within which the city assess and support major urban transformation projects.



With the aim of serving the learning process of architects, the course will impart the knowledge required to understand the content and structure of cities’ development strategies. In particular, the course focuses on the outcome of strategic planning, as it has been conceived by European cities in recent decades. It will also impart the knowledge concerning the framework required to identify the social effects of urban transformation projects. A preliminary knowledge in this field has become essential for architects, which are increasingly required to cast their design activity against the background of cities’ development strategy and very often find themselves working in interdisciplinary environments.

The course is applied and the learning process will move from the study of specific urban transformation projects that have marked the recent history of a European city. The course will be organised as if the class were a collaborative ‘research team’ aiming at highlighting, with regard to a specific city, the link between the overall development strategies and the new or renewed architecture.



As a case study will be taken Berlin and the projects that have been implemented in the city after the German Reunification. Berlin is a particularly interesting case to reflect upon the relationship between cities’ development strategies and urban transformation projects. The objective to reconstruct the spatial and architectural identity of the city – again the capital city of a country playing a key role in the global world – has intersected with the objective of profoundly reshaping the economic base of the city, which was largely destroyed by the re-unification. After going through a deep economic and budgetary crisis, partly caused by a contradictory and financially unsustainable building sector expansion, Berlin has started a development trajectory marked by urban transformation projects highly praised for their design and also descending from a clear vision of its social and economic future future.

The reunification of the city has gone through a profound change in its physical structure. It suffices to mention the ‘urban void’ left behind by the removal of the Berlin Wall to grasp the importance that the project of the physical structure has played in the recent history of the city. But beyond the fascinating task of redesigning the physical interface between East Berlin and West Berlin, numerous part of the city has undergone profound change in their physical fabric and social morphology. By observing the evolution of Berlin’s physical and social city in the past three decades there is a lot to learn about the rationale of urban transformation projects in European cities, and about the role of architects and architecture in the construction of the European city of the future.