2011 | energy and urban planning studio          [back]

Politecnico di Milano, Faculty of Architecture and Society, MSc in Urban Planning and Policy Design (Fall 2011).

If you want to know more about our activities, please visit the official website of the class:

The workshop poses the question how should we act to achieve more sustainable urban environments. We will explore two main ways to approach this question: one is related to the policies that the city can adopt in order to promote more environmental-friendly practices; the second one is related to the physical design of the urban environment and how this can influence sustainability.
The objective of the studio is twofold: first, to provide a basic knowledge on the topic of sustainability at the urban scale (policies and design) and second, to explore possible future scenarios through a design project that intentionally considers the implications of the different urban forms for the construction of specific environment and energy-oriented urban strategies. The two topics of which policies and which design towards urban sustainability will frame the structure of the course and organize the calendar of the lectures. Structure of the workshop
The studio is composed by different packages. The most important one is the studio, i.e. the implementation of a design project. This should carry all the theoretical content offered by the lectures given by the main instructors, which are the second most relevant package. For instance, the lectures are integrated by complementary activities, like readings and short reports assigned to the students, in order to enrich the theoretical framework. Moreover, a seminar with invited guests organized in the middle of the semester will be the occasion to hear about on-going programs and projects implemented at different levels and by several municipalities. A short explanation of the packages follows.

Studio activities
The goal of the studio is to come up with a design project at the district or urban scale that envisions possible future scenarios for a number of different cityscapes. Students are asked to work in groups of three people; each team should be composed by students with different backgrounds, in order to integrate their skills.
The studio will focus on the metropolitan area of Milan as case-study area application, by considering different urban textures that describe that region: for instance, if we trace a transect through the territory, we will encounter very different conditions: the compact and dense urban fabric originated from the traditional layout based on the urban block; the urban edge, i.e. the periphery where modern urban planning has produced a landscape of infrastructures and a mosaic of specialized ensembles that completely lost the human and the urban scale; the sprawl, i.e. the low-density landscape characterized by single-family houses and introvert and anti-urban lifestyles. This categorisation is reductive, of course, and a more complex hybridisation of morphologies is evident: therefore, students will be asked to give back a more comprehensive picture of the areas of interest.
The design project will be developed according to three main phases: the analysis, the concept plan and the masterplan. The instructors will constantly assist the design process at the class, by offering revisions and suggesting the most suitable tools to implement the design schemes.
The analysis: A series of samples extracted from the map will be analysed and described, focusing in particular on the shape of the urban fabric and the street network. For instance, a series of clues derived from the shape of those places will define the strengths or weaknesses of the urban tissues and represent the design elements for rethinking more sustainable future scenarios.
Four themes will direct our observations on site: energy (energy efficiency and renewable energies), environment (environmental quality and comfort), accessibility (sustainable mobility, smart linkage of places, way-finding), people (intended as the social aspects). The proposed themes are deliberately broad to encourage an interdisciplinary approach, are interrelated, may overlap and be understood as an opportunity to focus on specific actions that will inform the following design phases.
The concept plan: The four themes will also help students in structuring possible strategies and finalized actions to define design solutions. The concept plan is a preliminary design phase that includes observations at a higher level in order to understand the role of the urban district inside a larger context (hierarchies among districts, specific characteristics).
The masterplan: The final step will be the masterplan, which in this case gives back a vision of a possible future for each specific case-study area. In this last insight, the actions related to the four themes (energy, environment, people, accessibility) will be made visible, and some clues that an answer to more sustainable urban futures is possible will emerge. The vision will be supported by the theories and readings, and by the previous phases of the design.

eup workflow

The lectures aim at covering the two main topics offered at this studio and presented above. The lectures are organized consequently in two series. The first series, introduced by prof. Stefano Pareglio, is called "Energy, climate change and local action to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions". The second one presented by prof. Eugenio Morello, deals with the topic "Energy, environment and the city form". In particular, the first series introduces the policies (mitigation and adaptation) towards carbon neutral cities and analyses issues related to energy sources and the market to figure out possible scenarios; the second series of lectures investigates how urban designers and planners can work on the physical layout of the urban form in order to improve the overall sustainability of cities and reduce the environmental footprint of ecological cycles, by improving the efficiency of mobility and energy management (savings and production based on a short energy chain).
All the speeches have the goal to introduce the students to the topic of sustainable development applied to the urban planning discipline. Most of the lectures are given during the first half of the semester.

Complementary activities
A series of complementary activities are finalized to give students a better insight and deeper understanding of the knowledge presented through lectures. Students are asked to actively deal with the presented theoretical framework through a series of tasks: these can be readings, assigned to complete the content presented at the lectures, or a short written assignment (the glossary of terms), with the aim of building common resources to be shared among the class and finalized to feed the design project. Moreover, a series of targeted tools and models will be presented to increase the practical toolkit of students.

The Seminar
A main seminar titled "Le cittą contro il cambiamento climatico" (Cities against climate change) is organized within the Department of Architecture and Planning (DiAP) of the Politecnico di Milano in collaboration with the Italian Ministero dell'Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare and with the Istituto Nazionale di Urbanistica (INU), Commissione Ambiente, energia, clima e consumo di suolo.
The seminar represents the occasion for the students to have an insight on the current policies conducted by Italian cities. In particular, the first goal is to present a broad spectrum of samples, starting from available programs and experiences (CONCERTO and Sustainable Action Plans - SEAP) carried on by cities of different sizes (large, medium, small); the second aim is to focus on the effective strategies implemented towards the mitigation of GHG emissions and understand how those actions cope with the urban policies.

Exams and final workshop
Students are required to present a design project. Two deliveries during the class (an intermediate and a final submission) will be the prerequisite to access the final exam. The final presentation and the evaluation of the design projects will happen during the final workshop. The main instructors and invited guests will attend the final workshop.
During the final review, not only the design project will be evaluated, but also how the project itself exploits the contents offered at the lectures and through the suggested bibliography. This should be the occasion to show the acquired critical attitude towards the topic of sustainability at the urban scale.

Specific references (articles, scientific papers and book contributions) on the topic energy and the city will be assigned during the class (please, refer to the package 'Complementary activities').

main instructors: Eugenio Morello, Stefano Pareglio.
teaching assistants: Silvia Ronchi, Silvio Rispoli.