New city, new habitat, new technology. An appointment with Interni and the Italian Cultural Institute in London, Tuesday 17 September, during London Design Festival 2019

An interesting theme of great timeliness, Urban Regeneration: new city, new habitat, new technology, has been developed by Alessandro Melis, curator of Padiglione Italia at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2020, founder of Heliopolis 21 (with offices in Pisa, Berlin and Portsmouth), and by the architect Andrew Waugh of Waugh Thistleton Architects (London), moderated by Prof. David Turnbull (director of Atopia Research and visiting expert of Arup).

On the evening of Tuesday 17 September, the event approached the theme of the city as an organism in ongoing transformation. The bond between human beings and cities is reformulated in an increasingly unexpected dialogue between architectural and urban design and apparently distant disciplines like biology, economics, environmental engineering and meteorology.

As at the time of the pre-Renaissance crisis of the European city in the 1300s, we are faced by a moment of extraordinary change due to mass migrations, climate change and pollution. These factors, however, according to the speakers, should not be seen as hostile to territorial planning, but as opportunities to study and interpret, in order to find new ethical responses in the field of architecture and urban planning. In a reversal of perspective the problems of the city become chances for a “new integrated design.”

The metropolis can be seen as a set of energies and flows in constant change; the economic and environmental responses are innovative in terms of energy balance and zero impact. The forms are increasingly less consistent with Euclidean geometry, and look to nature as a model.

Melis says that “the task of architecture is to create a new paradigm for the contemporary city,” to be investigated in terms of changes in the use of materials as Waugh sustains, or to be found in organic forms as Turnbull explained.

(Text by Carlo Biasia e Patrizia Catalano - Photos by Ashley Bingham)