With the proliferation of global conflicts, the world is seeing increasing numbers of refugees. These numbers will only increase as the effects of climate change render places less livable, making this problem a defining one of our times. Italy has seen great numbers of refugees come from North Africa and to a lesser extent, the Middle East and Afghanistan. With Italy being a fairly small country, still recovering from the last financial crisis and buffeted by national populism on the rise throughout Europe, these refuges have not been made uniformly welcome. Yet with Italy’s declining population and stagnant economic growth, these populations offer many opportunities for Italians as they do for the refugees. And inasmuch as the refugees are indeed there, new ideas for settlement can offer up solutions to a seemingly intractable problem—ones unique to Rome and the specifics of any locality, yet universal in approach, applicable to a wide range of places.
This design studio will examine questions of individual and community identity in the context of continuing to create the Eternal City. Rome itself, since its inception, is defined by continuous in-migration from the Italian peninsula and from the diaspora of returning Romans. Rome has a distinct dual identity, beginning with its founding by the famous twins, Romulus and Remus. It has always been a place about its particular locality and the exigencies of its colonization, of otherness.
The project will confront the challenges of melding both native Romans and new refugee populations. We will create a new dense, mixed-income, mixed-use, and walkable neighborhood within the confines of Rome- one that is adapted for the effects of climate change in Rome. The site, originally developed for the Olympic Village in northern central Rome, is underutilized and slightly degraded- ripe for renewal and increased density. It is bounded by Pier Luigi Nervi’s Sports Palace, Renzo Piano’s Auditorium Parco Della Musica, the Tiber, affluent Parioli and Via Flamina. Students will fist work in teams to do a neighborhood plan for the area. Then, working under a preferred scheme, students will design individual buildings in an architecture whose character is continuous with the deep history of Roman settlement.
During the trips week, we will travel to Italy—first to Rome, then to Venice. We will learn about Rome’s ancient settlements in Ostia and in Rome proper. To appreciate that Rome is still mutable, we will tour more recent neighborhoods, Garbatella, Monte Verde, Parioli, Piazza Sempione, and Sabaudia. To understand the needs of the refugees, we will visit a camp near the Stazione Tiburtina, meet current refugees and the director of the relief organization there serving their short term needs. In an excursion to Venice, we will examine Sant’Elena, located on one of Venice’s most recent lagoon islands, while making sure we don’t miss the highlights of one of the most magical places on the planet. The goal of the studio is to understand one’s role as an architect as one of service, all the while learning to create places of timeless beauty and enduring relevance.