2017 Course

Urban Space and the Open Society

An International Course of the “Cross-Disciplinary Urban Space” Network

1 March-14 June 2017
University of Florence, Department of Architecture
Every Wednesday 2.30-5.30pm, Room 7M, Via Micheli 2, Florence

Giulio Giovannoni, University of Florence (principal organizer)
Silvia Ross, University College Cork (co-organizer)

Maria Pia Arpioni, University of Cà Foscari
Luisa Bravo, Queensland University of Technology
Paola Briata, Polytechnic of Milan
Marco Cenzatti, University of California at Berkeley
Leonardo Chiesi, University of Florence
Francesco Chiodelli, Gran Sasso Science Institute
Richard Ingersoll, Syracuse University of Florence
Mirella Loda, University of Florence
Annalisa Metta, Roma Tre University
Stefano Moroni, Polytechnic of Milan
Davide Papotti, Università di Parma
Matteo G. Puttilli, University of Florence

Download Programme & Apply (Pdf)

Current society is characterized by a widespread loss of faith in globalization and by the will to erect new boundaries, both physical and symbolic, between different countries and cultures, peoples and lifestyles. In the most extreme cases the widespread sense of uncertainty and fear is accompanied by the growth of xenophobic and racist political movements, which seem to shake the deepest values of Western societies. The ‘open society’ is under attack. There is no doubt that we need new grand narratives, new frameworks that can at least counterbalance the dominant discourses of fear and hatred, and accompany the inexorable repositioning and resizing of the West in the global world.
In these complex dynamics the discourse on urban space can play an important role. Although urban space is inherently conflictual, by focusing our attention on it we can bring back to reality a battle that is mostly fought on the symbolic level. Urban space is in fact the physical continuum on which human existence and social life unfold, with their complexities and contradictions, passions and needs. However, urban space is not a simple container for human and social life, neutral like an empty theatrical scene which waits to be used by actors and performers. Although inert and difficult to transform, urban space has a natural tendency to form an indistinguishable whole with the society which inhabits and shapes it. Social structures, as well as power relations, inhabiting cultures, and modes of production, are variously encoded in it. Spatial transformations signify social dynamics and changes which are often conflictual and contradictory. Urban planners and designers tend to ignore their controversial and problematic role, hiding themselves behind the supposed neutrality of technical expertise. This is one of the reasons why it is important to reconsider critically the notion of urban space from different disciplinary perspectives, in order to gain a better awareness of the many implications of urban design.
The seminar, organized by Giulio Giovannoni and Silvia Ross, is conceived as an opportunity for critical discussion on the topic of urban space from different disciplinary perspectives. It aims to bring together scholars from disciplines ranging from urban design, literary studies, geography, urban and architectural history, urban sociology, urban economics, and aesthetics. The seminar is intended to be an open project to be further developed in the future.