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G.B. Bonfantini, Planum no.25/2012 | Progetto di riordinamento del centro di Firenze (Rd 2.4.1885)</br>scala 1:625, 90x65 cm</br>Archivio Piani Dicoter - Archivio digitale RAPu -

Planning the historic centres
in Italy: for a critical outline

G. Bertrando Bonfantini

In its first part this article propose a periodisation of the planning approaches to the ‘inherited’ parts of the city. Three stages of development of the urban plan for the existing city are rapidly outlined: reforming the old city, preserving the historic centre, revamping the existing city.
In the course of an initial stage the city of past was essentially perceived as an obstacle to modernity. The problem that city planners had to address was how to adapt the old city to the new. The years that followed the Second World War saw a drastic change in the thematisation of the urban plan for the pre-existing city. The city of the past – identified with the notion of ‘historic centre’ – was now viewed as a legacy to be preserved: a ‘unitary monument’ to be retained in its integrity. 
A third and new stage got underway in the 1980s, when the urban plan for the historic city lost its insular nature to cut across the urban agglomeration as a whole and become one of the modes and instruments for an overall restructuring plan encompassing the entire city and its surrounding territory.

Open publication

The second part of the article deepens some salient aspects of this last stage, regarding the modalities and the purpose of the plan for the historic centre and the historic city in the contemporary city.
If in the past the recognisability and individuality of the historic centre have marked its alterity within an ‘insular’ urban plan – a plan which ascribed a special, independent status to this portion of the city ‘taken away’ from the contemporary city – nowadays the historic centre has become a component of a more complex formation which has emerged in the recent debate with the name of ‘historic city’.

Thus, the historic city is now a theme/system in the urban restructuring plan that is typically expressed according to three different working modalities: directing the attention to the individual constitutive materials; recognising different urban parts according to the different and specific composition modalities of such materials; producing images of the plan that are able to suggest the role played by the different components of the historic city within the framework of the overall organisation project, according to significant relationships.

At the heart of the historic city, we have that which today represents for the historic centre a complex set of integrated urban policies, a set of policies which is not confined to the urban plan or its more traditional regulatory aspects, but rather lies at the intersection of a plurality of actions and instruments of different sorts, according to an original ‘mix’ to be defined as a function of the opportunities afforded by and the specific features of each context, which may affect not just the spatial characters, the operating modes and the performance profiles, but also the living practices of the different population groups, in the composition of their possible “coexistence” modalities.

Bertrando Bonfantini 
DiAP Department of Architecture and Planning
Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy