Browsing this web site you accept techinical and statistical cookies. close [ more info ]

Urbanism Today_Bonfantini_cover


G. Bertrando Bonfantini

In the opening this paper briefly outlines the features of a re-compositional challenge for urbanism today. In the following paragraphs four topical planning key words are addressed. Regeneration, resilience, shrinkage and heritage are described as converging issues to define a thematic coagulation and new design climate that characterize the current specificity of urbanism in a distance from the 1980s and 1990s. Finally, the determinant non-neutral role of planning tools in shaping the planning action between thematisation and expected outcomes is discussed. 

1 | Re-composition
A re-compositional problem in planning – for the re-composition of settled urban landscapes – appears when the construction process of the modern industrial city and its own life cycle run out (Secchi, 2005; Bianchetti, 2011) and at the same time a new "exploded" form of the city emerges (Indovina, Fregolent, Savino, 2005; Burdett, Kanai, 2006). In the European urban palimpsest (Corboz, 1985), but not only, this is the shift to a new phase marked by a different urban phenomenon and planning question, and the opening of an original and unprecedented space to rewrite urban territories, according to alternative approaches and attitudes.
A first attitude claims the a-contextuality and episodic, fragmented, and paratactic juxtaposition as distinctive traits of a different contemporaneity and different urban aesthetics and poetics discontinuous from the past. «Its subtext is fuck context», Rem Koolhaas reminds us in his phenomenology of the city made by the Bigness (Koolhaas, 1994, p. 89) and then in his aphoristic portraits of the Generic City and Junkspace (Koolhass, 1995; 2001). This way renounces compositional tension as outdated – an anachronism – in a new design climate that chases occasions and opportunities.
On the contrary, a second planning attitude continues to consider as necessary and imagines as possible a different territorial re-structuring by a «composition without models» that «tentatively looks for an alternative to fragmentation» (Gabellini, 2001, pp. 207-209) fostered by "scenarios" and "visions" (Secchi, 2003) able to investigate urban transformation, its sense and possible designed future.

2 | Planning issues
Within this framework the lexicon of urban planning has also been renewed and redefined together with the issues and themes that describe its topicality (Pasqui, 2017). A large part of the contemporary planning debate – possibly more than in the past – is marked by words that tend to become brands, slogans, and "fashionable labels" (Bontje and Musterd, 2012, p. 153), a haunting naming process in which the pregnancy of the very words is often consumed and their sense lost as it happened some years ago with the "omni-landscape" stigmatized by Michael Jakob (2009).
This paper focuses on four terms that speak about contemporary urbanism, stylizes their connection, and highlights the distance they produce from the decades – the 1980s and 1990s – that marked the beginning of this new (re-compositional) phase for urban planning. These four terms are regeneration, resilience, shrinkage and heritage.
They are not immediately homogeneous but they converge to outline an original coagulation of themes.
Regeneration is an attitude, a way in interpreting and delineating the transformative action. Resilience is a property, a quality that a system may or may not have. Shrinkage is a phenomenon, a process – the outcome of a process – that has affected and is affecting different urban contexts in the world. Finally, heritage is a concept, a category to define and collect territorial goods that are recognized valuable legacies and considered as potentialities in their persistence within the territorial palimpsest.

Extract from: Bonfantini G. B. (2018), "Urbanism today: converging issues for a re-compositional approach".

This article must be quoted as: Bonfantini G. B. (2018), "Urbanism today: converging issues for a re-compositional approach", Planum. The Journal of Urbanism, Magazine Section, no. 36, vol I/2018, pp. 1-12.