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The cultural zone : shape the void in the solid city

Kejdi Lulja

The cultural zone : shape the void in the solid city.

Rel. Silvia Malcovati, Christian Rapp, Haike Apelt. Politecnico di Torino / Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura Costruzione Città, 2015



The present thesis is the result of a year-lasting collaboration between the Polytechnic University of Turin and the Eindhoven Technical University’s Chair of Rational Architecture, with Professor Silvia Malcovati as Italian Supervisor and Professor Christian Rapp together with Haike Apelt as Dutch Supervisors. The exchange project, called “Gran Torino Graduation Studio”, focused on the city of Turin and involved sixteen students of both universities. Starting from a typo-morphological analysis, the research investigates the architecture of the city from its Roman past until the most recent times. The thesis ends with sixteen individual projects developed by each student according to the different questions and issues arisen from the first analysis part.

The researches carried out in the first semester led to the publication of the Gran Torino Atlas, which provides a complete overview on the development of the city together with those significant architectural transformations that shaped the urban space along the centuries.

The first months of work were mainly dedicated to the above mentioned publication: each of the teams, made up of an Italian student and a Dutch one, dealt with one of the different chapters that the Atlas consists of. Within the Program the Italian students were given the chance to spend five months in Eindhoven to continue working on the individual topic and at the same time collaborating with the Dutch students in a proficuous and stimulating environment. It was the opportunity to learn a different approach and methodoloy about design, what we can recognize today as the "Dutch method".

Following the schedule of the Graduation Studio, I will introduce my thesis with the research theme and than explain the theoretical and design answers.

The first steps I moved towards a theme for the thesis started from a personal interest for a particular area of Turin, and during the work for the third chapter of the Gran Torino Atlas, focused on the transformations of the public spaces of Turin.

The area chosed for the research were the blocks along via Verdi, and in particular the one of S. Antonio Abate, today empty, and the one of S. Tobaldo, wer sited Palazzo Nuovo.

Although the chosen area is in the central part of Tui called La Zona di Comando, it wasn't deeply analyzed in the Atlas because of its difficulty to be classified a chronological organization, like the one of the Atlas. Nowadays the via Verdi presents several lacks, from the point of view of the architecture, but also from the users one who tried to improve what the municipality wasn't able to renovate.

My interest, and the interest of the usual users of this area, is motivated by the public values that via Verdi contains, from the University facilities, the museums. A promenade of public buildings connection to each other.

Because of this characteristic and potential situation I chosed to focus the design in this area, and t to improve the public spaces of this, starting from the historical examples of shaping the void with architecture.

The interest for the theme of shaping the public space in the solid city derives from a lecture the Prof. Fritz Neumeyer held in March 2014 in Dortmund. The concept of the city recalled by the German professor was the same as the one Alberti refers to in his books: the city is like a house, with walls that define the public space, enclose environments and organize the sequence of rooms in a hierarchical way.

The importance of a density which stregthens the void within the city was highlighted by Rob Krier and Colin Rowe. In this regard, it must be mentioned the comparison that Rowe's made between the Unité d’Habitation and the Galleria degli Uffizi, the fragmentation of the city and the continuity with the past.

My awareness about the transformation of the city as a process driven by the economical and social condition grew thanks to the in-depth research I made for the chapter The evolution of public space during the Napoleonic wars and the Restoration, part of the Gran Torino Atlas.

Those conditions brought to a very complex and articulated morphology based on a rational connection of the Royal’s estate and an organic distribution of public spaces, mostly present in the city center.

The conditions of via Verdi are strongly related to the public and istitutional changes, but since the first projects the design was oriented towards an educational vocation, since it housed the Accademia dei Paggi until the University of Turin.

The research began with an historical analysis of the Zona di Comando area, in order to re-organize the historical layers with a critical interpretation.

This analysis is focused on the main public blocks, trying to get the most important transformation that contributed to the definition of an homogeneous zone. The analysis will conclude with the actual situation caused mostly by the cultural situation represented by the competition of 1952 for the "Cultural Zone". This turning point transformed via Verdi with functionalist works substiantally in contrast with the historical complex. With those historical tools and information I chosed to start from this competition for my design, searching for and alternative to the actual situation for the whole via Verdi, focusing on the blocks of S. Antonio Abate and S. Teobaldo.

Nevertheless, in order to understand what the public space represent and how it changes depending on the cultural and historical situation, I needed to create a theoretical base for my design starting from the roots of the public spaces.

For this reason the second chapter starts from the concepts of public and private, and than through the book Urban Space, by Rob Krier, and the origins of the first public elements: the squares and the streets.

The definitions of those spaces in the history changed with the societies, but two main sociological categories could be found quoting the expressions made in 1897 by Tonnies: the Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. As explained in the book The Public and Private Space of the City, by Madanipour, the first one represent the continuity with tradition and the natural growth of the cultures, and the second the individualistic modernity. Those figures of continuity and fragmentation will be used with the Bernardo Secchi's terms of explaining the changes of the public spaces.

In the third chapter the historical informations and the theoretical ones leaded to a definition of the area as a whole Cultural Zone, in other words an Inner City Campus. The nowadays campuses, as presented in the book Campus and the City, are changing towards a densification and a clear definition of the boundaries. A radical transformation from the fragmentation movement of the modernist functionalism.

In order to define a campus, or heterotopia, as defined by Desplazes quoting Foucault, I fixed three guidelines, exemplified in three analyzed spots.

The principles will be part of the design of a new public space in the S. Teobaldo block, combining them with the historical traces and the reference of Piazza Palazzo di Città, the former Roman forum of Turin. The architecture of the new Piazza is generated from the outside to the inside, redefining new strong traces erased by the modernism and taking the Cavallerizza and the Rettorato as examples of an homogeneous monumentality.

This project wants to reaffirm how the continuity with the most important tradition of urban morphology can give a new meaning for an area which had lost his identity of public realm.

In the fourth chapter the concept of shaping the void is transposed throughout all the scales, from the urban connections to the construction detail of the buildings. This last step is defined by the study about a stereotomic architecture (stereos as solid, and tomia, as cut), an architecture which defines ambients with masses and voids.

These concepts are also used to emphasize the important functions like the public library, an ideal focal point for a Campus, a container of knowledge and culture metaphorically built by the light and the masses.

Relators: Silvia Malcovati, Christian Rapp, Haike Apelt
Publication type: Printed
Subjects: A Architettura > AF Buildings and equipment for leisure, social activities, sport
U Urbanistica > UK Pianificazione urbana
Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura Costruzione Città
Classe di laurea: UNSPECIFIED
Aziende collaboratrici: UNSPECIFIED
URI: http://webthesis.biblio.polito.it/id/eprint/4299


1 Chapter Historical Step Historical Context

1.1 Public blocks transformations

2 Chapter

The public space

2.1 The public and private space: from the body to the city

2.2 Continuity and fragmentation

2.3 The forum of Turin

2.4 Secularization and fragmentation of the city

3 Chapter

The Cultural Zone

3.1 The educational vocation

3.2 The Campus and the city

3.3 The cultural heterotopia

4 Chapter

The Porta Verdi

4.1 The architectural tools

4.2 The Piazza of Porta Verdi

4.3 The future Library

4.4 A stereotomic architecture

5 Chapter Conclusions

Image reference




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