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City and Production in the Crisis Frame. Politecnico di Torino, EPFL Joint Project

In September, will start the research “City and Production” in the Crisis Frame, a joint research project sponsored by the Politecnico di Torino and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and funded by the Compagnia di San Paolo. Below are the abstracts and objectives of the selected project.
The blog will take into account the research activities conducted within this project, closely related to the same workshops promoted at the XX SIU Conference (Rome 2017).


Current production modes pose new issues to the project design and public action. These should meet new requirements by being able to transform a vast spatial, infrastructural and natural capital.

The research aims at advancing the related disciplinary knowledge and the information about new forms of public action. It mainly focuses on the infrastructure schemes in urban lands, intended as a spatial and technological basic condition able to cope with different production scenarios in the urban space. The goal is to redefine those tools, forms of regulation and design, that can support effective public actions in the territories with such coexistence and conflicts between urban and production activities.

To this extend, the project develops on four intersecting levels:

  1. design explorations on selected European areas (i.e. Limburg, Aubervilliers, Lausanne, Turin, Prato, Bruxelles) with the involvement of social and institutional actors (i.e. TNE-Turin and;
  2. the production of scientific reports;
  3. public discussion;
  4. educational activities.

Each level identifies specific goals, actions and outcomes.

The definition of this theme takes advantage of:

– ideas, research hypotheses and practices formulated in more than a decade of experience exchange between Politecnico di Torino (Polito) and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne proponents, witnessed by international publications (i.e. De la différence urbaine, Mētispresses Genève, 2013; Territories in Crisis, Jovis, Berlin 2015);

– a set of researches on the subject, already activated with PhD students and postdocs who set up a cohesive group of young researchers (M. Cerruti But, I. Vassallo, C. Mattioli, R. Sega)

The involvement of the two graduate students on the move is indeed aimed to refine the research hypotheses from different points of views, to organize laboratory activities (i.e. EPFL LAB-U) and ultimately to strengthen the Polito-EPFL’s ties via new scholars.


Assumptions – The production/city relationship has always been dominated by a swinging movement toward, and away from, each other. Observing the relationship between territory and production in the case studies of previous researches, we think we can register now a further, sharper fluctuation: a attraction of production poles by the city, with unprecedented features.

This is the research hypothesis needing certain investigations. The production is here intended as the making of material goods that come back to affect the urban space in coexistence and in conflict with other uses. These new conditions constitute the specific research field. The novel production towards cities’ approach contradicts those dynamics envisaged before the 2007 crisis. It requires an upside down perspective and, at the design and operational level, a specific land infrastructure (discontinued, suspended, once again active for productive uses and not only). The research project reconsiders the infrastructure (soil, water supply, elimination and drainage, etc.) in the sense of spatial and technological support base, able to cope with various production scenarios in the urban space. The emphasis is put on the regulatory, technical and design.

Objective – forms of action – results  – The goal of the research is to redefine tools, forms of regulation and land designs that can support effective public actions in urban areas affected by production sites. The research will last three years (36 months). In this period, four levels of actions are developed:

  1. 2. production of scientific reports;
  2. public discussion platforms (i.e. proposed conferences and workshops);
  3. educational activities.

A defined outcome is assigned to each level:

  1. development of regulatory and planning devices related to the areas of work/outcome: projects developed with the relevant stakeholders;
  2. Publication activities:

– at least three joint papers and essays in A class international journals (i.e. Urban Studies, Sustainability, Territorio, Archivio di Studi Urbani e Regionali)

– an international volume City and Production, Polito-EPFL (i.e. Territories in Crisis, ed. Jovis Berlin, 2015, INTE 2015 main outcome);

  1. hypothesis testing and results presentation: participation in international prestigious conferences (i.e. International Symposium Urbanism of Hope, Lausanne, October 2018; Annual Methodological Seminar to be held at the centre Habitat-Epfl, in March 2019 – P. Viganò is coordinator of the centre Habitat – ; International Seminar C&P, Turin, Polito-EPFL, September 2020) and publications on ISI and A Class reviews.
  2. Educational activities: implement knowledge transfer and outcomes dissemination via

– Doctoral Seminar to be held at EPFL in December 2017

– Excellence course to be held at SCUDO (Politecnico di Torino’s PhD school, in April 2018);

– Masterclass at Politecnico di Torino in June 2019 (i.e. Reindustrializing Europe, Iuav, June 2016, forthcoming in Territorio A class Journal)

Public discussion moments will serve as a check of our results with a two-fold audience: the relevant stakeholders of case-study areas, and the international scientific community (mainly in the 1 year).

Implications on issues of the european urban agenda – comparison with similar international research – We believe that the proposed rethinking of city/production relationship is very much relevant within the European Urban Agenda. Such issue is returning to be central in the disciplinary debate and could benefit from new regulatory and procedural devices. The project tends to confront itself with the advanced front of international research in urban areas, attentive to the topic also in the 14th session of the European competition about “Villes productives” (i.e. Paola Viganò is in the international jury)

Cultural perspective – The cultural perspective of this research is at the frontier of the discipline, dealing with emerging issues of economic and social nature which urge renewed regulatory and planning tools. Within this perspective it appears crucial:

  • to be equipped with a strong knowledge background, as well as appropriate tools and techniques meeting these new requirements. Every time a conceptual shift is proposed, the history of related knowledge field is rewritten. This means we have to come back to carefully observe the ways by which the city/production relationship was articulated in the modern premises of our discipline
  • to identify tools, forms of regulation and designs that can support public action in those areas which are (or have been) affected by production sites. This means to foster a wide reflection on the design of a public action that can bring together different policies: town planning and economic, social, fiscal.


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