Architecture of reconciliation. Co-evolutionary processes between communities and inner territories

From Firenze University Press Journal: Ri-Vista

University of Florence
3 min readMay 23, 2023

Francesco Airoldi, MSc in Architecture and Urban Design, Politecnico di Milano

Giulia Azzini, MSc in Architecture and Urban Design, Politecnico di Milano

Co-evolution: the role of architecture in the recon-ciliation of communities and territories in fragile contexts

Co-evolution refers to the relationship of evolution-ary dependence between different species, each a necessary condition for the development of the other. The term refers specifically to the concepts of transformation (the development and growth of a species), diversity (different species as a sub-ject) and relationship (interdependence among spe-cies). The concept is of paramount importance now-adays, considering the urgency of issues related to the planet’s transformations and the growing hard-ships affecting ever larger segments of the world’s population. These circumstances translate, in contexts such as inner areas where the natural component is preponderant, into a concrete fracture be-tween communities and territories that highlights a profound identity crisis of places (De Rossi, 2018, p.5), characterized by numerous fragilities deter-mined by depopulation phenomena.The study of the Italian inner areas is a crucial re-search field for the Country, based on themes of National and European relevance with a strong territorial vocation.

Related theoretical debate is gain-ing traction not only in policy or planning, but also in the disciplines of architectural and landscape de-sign. Identified as places significantly distant from the centers of availability of essential services, the Italian inner areas constitute most of the Nation-al territory, including 51.1% of the municipalities, 58.2% of the surface area and 19.8% of the resident population (Cucinella, 2018, p. 263). These contexts are configured as an archipelago of small isolated centers (ivi, p.15) with a predominantly mountainous or hilly landscape, an important historical-cultural heritage and relevant natural and environmental components. The latter aspects, specifically, de-note a strong relevance of contexts to the discipline of landscape architecture, allowing to imagine a greater social, cultural and aesthetic impact of de-sign on the identity of places. However, they present strong topics of criticality related to socio-economic opportunities, low levels of income and productivity, environmental and seismic risks, demo-graphic aging, depopulation and poor maintenance of buildings and landscape (Carrosio, Faccini, 2018, p. 66), features that determine a large number of discomforts and consequently lead individuals to accept a series of compromises to be inhabitants. Next to the traditional fragilities, which increasing-ly exacerbate the co-evolutionary and co-existential hiatus discussed above, Italian peripheries are now facing new challenges. On the one hand, the environmental and climate emergency is causing dras-tic changes, which make it increasingly evident that the keys to sustainable development of the plan-et and the survival of metropolitan cities must be sought in rural contexts (Koolhaas, 2020, pp. 2–4); on the other hand, the pandemic period has widened the gap between urbanized and inner areas, increasing the urgency of interventions for territorial cohesion (Lupatelli, 2021, pp. 17–22).

In the population-territory pair, which can refer more generally to the human-nature pair, architecture seems to occupy an important position, representing a promising connection between the two elements. Conceiving architectural design as a means for the development of marginal contexts affect-ed by fragilities by demonstrating the relevance of the quality of space (open or interior, public or private, etc.), means taking an essential first step to-ward the reconciliation of the two spheres, to reconstitute the broken link explained above. To do this, it is necessary to follow a methodology sensitive to transversal issues (e.g. digitization, sustainable transition, infrastructure, quality of the built envi-ronment etc.), to the multi-scalarity and multidis-ciplinarity of themes, to the specificity of the places and to the participatory community dynamics. The goal is to best investigate the most effective design languages and tools to re-establish a co-existential and co-evolutionary relationship between settle-ments, territory and inhabitants.But, first of all, we need to open a parenthesis on the meaning of the relationship between man and nature, the implications it has had in the thinking of recent centuries, and thus on the approach to reality by those who design architecture.


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