The forest as heritage

Valentina Puglisi, Politecnico di Milano, Italy

Marco Introini, Photographer, Italy

Imagining the future has always been the task of architects, but do they still have the tools to do it?

Giancarlo De Carlo had no doubts. By definition, the role of the architect is to prefigure the future, to persuade others of their reasons, to design what still does not exist, and to coordinate the various results so they can be implemented. De Carlo was certainly aware of his position within society and felt the capacity to imagine and design the future as his own (Lima, 2020).

Today, radical climate change and a severe lack of resources imply a complex situation which design and planning activities should address in the near future.Due to human-induced climate change, today we are living in the Anthropocene epoch (Crutzen, 2006).

According to data from the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, the building sector was responsible for 36% of glob-al energy consumption and 39% of atmospheric CO2 emissions in 2019 (Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, 2019).With the growing population and consequences of climate change, sustainable architecture is considered one of today’s main challenges. Engineers and architects are contributing to reducing waste, maximizing building efficiency, and incorporating recyclable materials within structures, as well as harmonically blending new constructions into the surrounding environment. As humans, we have always adapted our existence in the world through objects and tools, constructing spaces to give a (precise) shape to the image of the future environment in which we will live.Today, however, we are overpowered by a feeling of accelerating time, technological transformation, and a rapidly changing society, creating worry and deep expectations at the same time1.In fact, it is clear that with the great spread of digital technologies, the project culture is undergoing significant changes (Lucarelli, 2020).

Today the architectural project lies at the centre of discussion as a complex phenomenon capable of summarizing scientific, social, political, and cultural points of view at a time when the anthropocentric perspective has radically changed our approach to the environment, construction, technology, and materials, given their impact and effects on the scarcity of resources.Sandra Piesik confirms the need for a new holistic, multidisciplinary approach that knows how to blend modern advantages with solutions developed by humans over the millennia. Only thus will it be possible to address challenges of this type. The keyword for the future is “adaptation”: «If we do not want to be struck by the most devastating effects of climate change, we have to take a holistic approach that integrates the benefits of modernity with the solutions developed by humanity over millennia. To do this, more multidisciplinarity and interaction among different bodies of knowledge are needed» (Piesik, 2017).Nature-based solutions (NBS) are systems that provide cities with Climate Changemultiple services and represent a way to address urban problems with a holistic approach. These are defined by the European Com-mission as «solutions inspired and supported by nature […] de-signed to address various societal challenges efficiently through adaptation to the resources and to simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits» (Bauduceau et al., 2015).

Nature-based solutions represent emerging, innovative tools to ad-dress urban environmental and social challenges.«Adaptation to climate change profoundly deconstructs the planning of urban projects and architecture, inviting us to introduce risk in the various phases of city programming, planning, design, and construction through a more holistic approach among areas of knowledge» (Manigrasso, 2012).The international scientific community, and the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) in particular, now largely recognize that the decisive, specific contribution of human activities has become superimposed on the natural cyclic mutations that have historically occurred in previous millennia. At the centre of this scenario is the city, the place where the main human activities are conducted and where the population is concentrated; the place where the effects are most severe due to the prevalence of artificial objects over nature, and therefore where resilience must be ensured by humans themselves.The report by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC, 2018) confirms that a rapid decarbonization of 50% by 2030 and of 100% by 2050 will be necessary to avoid a climate catastrophe.

These challenges affect daily existence in the biosphere and require the alignment of short-term design actions with long-term objectives. Many cities around the world have introduced the issue of climate change in their urban policies (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, London, Rotterdam, etc.), creating original tools (climate plans, adaptation plans, sustainability plans, etc.) in which a complex palimpsest of adaptation strategies has been organized.Among the programming points presented at COP25 in Madrid (UN Climate Change Conference), the following may be cited: growing awareness in the building production chain to identify the new competencies necessary for professionals to organize architectural, urban and landscape projects on the premise of sustainability; aiming to be key representatives to ensure that cities and infrastructure are designed in accordance with international objectives, in particular considering the 2030 Agenda for Sustain-able Development and the European Roadmap 2050; requesting that the National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change (Piano Nazionale di Adattamento ai Cambiamenti Climatici, PNACC) be updated; building an open-source database of materials, technologies, detailed solutions, and innovations available for the profession and feeding exchange with the business world.


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University of Florence

University of Florence


The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy