The Italian approach: premises, developments and prospects
Nicola Marzot discusses the importance of building type in urban design practice
In Italy, the application of the concept of building type in urban design practice has been systematically affected by the overwhelming importance placed on the culture of historic centres. From its theoretical inception in the early 1960s, morphogenetic analysis of the historic core was used as a source of design guidance helpful to current practice. The aim was to draw a contrast with the lack of ‘urbanity’ of peripheral areas produced by applying the principles of the Modern Movement: functional zoning; social segregation by role and income; low densities; ‘universal’ building types; dissolution of both traditional patterns of public space and structural relations with the existing urban settlement.
As opposed to the ‘anonymous uniformity’ induced by the widespread industrial interpretation of urban morphology, the notion of the ‘genius loci’ was seized as a basis for summarising a commonly shared aspiration to new ideals: a strong integration of different functions and social classes; high density to avoid wasteful use of land and to intensify individual relations; the creation of continuous urban blocks by mutual arrangement of building types; the recovery of a close relation between building features and urban voids; the reuse and transformation of existing types, updating them to accommodate new needs, and more attention in general focused on deriving operative suggestions for new building features from the past.