EFA studio di architettura

Architecture Technology

Designing and building the healthy city

Emilio Faroldi
Editions Unicopli

The spa city, a place of healing but also of recreational and spectacular events, takes on a very special role in the western urban panorama due to its characteristic of being a "foundation city", recognisable in an architectural language that, once it had waned, accompanied its identity crisis, which has not yet been resolved. The history of cities is increasingly the history of cities, that is, investigations of different and individual cases through peculiar narratives that trace the signs of the origin, development, transformation or decadence of the processes underway, to then project future outcomes through new economic, social and environmental projects, in a rapidly changing scenario. A no longer static conception of the city's history accompanies today an urban and architectural project that wants to dialectically confront the transformations underway and propose sustainable intervention hypotheses that are adequate to the new demands of environmental, functional, technological and even aesthetic quality, within a framework of economic and management compatibility. Such an attitude requires overcoming mechanistic and scalar approaches, from the plan to the project, from urban planning to architecture, from composition to technology, from politics to management, using different methodologies that allow the prefiguration of multi-scalar and multi-disciplinary hypotheses, with the use of new knowledge for more articulated and reliable project simulations. The settlements of Salsomaggiore Terme and Tabiano Bagni, taken as a context for investigation, analysis and design proposals, lend themselves paradigmatically to highlighting the relationship between the peculiarities of a site, the specificity of transformative actions and conceptualisations of a more general nature, as well as design applications. There are many explicit references to the complex debate on the crisis of the city, understood in this case as a newly founded city with original characters in rapid mutation; a debate that winds through the crisis of its social identity, of the fruition and temporal canons that connected an idea of health not separated from leisure and aesthetic function. Salsomaggiore therefore appeared to be a stimulating laboratory for reconstructing links, questioning what had been lost, possible redemptions, and also the close confrontation with the beauty of places and architecture, in the absence of an incisive will to propose on the part of contemporary planners, town planners and architects. What emerges is a framework of references for relaunching hypotheses and approaches that have for too long been generically invoked but scarcely put into practice: the concept of health and wholesomeness of the urban environment in particular, the close connection between urban and architectural design, a different dimension of hospitality and residency for leisure and entertainment, the care of the body and mind through the perception of the beauty of places, environments and landscapes, and the enjoyment of entertainment and cultural events.