USI experts sought by public planners for the visions of Ticino's urban agglomerations

Aerial view of the Lugano agglomeration (image: TI-PRESS)
Aerial view of the Lugano agglomeration (image: TI-PRESS)

Institutional Communication Service

12 January 2021

Master plan, Zoning, Smart City... In Ticino there are a number of ways and systems to address the issue of city planning, which all point in the same direction, that is to (re)organise urban districts in the best possible way, an objective made even more relevant following the ongoing urban agglomeration processes. The complexity of these processes requires interdisciplinary approaches, in some cases supported by international as well as local visions. For the projects iin progress in the two largest urbann districts in Ticino, Bellinzona and Lugano, "planning consortia" have been created, which flank the "traditional" figures - urban planners, architects, engineers - with experts from other fields, such as economists, geographers or sociologists.

Urban planning at the municipal level in Ticino was previously mostly a task assigned to local city officials. The changes that have taken place in our society over the last few decades, both in quantitative terms (growth of population, of industrial settlements, etc.) and in qualitative terms (new aspects to be considered such as environmental and landscape protection, better quality of life, etc.), have made this activity much more complex, multiplying the variables involved. The consequence is that public authorities increasingly resort to heterogeneous "groups" of experts - many of them external - as an aid in the formulation of visions of urban development capable of satisfying and balancing the interests and expectaions of all those involved. Agglomeration processes, moreover, have made things even more relevant.

Lecturer and researcher at the USI Faculty of Economics Dr. Barbara Antonioli Mantegazzini explains, "the use of interdisciplinary groups which, in addition to bringing their own vision, support and interact with representatives of the public officials, makes it possible to put at the service of the latter strong professional skills, often matured through the development of similar projects in national and international contexts. The final result is typcially incorporated in a document that outlines the strategic directions of territorial development for the following decades. These groups provide an external, neutral point of view, to be combined with the expectations of the public authorities and the population, with whom they relate during their work".  


Urban planning and USI expertise in architecture, and more

Local authorities have often reached out to experts from USI for urban projects, and not only to the well-known urban planners and architects from the USI Academy of Architecture. In 2008, for instance, the International Competition of Ideas for Urban Planning Pian Scairolo (CIPPS), won by the project GreenSKYrolo, the jury was chaired by economist Prof. Rico Maggi of the USI Institute for Economic Research. In 2018, the City of Bellinzona, in the context of the so-called Parallel Study Mandate (MSP) for the design of the Municipal Action Program (PAC) for spatial planning in the new agglomeration of Bellinzona, appointed a panel of experts in charge of selecting the interdisciplinary groups that would then carry out the mandate. The panel included architect Riccardo Blumer, today Director of the USI Academy in Mendrisio, and USI economist Barbara Antonioli Mantegazzini.


Visions and international "teams" for Lugano

In September, the Board of Experts identified three groups responsible for the design of a vision of territorial and urban development of the City of Lugano for the next two decades. One of these groups is headed by KCAP Architects & Planners and is formed by a 'team' of professionals, including Architects Tibiletti Associati, Claudio Ferrata, mavo, Studio Habitat, ARUP, IBV, AIDEC and also Dr. Antonioli Mantegazzini as chief economist. "My task is to enhance the so-called 'territorial capital', i.e. the sum of social and human capital," Barbara Antonioli explains. "This 'capital' is made of material and immaterial resources, not easily reproducible, which constitute the exclusive assets of a territorial system (underscoring, thus, its attractiveness). We are talking about infrastructure, services, knowledge, creativity, entrepreneurship, natural resources, architectural heritage, social relations, collective know-how, sense of belonging, social cohesion, urbanism, etc. The territory should not be a container in which public and private actors operate as separate entities, but rather an organised system of productive companies, services, administrations and people. In this sense, the territory assumes its own responsibility for development".