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Architecture for a Creative City - Piacenza Towards Expo

The theme and the context

In order to give a continuity to the International Summer School and to be in touch with contemporary issues of urban and architectural debate, OC OPEN CITY is presenting for 2014-2015 editions a common program which, starting from urban creativity is opening itself to 2015 Milano Expo main event, with a constant relationship, both real and virtual, and through a speculation about contamination among architecture and resources’ use.

In this line, the theme chosen for the International Exhibition «Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life» is a reference corner-stone, assuming the architectural and urban design as more and more tied with energetic issues and sustainability, in a wide sense.

These are titles for next 2 editions of OC International Summer School:

- 2014 Architectures for a Creative City – Piacenza Towards Expo

- 2015 Regenerating Expo areas and buildings: energies, recycle, sustainability.

2014 edition will assume words Creativity and Innovation as key-words. Specifically, the School (as workshop and as site and occasion of conferences, lectures and debates) will be focused to design an architecture oriented to be exhibited and showed, during Expo period.

But it’s not just a question of design or detail or technological issues. During International Summer School, the design of the architectural element will be integrated in a complex process, rich of cultural references, which can be synthetized in the next points:


«Great events» (both exhibition and sport) are becoming, year after year, unique (and so rare) occasions for transformation and regeneration of cities. The theory and the history of contemporary architecture would not be the same without the experience of Barcelona 1992. Torino would not be the city that we can know today without 2006 Winter Olympic Games. In Expo 2010, Shanghai had a great amount of urban transformation that is unbelievable in contemporary Europe.
These are just 3 cases capable to communicate the significance of 2015 Milano Expo. Discussion about these themes and about these dynamics can become for students involved in OC International Summer School a strong moment of consciousness and of comparison with International examples.


Relationships of the Expo area with the city are not just a topical issues, mainly about urban design, but also a discussion point in OC Summer School 2014. One-million-square-meters area, completely surrounded by roads and motorways, so close with Milano city center, is a litmus test for the role architecture and urban design can recover in large European cities future transformations.

In 2007 Milano application the structure of the site (designed by 5+1AA) was characterized by national pavilions together with thematic ones and by a 200-metres-high skyscraper. In the following concept plan (2009 by Boeri, Burdett, Herzog and MacDonough) the main axis (1.500 meters long for a length of 35 meters) was confirmed but a new idea was launched: not a sequence of pavilions, but agricultural fields and greenhouses.

The most innovative aspect of this idea was abandoned in the final project, with a water canal, 4-km-long, surrounding the Expo area, and a 20-meters-high hill, which is now under construction: it’s a digital smart city, with a strong technological approach and with sustainable elements.

National pavilions are still the main point of the Expo and the host countries are ready to “fight” for the most innovative and identity architectures.


Every student group involved in OC, guided by international teachers and tutors, will be called to work about 3 main issues that are going to be integrated in the final project of Politecnico pavilion for the city of Piacenza during Expo period:

Land: connection with soil and ground, both in urban contexts – the city – and in industrial, agricultural or natural environments;

Water: relationship with the river, topical element of Piacenza territorial morphology, but also with the canals that are spread and structuring the close agricultural fields;

Air: link with energy but also with communications oriented to the research and to the development of sustainable energies.

Projects will be oriented, as deeply explained in the next pages of this dossier, to build thematic pavilions in different contexts and conditions.
In this way, the design exercise is never forgetting link between architectural level and the urban and landscape one, summarizing in the project itself, the wide complexity of our disciplinary field.


OC International Summer School final projects are going to be works, not only complex, but also shared and participated, able to unify, around the same design process, different professionals and figures: students, tutors, teachers.
But also some visiting professors, who were called for the occasion from different International schools: some of them are already collaborating with Politecnico di Milano.

In this way the final results (and the final project for the Piacenza pavilion) will be a design of the whole School of Architecture and Society at Piacenza Campus of Politecnico di Milano.
Words by Christine Losecaat, creative director of UK pavilion, are recommending us a direction of research: “We hope that the winner project is able to forecast a legacy - physical, virtual and made of experiences – to be used for future events all over the world”.


2015 OC edition will be in September, during last Expo period (the closing of the Exhibition is planned for 2015, October, the 31s). Nowadays, very few points are sure about post-Expo stage. We don’t know future destiny of different pavilions: re-use? re-cycle? dismantling?

But the same uncertain condition is about the whole area hosting the Expo: there are many hypothesis but not clear decisions.
Also about these issues, the recent history of cities with great events can help us: from Sevilla 1992 to Shanghai 2010, we had very diverse outcomes.

In some cases area – and some buildings – became part of the city.
Visiting some others we are facing with an archaeology of remnants, with a (fascinating) short-circuit among past and future.
In this line 2015 workshop will be focused about issues of re-use, re-generation and re- giving a meaning to pavilions built for Expo, researching also an urban role which can be independent by their own current dimensions linked with the exhibition.