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Centenary paper: A brief history of Italian town planning after 1945

Author(s): Giorgio Piccinato

Source: The Town Planning Review, Vol. 81, No. 3 (2010), pp. 237-259
Published by: Liverpool University Press
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TPR, 81 (3| 2010 do:10.3828/lpr.2010.1

Giorgio Piccinato

Centenary paper

A brief history of Italian town planning

after 1945

This paper explores and relates the changing social and economic context to the particular national
themes of Italian town planning since 1945, including case-specific aspects and ideologies, practices
and models. It begins with a consideration of the immediate reconstruction efforts after 1 945 before
turning to the issues of urbanisation, land speculation and real estate markets from the 1 950s with which

town planners from the left had to contend; the examples of plans for Assisi, Rome and the historic centre

of Bologna are examined. The 1 970s brought about a centre-left realignment and considerable innova-
tion in the discipline, although the growth of industrial districts and development pressures on the historic

fabric of towns provided challenges with which practice found it difficult to deal. From the 1990s the
introduction of new, complex programmes with EU links began to weaken the traditional strength of the

master plan concept and innovations in local administration and new issues, such as landscape conserva-
tion, have emerged together with an awakened public interest.

An outline discussion of the history of Italian town planning after the Second World
War requires the examination of a number of factors, each of which contributes
to defining its characteristics. First and foremost, we must examine the social and
economic context, relating this together with other themes that emerged on a case-by-
case basis and with ideologies, practices and models. As will be seen, these elements
relate post- 1945 Italian town planning to wider European research and practice and
to the transformations that accompany the global political and economic panorama.
Given the vast number of cultural, social and economic networks that characterise,
standardise and cross the discipline's field of action today, the exploration of these
relationships is perhaps less surprising to readers than they would have been in 1945.
There is, however, one obstacle to further understanding the period better: namely, the
trend towards the exclusive use of research published in English which often results in
the loss of information, in some cases of significant importance, and above all, adds
to the difficulty of understanding the atmosphere within which planning debate has
developed historically in Italy.1

Giorgio Piccinato is a Professor in and Head of the Dipartimento di Studi Urbani, Universita degli Studi Roma Tre,
Via Madonna dei Monti 40, Rome, Italy; email: piccinat@unir0ma3.it

Paper submitted April 2009; revised paper received and accepted January 2010.

1 With one relevant exception, thanks to Town Planning Review, an article by Giovanni Astengo in 1952 gives a
passionate account of Italian planners' difficulties and achievements at that time.

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238 Giorgio Piccinato

The national and international context of Reconstruction

Ravaged by war from Sicily to the Alps, and aggravated from the end of 1943 by
a ferocious civil war, accompanied by massacres and vendettas, Italy after 25 April
1945 was a heavily damaged country. The country's built patrimony had been heavily
reduced; many industrial areas were damaged and out of commission; the commu-
nications infrastructure - primarily roads and railways - was largely inoperative. And
yet the decade that followed would later be referred to as the miracolo italiano (Italian
miracle). Between 1945 and the mid-1950s, Italy underwent an upheaval that would
define its characteristics for many years to come and set the stage for its current position
among the world's most economically advanced countries. All this was made possible
by a number of decisive political decisions, including membership of the European
Community, adhesion to th Western Block and NATO and state participation in the
development of a strong industrial and banking system.
The 1945-55 period was also witness to the affirmation, according to the most
credible sources, of the so-called 'dualist' model, within which Italy's national frame-
work appeared to be synthetically represented by clear oppositions: by the industri-
alised north versus the agricultural south; by modern capitalism in the north and semi-
feudal society in the south; and by a rapidly growing urban system versus a declining
rural one. Heavy industries (steel and petrochemicals) and manufacturing (motor
vehicles, appliances and fabrics), characterised by a significant increase in production
and the workforce, were at the base of the country's development (Graziani, 1979).
The housing sector was another sector fundamental to the Reconstruction period.
The country's residential stock, already insufficient before the war, suffered the loss
of over three million rooms. The development of the real estate market became
functional to industrial development; it reduced unemployment, offered entry-level
work for unqualified labourers, presenting them with alternative methods of working,
in addition to providing a response to the growing demand to house the urban popula-
tion. What is more, it spurred the growth of urban land revenues, which were trans-
formed into the economic and political power that conditioned Italian town planning
for many years (Salzano, 1998).
Italy's radical post-war process of reconstruction and transformation was accom-
panied by a vast migration from under-developed areas - primarily the rural country-
side towards the city, from inland areas towards coastal settlements and from the south
to the north. This led to strong regional imbalances: in 1961, 5.7 million people (11.4
per cent of the entire population) lived in a region different than that in which they
were born. The wholesale transfer of the workforce from agriculture to industry, in
many cases the manifestation of the desire to escape from the countryside, coupled
with a heightened level of natural growth, led to a significant increase in the urban
population, for the most part concentrated in large cities: in the 1950s, Milan grew by

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1 945 239

30 per cent and Turin by 37 per cent (Mioni, 1976). The immediate post-war
also saw the beginning of the largest building programme the country had e
In 1949, the Government promoted its Provvedimenti per incrementare l'occupa
operaia agevolando la costruzione di case per i lavoratori* a programme that remain
for 14 years (supported by an obligatory withholding on worker's salaries). Althou
primary objective was that of relieving unemployment, the programme also
itself to be an important instrument for the diffusion of a modern culture of arc
ture and town planning (Di Biagi, 2001). Baptised with the name INA3 Casa, th
tive experimented with new typologies and initiated a debate about neighbou
while constructing not only housing but also services and public spaces.
The programme called on numerous young architects and engineers (altho
the programme was directed, with great skill, by an architect who had ear
fame under the Fascists) who imported experiences from Britain, the Neth
and Scandinavia. Their approach to design was differentiated from the rigid
the International Style and the German Siedlung of the 1920s and 1930s, wh
been the inspiration for many of the neighbourhoods designed by Italy's m
architects under the Fascists, opting instead for an attentive consideration
spaces and traditions. The new interventions were widely distributed across
(some 2500 communities in 1951; Bottini, 2001) and reached out for different
any case, less-radical solutions. The most striking and famous example is that
Tiburtino neighbourhood in Rome, where a group of young and not-so-young
tects, strictly Communist in their convictions, developed a style of buildings
termed 'neo-realist' (in parallel with Italian cinema from the same period), usin
derived from popular rather than researched architecture, in an attempt to
the alienation experienced by local residents with respect to modernity (INCI
Quaroni, 1957; Casciato, 2000).

The Left, town planners and building speculation: the

example of Comunit
Curiously enough, given the other demands on its time and resources at th
of the Second World War in 1942, the Italian Government had enacted
advanced national planning law, in line with the ethical and disciplinary pr
of international culture. The 1942 Law extended the master plan to all part
country's municipalities with the implementation of these plans to be defined
detailed plans. It also introduced the idea of the inter-municipal plan. The ne
lation resulted in the constitution of a coherent sequence of plans at differen

2 Policies for increasing employment by assisting the construction of housing for labourers.

3 INA: Istituto nazionale delle assicurazione (Italian National Institute for Insurance)
4 INCIS: Istituto Nazionale per le case degli impiegati dello Stato (Government Employees Housing Institute)

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240 Giorgio Piccinato

that would allow for a c

(Campos Venuti and Oliv
It must be said, however,
tion in Italy: the 1865 leg
public use, in reality layi
transformation of the ci
tradition of public housing
(Public Housing Institute
tested instruments of in
the 1930s, at the height
was implemented, involv
converted into an agric
relevant number of new
employment (Mariani, 19
Urbanisation, constructi
to promise a vast field of
tecture or engineering -
organised space coincided
to be rediscovered throug
the consensus that must
in the over-excited, post
represented a sort of pas
territorial space (Fabbri, 19
condition in which it fou
the Resistance, architects
garde promoters of a pro
experiences of planning
foreign designers, issues
over two decades focused
cratic apparatus that was
1980; Tafuri, 1984; Olmo
However, there was one
and the Movimento di C
generous - and for a peri
town planning towards an
was strongly rooted in 'ter
manner permitted throu
sciences (Olivetti, 1949).
the United States and since
returning from Switzerl

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1 945 241

among the top producers of office equipment in the world, he created Comun
cultural and political movement with strongly federalist overtones.
Adriano Olivetti operated at 360o in the fields of design (in which the n
Olivetti rapidly became famous), architecture - transforming the city of
home to his factories, into a sort of workshop of modern architecture - and
planning. He implemented a series of pilot studies in the area around Ivrea fo
on defining a policy of programming and development that involved some of It
most well-known intellectuals. Olivetti also created a publishing house, Comunit
printed classics in cultural sociology, including works by Park, Burgess and McK
Mumford, Weber and Simmel, as well as a magazine of the same name. He beli
strongly in the need for democratic and technologically advanced planning to a
a humanly sustainable method of development. He worked with different plans, test
his theories locally and in the poorest parts of Southern Italy, where he support
creation of model agricultural villages (Figure 1). Olivetti also served as presid
of the Istituto nazionale d'urbanistica (Italian Town Planning Institute) and partic
in various elections that demonstrated the popularity of Comunit at the local
although the movement was soundly defeated at the national level. Italian societ
this time was still separated by the divisions imposed by the Gold War and the
no place for a political movement of outsiders.

rigure I La Martella, a public housing neighbourhood near Matera (southern Italy) by L U

and others (1951). Here the attempt was to maintain some of the local flavour for the poor
previously living in the caves surrounding the city. Today those caves (once depicted as a 'n
shame'), sometimes closed by beautiful baroque faades, are highly appreciated by a new
middle class. Source: A. Terranova, (ed.), Ludovico Quoroni. Architetture per cinquant'anni. R
Gangemi, 1985, p. 184

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242 Giorgio Piccinato

Italy, destined to be gov

respond to the calls of t
1942 Town Planning Law
the Reconstruction Plan,
of municipal territories
municipalities, placed on
adopt these plans in three
cations, tax breaks and ac
real estate sector with th
policies but also and abov
The municipalities, devoid
to control new building,
when it pleased. A lack of
these new areas of expans
public transport develope
generously supported by
direct relationship to dist
a continuous increase in t
expressed by a growing
revenue, and its translat
became, for many years, t
forced to fight, with the
plans that would never t
inhabitable than they ha

Master plans: beautiful

There is no doubt that It
the mid-1960s by so-call
that was expressed prim
primarily with the use of
For the most part it was
and business centres usin
ratios. While these plans co
reality town expansion p
They paid little attention t
were considered simply
were equipped with a too
the built environment; pu
demand, with no fear of

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1 945 243

However, the idea that the plot was not so elementary had already begun to
a few suspicions. Benevolo, in his timely study of The Origins of Modern Town Plan
(1963), brought the hypothesis of the 'political nature' of town planning to its
consequences, negating any specificity, even in situ, and conditioning its outc
the improvement of economic and social relations. The plan, the focus of the
sation of the discipline, it was argued should jointly express social needs to adm
resources in such a manner as to avoid abnormal concentrations of economic interests
in particular areas to the detriment of others or situations of congestion destined to
hinder the ordered functioning of the urban machine (Avarello, 1997).
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned: construction and land speculation
played a determining role in the choices made by local public administrations, giving
rise to the development of urban agglomerations which were among the worst in
Italian history. While the structural ties between these town planning practices,
which were indeed nineteenth-century in their derivation, and the development and
realisation of land revenue were well known, town planners limited themselves to
discussing urban organisms, Scandinavian neo-empiricism, British new towns and
neighbourhood units. The methods used to prepare plans were never truly modified
and research and reflections remained trapped in the accompanying attachments or
reports, without having any truly relevant effects.
A definite result, at least for the more 'advanced' plans, was that of stimulating
public discussion about the desirable future of the city, although the debate about its
possible future was vaguer. The analyses of the problems and prospects that accompa-
nied plans tended to become more detailed and to include a vast range of economic
activities and social policies. Although it was much less useful for exploring the true
potential of the discipline and its tools, the preparation of plans, in accordance with
the teachings of Geddes, was transformed into an opportunity to investigate and
understand the city further.
This was also the golden period for the self-employed urban planner (Di Biagi
and Gabellini, 1992). The plan, prepared in a shorter (Luigi Picchiato) or a longer
(Giovanni Astengo) period of time was submitted to municipal governments together
with a list of suggestions: from this moment onwards administrators were responsible
for adopting a 'planning policy' focused on guaranteeing the development of the
urban fabric as it was indicated on the maps they had received (Piccinato, L., 1957 and
1958). If, some years later, this had not taken place, there was no other option but to
call the professional (or one of his/her illustrious colleagues) to incorporate the errors
in the plan and draw up a new image for the future of the city.

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244 Giorgio Piccinato

Figure 2 The detail plan for th

and materials are given for a
Urbanstica 24, 1958, p. 6.

Exemplary plans: Assis

A few plans became reco
all, for their characterist
was that for Assisi, prep
and pugnacious town plan
and 1958 and supported b
and although in the end r
remained the prototype o
for many years.5
The plan for Assisi was
ethical objectives of town
citizens would have acces
and countryside; the rig
of the need for housing
many difficulties and, lik

5 The plan's publication in Urban

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1 945 245

that the future could not be defined simply by a greater or lesser degree of sc
dependability. Rather, it was its role in relation to real estate interests, reinfo
an electorate whose political model was defined by the moderate Democrazia C
the Catholic party that governed Italy for almost half a century, which subst
conditioned the negative policy responses of the local public administration.

Exemplary plans: Rome (1962)

The most striking example was that of the new plan for the city of Rome. Dur
first 20 years after the end of the Second World War, Rome's population had d
its peripheries became over-crowded and devoid of any services and vehicular
had burgeoned as public transportation was reduced. The combination o
factors resulted in a period of significant political and intellectual tension o
city's problems (Berlinguer and Delia Seta i960). The 1950s, an era of disconn
growth (although politically controlled by vast real estate speculation that turn
cost of buildable land into the highest in Europe), were also a period of lively
related to different hypotheses (even if often so loaded with ideological meani
render them difficult to evaluate in an objectively manner) for the location of
expansion, the relationship between public and private transportation and th
idea of planning, more or less restrictive, that was required (Insolera, 1982).
After 20 years of heated discussions and various hypotheses, a new Master
was eventually developed and presented as a great victory of rationalist town p
and progressive culture. The development of this Plan was in open opposition
inheritance of the 1931 Fascist plan (theoretically still applicable), which was b
an Imperial rhetoric (new Rome was the heir to ancient Rome) and character
large openings in the Baroque urban fabric to reveal remnants of the city's 'R
ness'. Adopted in 1962 and implemented from 1965, the new Plan was define
a hypothesis of mono-directional expansion towards the eastern quadrant (at
in the first drafts from the 1950s, which were slowly moderated in later ver
designed as a large business centre that would relieve pressure on the historica
and free it of a great deal of traffic. New residential expansions were to be des
self-sufficient neighbourhoods that minimised the need for public transportat
ensured the conservation of vast natural areas (Comune di Roma, 1962) (Figu
In reality, the Plan for Rome had to face up to a serious building crisis and a pro
transformation of its economic foundations. In the years following its adopti
city was witness to a significant reduction in formal processes of urbanisation
widespread illegal construction met the need for housing that legal construc
whose costs soared under the unsupportable effects of land speculation - wa
capable of meeting. This was also the era of the definitive affirmation of private t
portation as the preferred method of moving around the city. A census comp

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246 Giorgio Piccinato

^^^/_ dell'appia f*** ^, ^BHr

Figure 3 The Master Plan of Rome adopted by the municipality in 1 92: the scheme
of a new directional centre east of the historic core, along a north-south axis.
Source: P. O. Rossi, Roma. Guida all'architettura moderna 1 909-2000, Rome, Late

1975 by the left-wing government that would run the city for a decad
approximately 900,000 people, one-third of the city's population, liv
constructed areas that did not correspond with the Plan (Clementi an
Thus, as moderate governments were conditioned by emergencies
tumultuous growth of the population, their progressive counterpar
first and foremost, to confront the problem of legalising the illegal
services and infrastructures in areas where the Plan called for univers
agricultural zones. In the meantime, notwithstanding a slowdown in i
growth,6 Rome was witness to a transformation in its economic structure
icant development of industries related to telecommunications and a

6 The Master Plan was based on a forecast of 4.5 million inhabitants, although the city's popula
3 million.

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1 945 247

social composition and, fatally, its lifestyles. Under these conditions, the la
effective town planning strategy and coherent policies became progressivel
problematic. However, it was necessary to wait another 40 years before the ci
have a replacement plan (Sanfilippo, 1994; Vidotto, 2001).

Exemplary plans: Bologna - the historic centre

Another plan that marked a change in Italian town planning was that adopted
1969 and 1970 by the Bologna City Government for the city's historical centre. Bo
and, in general, the region of which it is the capital, was traditionally governed b
left and focused on affirming itself as the example of 'good government' in
tion to the accusations of bad government and corruption that, with good
were attributed to the national and local right wing administrations. Thus, w
Bologna government implemented a policy for the containment of expansion
parallel development and recovery of the city centre, town planners saw a
alternative to the policies of indiscriminate expansion pursued by the major
local public administrations. This approach was also an alternative to Bologn
with its project for a new business centre designed by Kenzo Tange.
The opportunity used by the Bologna government was related to the availab
state finance for public housing; for the first time in Italy this would be invested
to help 'recover' a historical centre. The idea was that by financing property
and obliging them to offer controlled rents, the urban fabric could be simult
restored without evicting the lower classes living there. The plan was accom
by an accurate typological and structural analysis based on the teachings of
Muratori, which provided the base for interventions of functional modern
and, in some cases, renovation and reconstruction (Muratori, i960). In realit
a limited number of city blocks were implemented through the use of a pr
that was to have been extended to the entire historical centre; the plan was s
fully opposed during years of intense debate by market interests and the maj
property owners. During years of intense debate, however, the 'Bolognese m
became internationally famous and laid the foundations for the typological a
that became a standard part of any intervention in a historical centre (Cerve
Scannavini, 1973; Angotti, 1977).

Centre-left reformism and disciplinary innovation

The 1960s and 1970s were decades of significant changes in Italian town pla
which was continuously involved, in theory and in practice, in keeping pace
dynamics of a society in constant transformation. In 1968, the government,
left since 1963 after the Socialist Party joined the governing coalition, publis

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248 Giorgio Piccinato

Progetto 80 (MBPE, 1969),

cient lead time, the coun
programming to identif
The Progetto 80 was accomp
work of Reference) that, f
turing nodes of a territo
ment (CSPE, 197 1). This
new school was developing
processo (plan-process).
The result of reformist 1
- as with most any innov
past. The accent was now
assumed, above all, in pa
of development - and mu
schematic and allusive). I
first graduate course in t
school of architecture. A
United States became the
dissatisfaction that had b
nature of the municipal e
found a new source of no
now regularly attributed
There was also growing
general attention focused
investigations, forecasts,
this approach, which app
dealing with specific pro
town planning were notab
the first place, they were
presented as a collection
summarised in a syntheti
on analysis and forecasts th
In reality, we are speak
methodological - in the s
problems - than indicativ
surveying and control: n
primarily by regional resea
for particular territori
models became a part of
also began to be claimed

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1 945 249

I JTpli* jj-j j|| ^^BC I

f i i M
M wS
SS Iliill
Iliill IIS
I m
I 1^ ' *ii^Bp.
I " I~~' 911
^MBIliiii ^MBIliiii
a mm' ~, I mF>~ ' ~, I

Figure 4 Public housing in the Venice lagoon: a project by G. De Carlo (1 979-85).

Source: Sandra Annunziata

approach appeared to require the identification of different possible a

urban and spatial planning, rather than the definition of the most corr
urban planner appeared to abandon a historically moralist attitude, ass
guise of the perfectly neutral scientist.
During the difficult years that followed 1968, the so-called 'advocac
began to meet with widespread success in Italy among the younger gen
under the patronage of a few famous names. By its nature it focused on
than reflection; it also produced a significant amount of literature - bo
pamphlets, flyers - focused on justifying the decisive move made by its adep
of marginal groups, of those without guarantees or representatives and
of any type. Partisan town planning was stimulated by the overturning
tional image of a discipline that mediated between opposing interests,

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250 Giorgio Piccinato

for a common goal toward

partisan: it was the tradi
and institutions that had
power (Crosta, 1983).
Extra-institutional socia
of self reduction and mo
provided, and continue t
such advocacy planning.
approach that is often extr
situations. What is more
levels of participation am
foremost, as well as expert
but only partially, archite

Industrial distric
Throughout the 1970s, i
known appeared to enter
steel and chemical proce
and even the building in
housing continued to be
Trade Unions acquired a
tations to request better
to declare: 'reforms walk
disorder, fear, inflation
many cases those that, up
Strangely enough, the 197
industries released nume
growing number of exte
from other European co
create new businesses in their native towns. It soon became clear that the construc-
tion of housing had not stopped, but rather shifted outside of large cities. Housing
and employment were created in minor cities and areas once considered among the
poorest in the country and the origin of some of the heaviest migrant traffic. The
dualistic model centred on the opposition between the city and the countryside no
longer explained the actual situation in Italy. There was talk of a third Italy, composed
of recently developed areas initially found along the central Adriatic coast and in
northeastern Italy (Bagnasco, 1977). A significant number of local economies began
to develop as primarily small and medium-small-sized businesses began to organise
themselves into industrial 'districts'. Often highly specialised - chairs, shoes, eyewear

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1945 251

- and strongly oriented towards export, they were characterised by an elev

of innovation, a rapid response to changing demands from consumers and a
sive approach to new markets, above all in emerging countries (Beccattini, 1
was the period of the development of an economic structure that, to a grea
replaced the large industries of the Reconstruction.
As the old economy depended on and favoured the development of large
the new economy, which had no need for strong concentrations of labour
around smaller centres or spread across extra-urban territories that were
sively less agricultural and progressively more urban as manufacturing fa
moved towards the workers who, in turn, no longer needed to move towa
cities. This was the period of the development of what would later be
'diffuse city' or urban sprawl (Piccinato, 1993) (Figure 5). Even town planner
tionally involved in controlling the growth of large centres, were forced
their analyses towards the protection of environmental resources, the develo
territorial infrastructures and the formation of a new urban geography cha
by lower density. However, this condition was not entirely new: a number
garde studies had, since the 1960s (De Carlo, 1962; Piccinato et ai, 1962) obse
formation of networks of social, economic and spatial relations that went be
urban dimension, although at this point the phenomenon had not yet acqu
weight of a general model found in a growing number of areas.

History is everywhere
The theme of the historical centre was central to twentieth-century Italia
planning (Piccinato, 2006). Immediately after 1945, the country had to deal
reconstruction of numerous cities damaged during the Second World War.
it appeared that the problem would be limited to judging the possibility of
works of modern architecture within historical urban fabrics (a famous deba
on the reconstruction of an area beside the Ponte Vecchio in Florence)
stylistic choices were to be considered (Pane, 1956). In a short period of time
clear that the true risk of denaturing historical inheritances came from the
exerted by the real estate market: spurred on by the significant revalorisation of
areas, it pushed for the freedom to pursue radical building changes accom
typological transformations and increases in volume.
If architects and town planners blamed the Fascist regime for its destructi
ventions in the historical fabric in favour of emphatically 'Roman' recons
it now became clear that the mechanisms of real estate speculation were f
destructive: the effects of new levels of urban growth were impossible for
cally weak and politically compromised municipal governments to control. I
longer historic structures that were in danger - the principle of their con

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252 Giorgio Piccinato

Figure 5 Public housing from

Source: The Author

had been in place for som

surround their palazzi an
much more difficult to o
was witness to significant
before the war): a vast ar
a new monumental axis l
Throughout the entire p
the intellectual left, wer
right remained aligned w
principle of unrestricted g
element of town planning
stand in other countries.
what is more, extraneous
Giovannoni, founder of t
intuition of the radical d
its full incorporation in t
released a study of popula
imperial rhetoric (Pagano

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1945 253

The debate regarding historical centres escaped from its narrow prof
environment to become the most hard-fought issue for the press and m
councils, as well as during conferences on town planning. The leading p
Antonio Cederna managed to mobilise public opinion in defence of historic
in a number of articles and books (Cederna, 1956; 1965). While the guilty p
generally real estate speculation, in the end historical architecture was reinf
such a degree that its soaring market value weakened the pressures for its s
tion. Finally, various master plans began to consider the historical centre as
area, in many cases the object of successive detailed plans: there was no trac
Fascist demolitions. According to the traditions of Italian town planning,
was made for a general law governing historical centres that allowed for i
tions and necessary operations of renovation and conservation, while simult
ensuring the permanence of those living there.
In i960, on the occasion of the foundation of ANC SA (Associazione nazionale de
storico-artistici', Association of Italian Historical-Artistic City Centres), whose m
included architects, town planners and municipal administrators, the Carta
was presented for the first time.7 This document drew together the princip
applied in policies for historical centres. The pressures of speculation, the
ment of buildings, the unsuitability of regulations and the definition of ar
protected all appeared to require strong public intervention, even to ensure
distribution of the economic values resulting from public intervention. Th
plans for Assisi and Urbino, the latter prepared by Giancarlo De Carlo (196
taken as models; Astengo also worked on the plan for Gubbio, which is perh
interesting in methodological terms than that for Assisi, with which it share

While architects continued to discuss the insertion of modern buildings in histor-

ical fabrics, managing to build a few refined and clearly contemporary buildings,
urban planners worked to identify general and thus forcedly public solutions to halt
processes of decay. The use of public housing legislation to renew historical centres
instead of building new neighbourhoods in the periphery was not applicable in all
cases, nor as discussed previously did it demonstrate the hoped for success when tested
in Bologna. The method for re-launching discussion appeared to be that of strongly
confronting the issues of economic in historic centres. During the ANCSA Congress
in 1973, historical centres were presented primarily as elements of economic assets: if
their value was not exclusively cultural, then their role could be reconsidered based
on a relationship with the city's economy as a whole. What is more, it was considered
that these areas must be fully inserted within the reorganisation of the different parts
of the city, with its relative services and infrastructures (Figure 5).
Further analyses of this theme were made through supplementary investigations

7 This can be viewed at http://architettura.unipa.it/lopiccolo/87L8. 1 .htm

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254 Giorgio Piccinato

of the diversities that ch

while some cities were e
estate values in central ar
causes that led to aband
activities. This was above all the case in a number of historic centres - in Southern
Italy or mountainous areas - whose residents had emigrated in search of employment
in large cities or even abroad. This abandonment, in a territory so rich with evidence
of historical urban development, continues to condition policies of conservation.
None the less, it must be recognised that, at least until the end of the 1980s, the
principle of protecting historical areas and settlements was generally accepted by public
opinion. What is more, the term 'historic' was broadened considerably. The initial
definitions, for instance, did not include nineteenth century buildings; master plans
from the 1960s generally defined the historic centre using the existing (or non-existing)
lines of the city walls. The plan adopted by the City of Rome in 2003 introduced a new
concept of the 'historical city' that also includes architecturally significant elements
of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century city, while ANC SA has been working to
promote the idea of the 'historic territory' (Gasparrini, 2001) (Figure 6). However,
other dangers have grown up around historic settlements, including their excessive
use for tourism, the substitution of residential spaces with offices and commercial
exercises in major cities and the transformation of minor centres into vacation villages
or second homes.

Uncertainty and challenges

At the turn of the twenty-first century, the primacy of the master plan in Italian
town planning appears to have been definitively eliminated (Secchi, 2000). The idea
of a single scheme capable of synthesising the methods and characteristics of future
development has run up against the evident impossibility of charging the state with
the sole responsibility and control of territorial investments. In a world of increas-
ingly closer ties between local conditions and global dynamics, it appears unrealistic
to organise processes of urban transformation using long-range schemes. As a result,
regional governments, given the responsibility in the 1970s reform, for spatial planning
at various scales, have begun to prepare regional town planning laws that call for a
new articulation of the urban plan. Even with local variations it is articulated in two
phases: the first, structural in nature and valid in the medium-long term, substantially
defines the elements to be conserved (environment, heritage, etc.) and the choices
of development; while the second, more operative and limited in terms of its use,
indicates the correct use of land and relative building rights (Campos Venuti, 2008).
Experience from recent years has effectively enriched a reflection on the fields and
methods of intervention and the organisation of space. The proliferation of sector-

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1 945 255

MSBr^^ t 'i nJIn M <^m. historic areas and natural systems

JL ^ JBL*B Centra' . archaeological relics and

-g^PSHLf 'iiiiiiHiiiJlip j monuments, urt>an modem heritage

^^^ lH& Hi Territorial parks and archaeological areas

::;.; --' iHBWB^^ ^~^ iSB Parks and protected natur

'^-^^;.' x ^~^
Figure 6 The Master Plan of Rome adopted in 2003: the scheme emphasises the layout of his
environmental protection areas as main strategic features.
Source: R. Cassetti, Roma e Lazio 1 945-2007, Rome, Gangemi, 2007, p. 74

specific plans (e.g. transportation, water resources, parks, housing, commercia

ties, etc.) is, in reality, an attempt to confront the complexity of contemporar
renouncing (perhaps with bitterness) the idea of tying everything back to a c
model devoid of any contradictions.
Of the various schools of planning mentioned above, there is no doubt th
form concentrated on processes has revealed itself to be the most capable of r
positively to the transformations that have affected Italian culture and society, pr
sively more oriented towards tangible short-term goals and continuously less
ested in perspectives of radical renewal. From the 1990s onwards, Italy has wi
the diffusion of so-called 'complex programmes', generally connected with a
financial programmes and often, although not always, tied to the necessity o
erating abandoned industrial areas, decaying residential areas or historical ce
(Stanghellini, 2008). It has not been by accident that these programmes have

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256 Giorgio Piccinato

been tied to European ini

torial Plans) and constructe
- public administrations,
tives and focused on spat
town planning instrumen
tions, they rarely match t
related to the modificati
(Ombuen et ai, 2000). The e
actions - appear to attract
sivelydefined by a plann
processes rather than on
On the other hand, the
reuse of abandoned indus
events evidently require th
In recent years it has bee
transformations: the 199
Year in Rome in 2000, th
Universal Expo in Milan
and public investment to
difficult to obtain. In ma
economic development an
projects - the bridge over
dors, complexes for trade
by instruments of local p
Public administrations a
and initiative that go be
comprehensive plan. This
the transparency of proc
different conditions that a
since 1993 has notably rei
dence from political partie
into the protagonists of i
to re-awakening public in
This awakened public in
issues of local developme
advocacy planning. Here,
the harnessing of local re
terrain for theoretical e
1998). Italy's landscape is
its untouchability for aes

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A brief history of Italian town planning after 1 945 257

for its environmental and historic values and much of Italy is theoretically p
by landscape plans or territorial plans with landscape value. Following the a
of the European Landscape Convention by the European Commission in 2000
theme of the landscape has begun to involve a growing number of town plan
public administrations (Clementi, 2002). However, it is also the origin of nu
conflicts between conservationists and builders. In many cases, no-global and
mental positions are unified by their approach to the landscape: could this be
mation of the constant value of the past?

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