2013-2022 / AUID Short Story
(by Alessandro Rocca)
The AUID Doctoral program sprang up in 2013 from the resettlement of other programs in resource optimization.
Looking at the beginning of the doctoral studies at Politecnico di Milano, we see that the programs were activated with the 8th national cycle in 1992-93.
The first programs in the area of architectural studies were Progettazione Architettonica e Urbana (Architectural and Urban Design), from XIV to XXVIIII cycle, initially headed by Ernesto D’Alfonso; the same lifespan had Arredamento e Architettura degli Interni (Furnishing and Architecture of Interiors), for XIV and XV cycles, head Cesare Stevan, later renamed Architettura degli Interni e Allestimento (Interiors and Exhibit Design). In the XVI are added the programs of Composizione Architettonica, head Daniele Vitale, and Architettura, Urbanistica, Conservazione dei Luoghi dell’abitare e del Paesaggio (Architecture, Urban Planning, Preservation of Housing and Landscape), head Matilde Baffa.
Except for Conservazione dei Beni Architettonici (Preservation of Architectural Heritage) head Luigia Binda, which started in XIV cycle and is still alive, under the guidance of Maria Cristina Giambruno, all the others terminated with the XXVIII cycle in 2012.
Other related programs were Tecnologia dell’architettura e dell’ambiente (Technology of Architecture and Environment), head Guido Nardi and Innovazione Tecnica e Progettazione nell’architettura, Valerio Di Battista; both were actives in cycles XIV and XV.
The Polimi frame of the programs is revised in 2013, 29th cycle, when are born the new Progettazione architettonica, urbana e degli interni / Architectural Urban Interior Design, AUID, and Architettura Ingegneria delle Costruzioni e Ambiente Costruito / Architecture, Built Environment and Construction Engineering, ABC. These programs and the Preservation program represent the Polimi Doctoral School’s architectural branch, which gathers twenty programs, including Urban Planning, Design, and all the main Engineering fields.
The AUID program has an increasingly international profile, a character that has been present since its foundation. The program, born in 2013 and named “Urban and Interior Architectural Design” (PAUI) started under the guidance of Luca Basso Peressut, who covered the role of coordinator for two three-year mandates until 2018. From 2019 assumes the headship Alessandro Rocca, who is currently in charge with a second mandate which will expire at the end of 2024.
The PAUI doctorate starts with the 29th cycle, according to the calendar of the national system. The research topics indicated in the call are divided into four primary lines: housing, buildings, public spaces, museography, landscape, and infrastructure. A very broad spectrum is based on the combination of theory and design. The program admits fifteen doctoral students, five foreign citizenships: Iranian (two), Lebanese, Saudi, and Algerian, supported by scholarships from the Italian government. An important presence that, as a first consequence, leads to the extensive adoption of the English language for seminars, meetings, and exams. This first foreign contingent was well qualified, as all five candidates obtained the title. And it should be noted that, unfortunately, among these, only one Ph.D. has maintained a relationship with the Dastu department and with the Polimi School of Architecture.
In the next cycle, on the 30th, among the eight doctoral students, we find only one foreigner, a candidate of Iranian nationality who has undertaken a double doctoral program with TU Munich and will obtain the title in 2021. The dropouts were of two units.
In the 31st cycle, there are five candidates, all with Italian citizenship, of which two have dropped out, one was excluded from the doctorate, and two obtained their degree in 2020. The first double doctorate, managed by prof. Ilaria Valente, is registered in this cycle, carried out with the Shanghai Jiaotong University.
The 32nd cycle sees a larger class, with nine candidates, including five of non-Italian nationality. Among these, four fellows from the China Scholarship Council (CSC), one of which was subsequently excluded, and a Romanian candidate who obtained the title, with honors, in 2020.
The 33rd cycle sees nine admitted candidates, three Ph.D. students with CSC scholarships, an Iranian Ph.D. student, and an Italian candidate enrolled in a double doctorate in agreement with the University of Rennes.
The 34th cycle counts six doctoral students, five Italians and one of Iranian nationality, supported by an interdisciplinary scholarship. A double doctorate is activated with the University of Paris-Saclay, a scholarship from the departmental program “Territorial fragility,” and a doctoral co-tutored student enrolled in the Ecole National d’Architecture et Urbanism de Tunisie (Enaut).
The 35th cycle, the first under the headship of Alessandro Rocca, sees the enrollment of twenty doctoral students to which, for a few months, a visiting researcher affiliated with Dokuz Eylul University in Izmir, is added. Among the doctoral candidates, there are three scholarships funded by the Dastu Department of Excellence “Territorial Fragility,” two CSC scholarships, a double doctorate in agreement with Université de Paris (promoted by Imma Forino), and three Executive contracts with Latin American universities managed by Andrea Gritti, in partnership with the University of Loja (Ecuador) and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. There is also an industrial partnership with the company Branding srl. Three Ph.D. students are supported by ITN Marie Curie European projects, two by the Soloclim, led by Valentina Dessì, and one by Tack, led by Gennaro Postiglione.
The 36th cycle has sixteen Ph.D. students, including ten non-Italians: seven CSC fellows, one Colombian, one Ghanaian, and one Pakistani. As the program becomes more and more international, the supervisors and the board are called upon to deal with distant thematic and geographical areas. The CSC partners prefer research synchronized with the planning objectives of the Chinese government. This determination produces a selection among the candidates, which favors attention to rural areas, vernacular architecture, and the recovery and regeneration processes of related buildings and settlements to peasant culture and economy. Among the university scholarships, there are also two interdisciplinary proposals: “Urban regeneration through nature-based solutions for an environmental resiliency to the climate change,” proposed by Ilaria Valente and Monica Lavagna, and “Smart city: new tools for the sustainable development of the future city. Advanced technologies, environmental sustainability, and participatory processes”, by Pierluigi Salvadeo and Dario Zaninelli, in cooperation with the Doctoral Program of Electrical Engineering.
The 37th cycle, which begins the activities in November 2022, welcomes in a first phase seven candidates in addition to four other doctoral students selected through two additional calls generated by the particular funding of the National Resilience and Rebirth Plan. In the summer of 2021, the Italian government will offer universities substantial funding for research projects related to the “Green” and “Innovation” themes. AUID obtains the three grants to which is entitled in the division of the university and offers three additional calls dedicated to “Green” themes: “Engines of sustainable development: architectures for highway service areas,” proposed by Andrea Gritti; “Metropolitan farms: design-oriented research for sustainable agri-food systems,” by Filippo Orsini; “Formal/informal. green communitarian developments in the global south”, by Camillo Magni; the third call, also of a governmental nature, refers to “Territorial Cohesion” and the research project proposed by Emilia Corradi is awarded the amount for an additional doctoral scholarship.
The 38th cycle sees a large composition of different resources again, considering the National Resilience and Rebirth Plan, with six scholarships, three co-founded, the Chinese Council Scholarship, with nine potential candidates, and an interdisciplinary scholarship, promoted by Sara Protasoni, in partnership with the Doctoral Program of Electrical Engineering.
The research fields:
The framework of the research carried out is broad and composite; it records the historical changes of recent years and the coexistence of very diversified cultures and origins.
The first works concluded in 2017 are “Museum is / and territory. The widespread museum as a device for the cultural infrastructure of places. The case of the Libyan coast road ”, by Alessandro Raffa, supervisor prof. Luca Basso Peressut; “Undergrowth urbanism. Spontaneous practices in the contemporary city. Towards a methodology of analysis and intervention in the informal city ”, by Valentina Mion, supervisors Laura Montedoro, Jose María Ezquiaga; “Metaphors of performative-oriented architectures. Exhibitions, installations, interventions ”, by Ayman Kassem, supervisor Pierluigi Salvadeo; “Intra-structures. Urban densification scenarios for mobility in transition. The case of the A20 ring road of the city of Rotterdam ”, by Gianluca Ferriero, supervisors Luca Molinari and Dirk van den Heuvel; “From the Medina to the Metropol. New integrative approach for the sustainable revitalization of the historical center in the metropolitan cities”, by Hamza Benacer, rapporteur Antonella Contin; “The evolution of museum exhibition in Arabia. A qualitative study of the exhibition design and identity in Saudi Arabia”, by Abeer Alsobahi, supervisors Gian Luca Basso Peressut and Oli Ali Hassem. In this first round, there is a strong interest in non-Italian situations, such as Rotterdam, Brazil, and Arabia, and the museographic line led by the coordinator, Basso Peressut, is denoted.
In 2018 the thesis “Advancing toward water-sensitive cities in Iran. Public spaces as sustainable water management measures in Lahijan, Caspian climate zone, Iran ”, by Masoumehsadat Mirsafay Moqadda, supervisor Alessandro Rogora, inaugurated a line of research on a technological basis and aimed at environmental sustainability issues; “Sprawlification: a new method to analyze periurban space”; by Arian Heidari Afshari, supervisors Ilaria Valente and Richard Ingersoll, explores informal urbanism in developing countries, “Ruins of contemporaneity: concepts, strategies and design methodologies for the transformation of abandoned places,” by Dario Giordanelli, supervisors Guya Bertelli and Carlos Garcia Vazquez, analyzes “new paradigms, linked to new materials and conditions, are the center of the architecture project in the current transition phase”; Re-inhabit modern utopias. History and design for the renovation of post-war large public housing estates “, by Michele Gerli, supervisor Pierfranco Galliani, investigates post-World War II European housing. Public space is dealt with by “La Terza Città. The Right to the City: urban regeneration strategies through autonomous and creative practices of space production”, by Simona Galateo, supervisor Luca Molinari.
“Museums of narration, between words and projects. Communicative models for today’s exhibiting spaces “, by Marcella Camponogara, supervisors Gian Luca Basso Peressut and Federico Bucci, the museographic research continues. “Metropolitan frameworks of civic robustness. Mapping and designing for East African urbanism”, by Alessandro Frigerio, supervisor Antonella Contin; “Spaces for primary education in cooperation projects. Schools in developing countries: the case of Mozambique”, by Luca Faverio, supervisor Michele Ugolini, Dwellings and Settlements in Pemba. A Typo-Morphological Field Study in a Changing Urban Environment”, by Corinna Del Bianco, supervisors Michele Ugolini and Michael Turner, focus on the results of fieldwork in Mozambique. The thesis “Devoid of Any Style. Problems and Perspectives of Architecture in the Age of Post-Consumption “, by Francesca Zanotto, supervisor Alessandro Rocca, addresses the evolution of architectural thought about sustainability issues; in “The Architecture of Motorway Infrastructures Between Maintenance and Preservation. The A22 and the Territory of Mantova “, by Claudia Zanda, supervisor Andrea Gritti, deals with the design of the motorway infrastructure; “Landscapes and Forms of ‘Modification’: the Contamination as a New Paradigm of the Contemporaneity,” by Martina Sogni, investigates the relationship between architectural design and the landscape dimension; “Architecture and Creative Transformation. Creative Urban Practices in London”, by Giuliana Bonifati, supervisor Carlos Maria Vazquez, explores the changes in public space in a creative district of London.
In 2019 no thesis is presented; in 2020, two Chinese theses are graduated and carried out in cooperation with the professors at Shanghai Jiao Tong University: “Rural Revitalization in Chinese New Era. Design Challenges in a Village of Fujian Province “, double Polimi-SJTU doctorate, by Gerardo Semperbon, supervisors Ilaria Valente, Luca M. F. Fabris, Ma Wenjun, Huang Jianyun, and” The Shapes of Water: A Discourse around Heritage and Design for a Landscape Reactivation in the Fujian Province,” by Francesca Berni, supervisors Ilaria Valente, Marco Bovati, Ma Wenjun. Museological studies continue in “Dissonant Memories in the Post-Soviet Space: Comparative Analysis of Newly Established Museums of Political Histories in the Post-Soviet Countries (1991-2016), by Maria Mikaelyan, supervisors Luca Basso Peressut and Francesca Lanz. “Compositional Studies on Luigi Caccia Dominioni,” by Veronica Ferrari, supervisor Luigi Spinelli, is one of the few theses directly related to Milanese architectural culture; the theses “Opening a Lexicon of the New Social Spaces” by Madalina Roxana Ghibusi, supervisor Pierluigi Salvadeo, and “Publicness in Transition,” by Jingwen Shan, supervisors Laura Montedoro and Marco Bovati, return to deal with public space.
In April 2021, Vazira Parisi obtained their doctorate, with a joint degree with the Technical University of Munich and a thesis entitled “Rethinking the Architecture of the Renewable-energy Power Plants: Potential Stations to Transform the Social Flows,” Supervisors Guya Bertelli (Polimi) and Sören Schöbel (TU München); Federica Marchetti, with the thesis “The Lean City. Design, Experience, New Media for Millennials and Generation Z”, supervisor Pierluigi Salvadeo; Gianfranco Orsenigo, with the thesis “Design the Possible. Experiencing Devices for the Modification of Marginal Contexts”, supervisor Andrea Di Franco; Tan Shilong, with the thesis “Virtual Experience in Augmented Exhibition,” supervisor Luigi Cocchiarella.
In 2022 Maryam Khatibi, with the research “Adequate Urban Housing: Case Studies of Novel Settlements of Housing Cooperatives in Zurich, Switzerland. Intermediate Spaces: Enablers of Social Connection”, rapporteur Alessandro Rogora, obtained honors; in the same session, two candidates supported by the Chinese Scholarship Council also obtain the title: Luyi Liu presents a thesis focused on the comparison between Chinese and European cultures in the field of representation of space and landscape: “The Accessible Frame. Research on ancient Chinese Landscape architecture”, supervisor Luigi Cocchiarella. “The architecture of contemporary art museum in Shanghai: from the inside to the outside” is the research carried out by Xin Xu, under the supervision of Pierluigi Salvadeo, who explores the architecture of the new exhibition spaces with a specific focus on the rapid recent mutations of the Chinese scenery.
In the second session of 2022, Greta Allegretti graduates with the thesis “Architecture and UNESCO buffer zones. The architectural project as a tool for the archaeological sites in fragile territories. From safeguard planning to the development of design models for the enhancement of heritage “, supervisor Pier Federico Caliari; Chiara Pradel with the thesis “Monumental Ground. Infrastructures, Construction Sites, Landscape”, supervisor Alessandro Rocca.
In the wake of the economic opportunities offered, starting from 2021, by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), the Doctorate has expanded and diversified its training offer through the activation of numerous partnerships with private companies and public bodies. Twenty doctoral students supported by scholarships from different sources are admitted to the 37th cycle: PNRR, CSC, the foreign ministry, municipal, government, and foreign universities scholarships; in the 38th cycle, the presence of PNRR grants extends to six units, and overall, the number of doctoral students, those admitted and those currently being accepted, is again around twenty.
The doctorate, therefore, in recent years, has been changing profoundly. After a long time, the program was substantially supported thanks to grants financed by the Italian government and provided by the Politecnico di Milano, today the proportions among the grants available have entirely changed, with a very high presence (about 75% of the total) of Ph.D. students financed by third parties, Italian and foreign, academic, public, and industrial. If it is difficult to predict the lines of development in the long term, it is, however, evident that in the short and medium term, the Doctorate assumes a much greater dimension, in numerical words, and a more composite nature where the non-academic component acquires a new role and where the international network, both for resources and candidates, becomes a very important component even if not the majority.
The doctorate, therefore, is changing profoundly. For a long time, the program was supported thanks to grants financed by the Italian government and the Politecnico di Milano. Today the proportions among the grants available have entirely changed, with a high presence (about 75% of the total) of Ph.D. students financed by third parties, Italian and foreign, academic, public, and industrial. If it is difficult to predict the lines of development in the long term, it is, however, evident that in the short and medium term, the Doctorate assumes a much greater dimension in numbers and a more composite nature where the non-academic component acquires a new role and where the international network, both for resources and candidates, becomes a very important component even if not a majority.
In recent years, the changes in the political framework, both internal and foreign, have had immediate, very significant, and positive repercussions on the composition, resources, and scientific physiognomy of the doctorate. From now on, in an overall framework dominated by uncertainty, the qualities, experiences, and skills we have acquired will support us in facing the challenges posed by evolving scenarios in the best possible way. If indeed, the variables are too many to have a specific look at the future, however, the possibility of finding credit, partnerships, alliances, and cooperation with a diversity of subjects belonging to the most diverse parts of the social body located in different areas, from Milan, which remains the heart of our action, to South America, China, and the Near East.
(to be continued)