04499 - Environmental Planning (A)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Affordable and clean energy Sustainable cities Responsible consumption and production

Academic Year 2018/2019

Course contents

The question of the role and significance given to techniques and materials in the process of formation of architectural periods is a much discussed one. The question has arisen especially in the contemporary age, when the increasingly marked distinction between the design process (preliminary project), the production of working drawings/specifications/bills of quantities, and the actual construction stage has led to a high fragmentation of the traditionally unitary architectural process.

The laboratory course aims to address, in particular, the knowledge requirements that derive from an anthropic reality, like the Italian one, which is highly historicised. What are our ancient buildings made of? Which materials were used? And which traditional techniques were employed? Many archival sources exist, but their use has never sufficiently taken into consideration aspects of material culture that underlie contracts, tender specifications, bills of quantities, etc.. The same applies to manuals: Vitruvius, Alberti and Palladio, for example, are rich in knowledge about construction methods which have never been fully analysed and interpreted. Moreover, there is a yet unexplored area consisting of the oral testimonies of contractors, masons and carpenters that can provide valuable information about dying trades and skills. The course aims to provide students approaching the construction sector with the keys necessary to enter the fascinating world of materials which form our historical architecture: from wood, stone, tiles, mortar and concretes, to reinforced concrete and steel. The analysis of traditional building sites, from antiquity to present times, will enable students to learn about the acquisition, preparation and use of each material according to different production needs.

For the sake of clarity, the course makes explicit reference to real experiences acquired in some Italian regions; in other words, to the immense living archive of building cultures and craftsmanship that are hidden in our city centres and rural buildings. In particular, the course will focus on the properties, the selection criteria and the manufacturing of natural building materials found in architectural elements and structures. The aim is to provide students with the necessary analysis and evaluation skills for design and construction stages, with particular emphasis on identifying the causes of deterioration in ancient and modern artefacts. Besides theoretical lectures, the course includes some guided visits to the production sites of some of the most commonly used materials in construction, as well as to some building sites exemplifying the topics discussed.


Giordano Conti, La materia dell'architettura, Foschi, Forlì 2010.

Giordano Conti, La pratica dell'architettura, Maggioli, Rimini, 2011.

Office hours

See the website of Giordano Conti

See the website of Giulia Olivieri