78301 - Architecture and Architectural Design Studio III

Course Unit Page


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

Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

By undertaking this subject students will acquire the following:

. the ability to express the design concept under the light of contemporary paradigms (in phylosophical, scientific, social and economic fields) and apply it to architecture, with particular focus on construction intended as the architectural system's dynamic of formation and evolution, aiming for a reconciliation between aspects of conception and realization;

. the ability to intend project as construction of an information-based system made of relations which provides opportunities, as well as the coupled ability to assess its implications and consequences (on the ecosystemic, social and aesthetic fields) within the paradigm of complexity.

. the capacity to articulate and organize the architectural design complexity in opportunity patterns able to support ranges of functional mappings

. the know-how to unfold such capacity through computation-based tools and techniques intended as a pervasive medium throughout the whole design process, from the initial exploration to realization, fostering a critical reflection on the relations that connect material systems, space, society and environment.

Course contents


The socio-cultural impact of technological acceleration requires a paradigm shift, in the face of which consolidated approaches no longer guarantee their validity. We need a redefinition of the founding concepts on which architecture and design are rooted, both analytically and proactively. If technology has always defined the space of the possibilities of the project, it is up to the designer to explore it, find its boundaries and finally overcome them. The necessary (and inevitable) evolution of architecture (both as a process and as a discipline) stands before an open horizon of possible speculations and design visions alternative to the status quo. The course aims to explore these evolutionary trajectories through the general concepts of space and construction in the light of contemporary paradigms (above all, that of complexity) and the implications that propagate from the project and influence it in turn in a feedback process.

Architecture and design are approached as proactive agents.

The project is intended as an open and not predetermined path. It is as such for the generative and transformative potential that finds expression in it, since the becoming of things does not represent a change in itself, if it is not promoted by the interplay of multiple energies, drives and instances which in the process of becoming aspire to find a composition. It is such for its procedural dimension, which inevitably involves continuous negotiation with the complexity of the boundary conditions and with the uncertainty of the possible.

The project has the character of a proposal, an offer of opportunities rather than a solution, with influences that continuously and intricately propagate on the cultural, social, aesthetic (etc.) sphere, without losing awareness of one's own temporal location : rereading key trajectories (functional to the project theme) throughout the history of architecture, we will identify contemporary influences (obvious and otherwise) and potential future evolutions.

The structure of the course (both content and methodological) is divided into didactic modules - theory, tutorial and project - interconnected and oriented to provide the knowledge bases for an architectural design integrated in a contemporary scenario and future projection.



The idea of change certainly concerns the expected results (what we expect to change), but even before that, it accompanies the design path in the constant evolution of conditions and stresses. It simultaneously constitutes the purpose of the process and the driving force that guides it, implying a constant reconsideration of the objectives and the need for a continuous involvement of the actors who are affected by them. From this point of view, each design process potentially represents an urban and community fact.

The theme for the year 2020-21 will concern the design of spaces for a post-automation society and will be addressed on a scale at which the architectural system manifests urban dynamics, trying to call into question some principles of spatial structuring that we tend to take for granted: for example, we intend to overcome a rigid classificatory separation between building and urban space, as well as the concept for which architectural functions and spaces must be rigidly interrelated and predetermined in the planning stage.

For "automation" we consider the spread of systems not so much capable of repeating mechanical actions, but rather capable of ever greater autonomy of choice and action (agency) - both at a material and immaterial level. Assuming a society in which automation is fully widespread and accepted as a substrate for everyday life, the course will try to focus on the qualities of architectural spaces "instigated" by computation and automation, and above all on the role of the designer as "curator" and developer of the process. The design work will be addressed through the creation and management of a system that works by assembling parts (as elementary computation-capable components), its possible articulations, and evaluating the results according to the spatial, functional, constructive and aesthetic implications. Relevant design steps range from the definition of form as both organizational and aesthetic principle to the creation and management of rules that allow the formation of heterogeneous and complex conditions, including the possibility of sensitizing the system to endogenous or contextual information.



The theoretical part deals with tackling the founding concepts and nurturing an awareness of the implications of the design choices.

The evolution of the concept of architectural space (from modern age onward) and its multiple relationships with the dimensions of construction and tectonics, complexity, computation, technology, and its social and cultural repercussions will be addressed. All these considerations will form a basis for discussing ecology and the role of contemporary design.

The course will try to promote a process of continuous investigation and reflection, framing the project as a "wicked problem", a problem that resists solving attempts by continually changing its terms, and in turn the concept of the project itself.


Under the acronym Co.De.S (Computational Design Sensibilities), training hours aim to provide the preparatory basic skills for the transition between the theoretical contents and the design application, through the development of an aesthetic / operational sensitivity that implies both learning tools and the ability to use them as a means of investigation and expression in the design field (tools as design medium). Within the design process, the tools are seen as a means of systematic research that incorporates and restructures the designer's own thought. Architectural discourse does not end in the instrument, but the instrument amplifies and supports the discourse itself, providing the potential for its conception, articulation and clarity of expression. The course promotes an approach that does not separate technology from the ideation phase but considers it symbiotic with the way of thinking: design thinking is identified and expressed through the choices made and distributed throughout the process that leads to the project.


This part is dedicated to the development of the project on the basis of the topic introduced for the current year.

It promotes an approach based on an initial guiding idea (explored and discussed through the critical analysis of a series of examples - real and / or speculative - inherent in the design theme itself) which undergoes an iterative development and refinement process, made of cycles of production of draft outcomes and their critical filtering, in which each production phase learns from the previous critical phase.

It is carried out in groups (consisting of 3 people each), structured in periodic meetings with a reference assistant and involves work to be carried out outside the lesson time.


. Fundamentals

. Reiser, J., Umemoto, N. _ Atlas of Novel Tectonics, (Princeton Architectural Press).

. Hensel, M., Hight, C., Menges, A. _ En route: Towards a Discourse on Heterogeneous Space beyond Modernist Space-Time and Post-Modernist Social Geography, in Hensel, M., Hight, C., Menges, A. _ AD Reader – Space Reader - Heterogeneous Space in Architecture, (Wiley Academy) pp. 9-37

. De Graaf, R. _ Four Walls and a Roof: The Complex Nature of a Simple Profession (Harvard University Press)

. De Botton, A: _Architettura e felicità (Parma: Guanda, 2006), in particolare: “1. Il significato dell’architettura” (introduzione) pp. 7-24; “5. Le virtù degli edifici” pp.167-147.

. Leach, N. _ Digital Tool Thinking: Object-Oriented Ontology versus New Materialism - in ACADIA // 2016: POSTHUMAN FRONTIERS: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines [Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA - Ann Arbor 27-29 October, 2016), pp. 344-351 – link: http://papers.cumincad.org/cgi-bin/works/paper/acadia16_344

. Pasquinelli, M. _ 3000 years of Algorithmic Rituals: the emergence of AI from the computation of space - https://www.e-flux.com/journal/101/273221/three-thousand-years-of-algorithmic-rituals-the-emergence-of-ai-from-the-computation-of-space/

. Strongly suggested

. Carpo, M. _ The Alphabet and the Algorithm (The MIT Press)

. Frazer, J. _ An Evolutionary Architecture (AA publications) – link: https://issuu.com/aaschool/docs/an-evolutionary-architecture-webocr

. Leach, N., Turnbull, D., Williams, C. _ Digital Tectonics, Wiley Academy (in particolare: Lynn, G. _ The Structure of Ornament)

. Spuybroek, L. _ The Architecture of Continuity (V2 press)


. Media

. L. Von Trier _ The five obstructions (Italiano: Le cinque variazioni)


Further topic-related resources will be indicated during the course development.

Teaching methods

The methodological structure of the course reflects that of the contents, divided into three parts of theory, training and design. The theory and design parts take place in parallel, trying to stimulate a continuous oscillation between productive moments and theoretical / conceptual growth to favor a progressive maturity and awareness of the design theme. The training part is concentrated in two phases: the first aims to provide basic knowledge in order to stimulate project thinking and strategies, the second to promote more advanced strategies for project development. The split aims to develop a form of confidence and fluency with the tools, favoring strategies and processes aimed at the project idea.

The alternation between lectures, moments of discussion and moments of production is considered of fundamental importance for the development of a conscious approach to the project as exploration; it is in the nature of the project to contain unknowns and be problematic - it is in the designer's awareness to understand how to navigate this problem and to provide proposals to deal with it.


The theoretical part has the objective of developing the conceptual contents of the course program and promoting a critical reflection.


Training hours aim to provide the preparatory bases for the transition between the theoretical contents and the design application. By incorporating teaching, acquisition of practice, and fluency on contemporary tools into design thinking, the aim is to promote the construction of strategies at the service of a coherent architectural discourse. One that does not exhaust itself in the tool, but one that uses the tool to amplify and support itself, providing the potential for its conception, articulation and clarity of expression.


The course project is carried out in working groups (3 people / group) under the supervision of the teacher and the teaching tutors. The outcome of the work is represented by the drafting of an architectural project developed through all types of designs deemed appropriate (drawings, models, 3D models, simulations, algorithms, etc.) up to the degree of detail necessary to express spatial / tectonic / aesthetics relationships of the project (the specific representation scales are linked to the project theme of the current year).

Assessment methods

In addition to the periodic reviews with a reference assistant, the learning assessment consists of panels comprising a presentation and subsequent discussion of the project (with references to the theoretical topics involved) in front of a commission made up of internal members and, when possible, by experts of the contemporary architectural panorama. The panels take place with a presentation of the project by the students, followed by a discussion with questions and reflections on the arising relevant issues.

A final panel is foreseen (discussion of the project), with a possible mid-term presentation. Deliverables required for the different panels will be specified during the first lesson of the course.

Passing the exam will be guaranteed to students who will demonstrate mastery, autonomy and operational ability in relation to the key concepts illustrated in the teaching and their application during the project phase. A higher score will be attributed to students who demonstrate, by maintaining a proactive attitude, a marked quality and autonomy in both the planning and communication phases.

This autonomy consists in being able to extrapolate from the contents of the teaching its own path of design exploration, to illustrate it with language properties and to deal with complex instances showing operational slenderness and adaptability.

Failure to pass the exam may be due to insufficient knowledge of the key concepts, the lack of or insufficient operational capacity in drafting the project and / or the insufficient quality of the documents presented.

Teaching tools

Lectures, technical seminars on the digital tools used (Rhinoceros, Grasshopper), monographic lectures of figures of interest on the panorama of Italian and international architectural research, practical exercises on topics covered (in the classroom or in the laboratories). Depending on the possibilities of the course and if allowed by the situation following the COVID-19 pandemic, guided visits to architectures of specific educational interest for the current year may be organized.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Alessio Erioli

See the website of Andrea Luccaroni