Observatory on Smart Cities Politecnico di MilanoSmart citiesand cultural heritageA preliminary observationAlessandro DesertiPolitecnico di Milano. Design Department
IndexTHE OBSERVATORY ON SMART CITIES ATPOLIMI_the observatory_the overall vision_the methodologyTHE OBSERVATION ON “SMART CITIESAND CULTURAL HERITAGE”_the ﬁeld of observation_the interpretation_the cases (just a sample)_the interpretation and the trajectories
THE OBSERVATORYBuilt as a spin-off of a Europeanresearch, the Observatory is a multi-disciplinary structure integratingcompetences coming from the urbanplanning, design and managementdepartments of Politecnico di Milano.The main goal of the observatory is toexplore how cities are facing and solvingcontemporary and complex challengeslike those derived from theenvironmental, ﬁnancial or social crises.The observatory aims at building a webbank of smart urban experiences andfuture scenarios, accessible to cities thatwant to explore their smart potentialsand perspectives, understanding how toboost transformational processestowards the idea of inclusivity.
THE OVERALL VISIONA new perspective on urban planningThe contemporary cities seem quiteaffected by the excesses of the economicperspective, which progressively integratedthe traditional urban planning, based on asort of top-down functional view of the city.As a reaction, many voices are claiming tobring back a citizen-centered perspective,adopting a new approach based on theactive involvement of people.This approach is highly sustained byknowledge coming from the (product)design ﬁeld, where many methods andtools for the participation of users weredeveloped, mainly within the frame of UserCentred Design (UCD).
THE OVERALL VISIONThe eye and the bird-eye levelTo us, both “traditional” planning andUCD seem insufﬁcient: the twoperspectives must be integrated.On one hand, we should have thecapability of being close to people,understanding their needs and involvingthem in the decisions.On the other hand, we should have thecapability to build and maintain anoverall vision.The new urban planning should work atan eye-level, within a bird-eye frame.
THE OVERALL VISIONA “human” approach to smart citiesThe usual approach to smart cities istechnology-driven, and based on a sortof “technological merchandise” thatwould be supposed to help the cities inbecoming smarter.Even if we understand the economicframe behind this deterministicapproach, we introduce a systemicperspective, where the primary role ofsociety and individuals is recognized.In our approach, cities can be smarter ifthey ﬁnd smart ways of building robustservices and infrastructures respondingto the needs of individuals and society.We call this “human-driven smart city”.
THE METHODOLOGYThe observationsThe observations are conceived not justas interpretations of signiﬁcant topics, inthe perspective of explainingphenomena that already occurred, butalso as projections of possible futures,built in a “designerly” perspective, astools meant to be useful to private/public operators in taking decisions ordeveloping projects.The qualitative observation of cases,performed through a desk and a ﬁeldresearch involving a wide internationalnetwork of research partners, is themethodological base for theinterpretations and the projections.
THE METHODOLOGYThe casesCases are normally chosen in theperspective of ﬁnding situations where aspeciﬁc need was faced in an innovativeway, introducing “small-scale” solutionsthat have a potential in terms ofscalability and adoption in differentcontexts.Cases should be seen as a repertory ofweak and strong signs, from whichinteresting directions could emerge.In a designerly perspective, cases canbe considered in most cases asprototypical situations, that could bepotentially developed and turned intoscalable solutions.
THE METHODOLOGYThe scenariosProjections are based on the“scenario-building” method, with theidea of catching relevant tensions thatcould bring to possible or desirablefutures.Scenarios describe issues connectedto the observed topic, shaping boththe frame and the potential solutionswithin it.
THE OBSERVATION ON “SMARTCITIES AND CULTURAL HERITAGE”
THE FIELD OFOBSERVATIONThe notion of cultural heritageSince culture can be associated to allhuman expressions, the notion ofcultural heritage is blurred andambiguous.Moving from the physical nature of thehuman artifacts, it progressively shiftedto the intangible nature of signs,symbols, values, ways of life,knowledge; and included the naturaltogether with the artiﬁcial (UNESCO).
THE FIELD OFOBSERVATIONThe notion of cultural heritageWe decided to take into account a broaddeﬁnition of cultural heritage, includingthe intangible nature of many humanexpressions.This choice is coherent with the samenotion of “smart city”, as a mix of thetraditional physical layer and the newdigital infrastructure that can beoverlapped to it.At the same time, we limited theobservation to the relation betweencultural heritage and urban environment.
THE CASES (just a sample)72hours urban actionThe 72 Hour Urban Action is aninternational “rapid” architecture anddesign festival, born in Israel and nowspreading in different cities all over theworld.Deﬁned by a lack of time, space andfunds, the efforts are directed to addressthe needs of the local community.
THE CASES (just a sample)72hours urban actionThe competition, sustained by Public/Private Partnerships, brings together120 participants coming from all overthe world to form 10 teams. Each teamhas three days and nights to design andbuild a project to address a randomlyassigned mission. As part of the festival,the goal is that ﬁnished projects remaina part of their surrounding urbancommunity long after the competitionends.
THE CASES (just a sample)Fuorisalone.itFuorisalone.it is a web platform,developed as a private initiative,documenting events and installationsoccurring during the Milano DesignWeek.Fuorisalone.it is based on usergenerated contents, by involving 100reporters (normally young designers ordesign students), instructed andequipped with a special kit to cover themany events of the week.
THE CASES (just a sample)Fuorisalone.itMoving from this basic idea,fuorisalone.it has become through theyears a platform offering services forcompanies and institutions who want toorganize or sponsor events, integratingadvanced ICT technologies.Fuorisalone.it also generated the “BreraDesign District” initiative, that can bedescribed as a re-signiﬁcation of an areaof the city through the inclusion in thefuorisalone circuit.
THE CASES (just a sample)Urban trekkingUrban trekking is an alternative way totraditional tourism and is aimed at there-discovery of the art cities in Italy at aslower, more sustainable pace. Theactivity is the equivalent of the outdoortrekking in the urban context, and theequivalent of the city foot walks withoutthe daily pressure. In this sense theurban trekking combines sport activitieswith cultural visits to less frequentedcultural heritage places.Born in Siena, and sustained by Public/Private initiative, Urban Trekking isspreading all over Italy, as a way tointegrate tourism with the re-discoveryof cities by residents.
THE INTERPRETATIONCitizens and visitorsDealing with cultural heritage, citiesnormally face a tension between thecity/area as a living place and the city/area as a visiting place. In somesituations we might have a sort of“Disneyland effect”. In others we mighthave residents who never reallyexperience the cultural treasures of theircities. In others we might have a conﬂictbetween everyday activities andtourism.The perspective of integration, based onthe idea of balancing the interests andneeds of the residents with those of thevisitors, seems the most interestingscenario.
THE INTERPRETATIONPermanent and temporaryCultural Heritage is traditionallyassociated to the idea of permanence. Ifwe assume a broadened perspective,shifting from monuments to people, andfrom preservation to use, we have tointroduce the idea of temporariness.Temporary use, “fast”, light andreversible interventions, are changingthe approach to the valorization ofcultural heritage. While land art openeda pathway to the temporarytransformation of cities and monuments,the ultimate interventions tend to includecitizens not just as simple spectators,but also as actors.
THE INTERPRETATIONVirtual and physicalEven if the quality of the virtual spaces isincreasingly high, they do seem to workas substitutes of the physical experienceas they were imagined at ﬁrst. Instead,the most interesting perspective seemsthat of the integration between physicaland digital experience.This might happen sometimes in unity oftime and space, or else by using virtualspaces as means to enhance the qualityof the physical experience.
THE INTERPRETATIONThe importance of the businessmodelIn most cases, initiatives on culturalheritage take the form of fundedprojects.Though they might be very interesting,there seems to be a general lack in theconstruction of a sustainable economicframe for their continuation after thekick-off period.A basic ﬁnding is that the scalability andtransferability of smart ideas are basedon the presence of a solid businessmodel, in the form of a clear value-chain, where the interests of differentactors and stakeholders and therevenue-share principles are deﬁned.
THE INTERPRETATIONThe importance of the “genius loci”The ﬁeld of cultural heritage seems to beaffected by trends and fads not lessthan others.Many interventions are based on thespread of supposed best practices, witha high degree of indifference of theplace. This attitude normally generates agreat number of unsuccessful cases.A basic ﬁnding is that the possibility totransfer and scale good practices issomehow linked to the “genius loci” ofplaces.