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Urban System and Urban Models



Acebillo J.


Martinoni M.


Sassi E.


Torricelli G. P.



The partners of this research project are the 3 Institutes of the Swiss high schools of Architecture focused on urban studies: i.CUP (Institute for the Contemporary Urban Project), AAM-USI; Chôros/SAR/ENAC/EPFL; ETH Studio Basel / ETHZ.
The research is a study on the contemporary city and urban space; it focuses on two main topics: the renewal of the comparative systemic approach to the city and the analysis of urbanization and urban/public space in the globalization era.

The process of urbanization has changed fundamentally in recent years. The new contemporary parameters, like informational technology, the neo-tertiary economic sector, and the globalization process require a major revision of the urban models with which we operate, and which are still a reflection of the old paradigms resulting from the industrial revolution, the mechanical technology and the single-scale nation-state. In a post-fordist, digital, individual-oriented, urbanized and globalized world, however, the way in which cities develop has profoundly changed. It is currently not easy to translate the deep contemporary change, between “the old solid society and the new liquid modernity”, into theoretical frameworks as well as into agency schemes. Fluctuations in population, in mobility, in the natural resources and energy, including fluctuations in the intensity of spatial configurations, are a consequence of the functional indefiniteness which occurs today in many cities. These are new parameters which turn urban space into an open, dynamic, and comprehensive system, which makes possible to identify various cities inside the same city. A new language and new theoretical approaches must be developed in order to understanding present-day urbanization processes.

The research will be developed in four work packages, that although their differences are linked through a same object “Globalization of the urbanity”: 1) Urban Systems and Global Urbanization (theoretical and methodological framework as basis for the analysis of worldwide selected case studies); 2) Patterns and Pathways of Global Urbanization (comparative analysis of urbanization processes on a large scale); 3) Globalization and Urban / Public Space (comparative analysis of urban spaces on a medium scale); 4) Swiss City Systems (analysis and hypothesis on the future of the Swiss urban system, informed by the acquired competences and knowledge through the international case studies).

Additional information

Start date
End date
37 Months
Funding sources