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Cosmopolitan Palermo workshop

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University of Palermo- Department of Architecture

Prof. Arch. Maurizio Carta; Prof. Arch. Alessandra Badami, Prof. Arch. Daniele Ronsivalle

Mentor: Barbara Lino, PhD

Tutors: Annalisa Contato, PhD; Carmelo Galati Tardanico, PhD; Luca Torrisi, PhD candidate; Cosimo Camarda, PhD candidate; Dalila Sicomo, PhD candidate

Leibniz Universität Hannover 

Faculty of Architecture and Landscape 

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Jörg Schröder

Riccarda Cappeller MSc MA; Arch. Federica Scaffidi PhD;

Arch. Emanuele Sommariva PhD;  Dipl.-Ing. Alissa Diesch

Student tutors: Anna Pape B.Sc.; Rebekka Wandt B.Sc.; Marie Schwarz

Discovering Danisinni
Breakdown the wall
Where is the water?

The workshop focused on the performance and perception of urban spaces in a highly global, extremely specific and temporal city as Palermo. It combined activities and skills of urban exploration, spatial thinking, arts, interactive communication, and urban design in order to enhance new approaches in urbanism. Referring to the multiple ideas of "Open City" by Richard Sennett and the framework of "Augmented City" as a spatial, cultural, social, economic platform for enhancing our contemporary life by Maurizio Carta, spaces of urban change and innovation shall be looked at, focusing on in-transition processes, potentialities of places and narratives.

The workshop conceived the city as a laboratory, which implies the understanding and mapping of the existing, social and built relations, mobilities, flows, connecting elements, intertwining layers and atmospheres; an active creation and projection of ideas as well as their communication. Bringing these elements together for a conceptual idea of space and its "choreography of daily life" (Jane Jacobs) nearly automatically leads us to the medium of film, which as architecture, uses movement and time for perception. 

Experiencing architecture and space through filmmaking, with fieldwork and observation the city is approached from a different perspective and creates a new format for architectural knowledge and design interventions that is manifested and connected artistically. "Experimentalism is [...] constantly taking apart, putting together, contradicting, provoking languages and syntaxes that are nevertheless accepted as such" (Tafuri 1976) This is the idea for Palermo.

Cosmopolitan Habitat

Urban Design Studio


Proff. Maurizio Carta, Alessandra Badami, Daniele Ronsivalle

Mentor: Barbara Lino. Tutors: Annalisa Contato, Carmelo Galati Tardanico, Luca Torrisi, Cosimo Camarda.

The current scenario on a world scale is characterized by an economic, social and cultural condition in which the intensification and the interactions of the flows of intangible goods is opposed to the materialization of borders and barriers.  Inequalities and social conflicts still makes the theme of social inclusion relevant through the demand for an accessible spatial dimension of urban welfare policies.

In this scenario we need to rethink the strategies to design and transform the city into a cosmopolitan optic. 
The cosmopolitan city is a city in which the meaning of everything is enclosed in an orderly system of relations between citizens and the spaces they live. Cosmopolis is an ideal city in which the individual parts make sense with respect to the citizens who live there, guaranteeing their fundamental rights to happiness (citing the Constitution of the United States of America).

The cosmopolitan habitat is alive and animated by elements that contribute from the outside to determine its nature as a city open to the world and from within to offer urban experiences of cosmopolitan type.

Living in a cosmopolitan city means to pursue the happiness of its inhabitants. 

A cosmopolitan city is a city steeped in a complex array of global and local forces that create new visions (and divisions), hierarchies and opportunities, tensions. The most evident relapse of the disruptive force of the tensions generated by the cosmopolitan habitat (interior and exterior, openness and identity, designed spaces and informal spaces) is in the challenge posed by the impacts that planetary-scale migrations entail on the local scale, in welcoming and generating multiple and diverse points of view.


The cosmopolitan habitat is characterized by a community often of global origin, with strong multicultural connotations, and an offer of city in terms of services, places and opportunities that can create an urban rank of the highest level contributing to increase and multiply positive tensions.

The cosmopolitan city and cosmopolitan citizenship together give life to the cosmopolitan habitat.

A cosmopolitan city is inhabited by a multicultural community open to the possibility of meeting the other and willing to face the sociality of the public space and the new places assigned to the meeting.  

Starting from these reflections, the Urban Planning Studios (Prof. Maurizio Carta, Prof. Angela Badami, Prof. Daniele Ronsivalle) investigated the cosmopolitan habitat, with the aim of designing the city of Palermo in a cosmopolitan perspective. 
The Studio addressed the theme/project of augmented City (@Maurizio Carta, 2017) as a challenge to re-imagine the city, public spaces, communities, relationships, infrastructure, services and landscapes for changing times.

The projects have produced innovative solutions for the city, creating a new balance between urban and urbanizable, reactivating abandoned, disused or declining places and spaces, and re-cycling infrastructure, landscapes and buildings that can accommodate new urban life cycles.
With the specific objective of transforming the spaces of the city into cosmopolitan places, the Studios have applied specific methods of analysis and a process approach, incremental and adaptive to the planning phase of urban regeneration. The definition of strategic objectives has been guided by the paradigms of augmented City, through the application of the Cityforming Protocol (@Maurizio Carta, 2015) for the simulation of a complex and incremental project of new urban metabolisms.

Palermo Open City

Urban Design Studio


Prof. Jörg Schröder

Arch. Federica Scaffidi PhD, Riccarda Cappeller MSc MA

At the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Palermo recently raised international awareness with the Manifesta biennale of contemporary art “Cultivating Coexistence” and with the installation of the Arabic-Norman World Heritage sites. Both initiatives gave further strength to a cultural and social renaissance of the city. Palermo’s vision as a “laboratory for the humanities, arts, and culture” points to a Mediterranean dimension, it is a stage for the challenges of migration, climate change, and the future of the very South of Europe, especially for young people.

OPEN CITY will explore how the idea of “Cosmopolitan Habitats”—developed in cooperation with Maurizio Carta—as a global vocation for inclusiveness can influence urban futures. It will ask how tangible and intangible cultural heritage can be conceived as a creative factor for productivity and openness. How can elements, energies, and networks of a collaborative city overcome spatial and social fragmentation? What role can boundaries, limits, borders, thresholds, and peripheries play for envisioning a “Cosmopolitan Habitat”? OPEN CITY aims at new concepts and tools in architectural urbanism: in a performative and creative analysis that links multiple research avenues, including texts and movies, refe- rences and innovative forms of mapping, diagramming and information interaction; and in a strategic and inter-scalar design approach that combines spatial activators and connectors, urban patterns and networks, and urban practices.

Starting from these reflections, the study project PALERMO OPEN CITY focuses on the urban area around the so-called Danisinni district, a context of cultural and socio-economic interest on the edge of the historical centre of Palermo. The studio area includes the Unesco World Heritage site Zisa Castle, the Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa (a former factory) and the University, with linkages to the near historic centre and the Sea as well as across the highway towards the mountains. Starting from its potentialities and resources, the urban design studio has the purpose to find innovative solutions for the place through the analysis of the following main topics:

OPENNESS and INTEGRATIVITY, towards migrants and as general cultural, social, and economic idea, focus on the analysis of the diversity of Palermo’s social realities, especially emerging communities - like Danisinni. This thematic analysis, therefore, aims to observe local communities, who is living the place and how;

FRAGMENTATION focuses on built structures, infrastructures, topography, that on one hand offer chances for novelties in boundaries and periphery, on the other hand is expression of a cultural and social richness. The topic of boundaries and barriers is expressed on its many levels that separate these sites from the most historic and cultural ones; 

HERITAGE in different expressions - from World Heritage sites to recent or intangible heritage, in a diffuse and polycentric sense and driven by different initiatives. Interpreted as Creative Heritage, it can be strongly referred to the ideas of openness, migration, and internationality;

COLLABORATIVE CITY in activating elements, energies and networks – observes processes of urban transfor- mation that could also be linked to a new material productivity, in crafts, know-how, digital production and intangible collaborations. In the design approach, the collaborative aspect of a city is emphasized by new technological tools and open, public and sharing spaces. This topic is also connected to the UNESCO Network of Learning Cities in which Palermo is part since 2019.