Report from the event

What happened at domusforum 2021

On November 24 Domus hosted its fourth yearly conference on the future of cities at the Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci in Milan. Here an overview of the event.

domusforum 2021

As two years of pandemic have managed to undermine those structures and values that appeared consolidated by the paradigm of global development, as the interconnected lifestyle left as a legacy of an entire century has been questioned, we find ourselves standing once again in front of some fundamental questions we can no longer avoid:

How will we live together? How will we move? How will we work? How will we study? How will we heal? How will we occupy space? How will we save the planet?

We have chosen to focus on these seven precise questions to define the structure of domusforum 2021, a shared ground for reflection and exchange between the realms of  design, social sciences, economics and civil society, where the outline of  a possible, sustainable future can be outlined.

  

The day is opened by the words of Giovanna Mazzocchi Bordone, President of Editoriale Domus, and Walter Mariotti, Editorial Director of Domus, who confirm how much we believe in the power of multiplicity and crossdisciplinarity in a world were polarization of the discourse is becoming increasingly common. Domus is a platform where different disciplines merge and, as architecture is more and more connected to the evolution of global knowledge, Domus is transitioning form a status  of critical epicenter where things are interpreted to the status of meta-place, where things actually happen. 

Giovanna Mazzocchi Bordone, President of Editoriale Domus, at the opening of domusforums 2021
Giovanna Mazzocchi Bordone, President of Editoriale Domus, at the opening of domusforums 2021

Fiorenzo Marco Galli, General Director of Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, describes the conference venue as “a museum of the transformation of the world”, and such transformation is nowadays going faster and faster. The Museum is joining the mission of holding tight to our value of staying human: this is culture, in the end. As Luigi Einaudi used to say: “economic sciences do not exist, only common sense applied to economics does.” And we are now called to apply large amounts of sense to a scenario which has definitely become global.

  

“How will we heal”, a research by Boston Consulting Group

According to the Boston Consulting Group research presented by Lorenzo Positano, Managing Director & partner BCG, the trends that define the way we will be treated are the transition towards proximity, the acceleration of the use of digital technology with the use of artificial intelligence, the knowledge of the care path through digital technologies, and this obviously implies an evolution of Italian and European healthcare systems.

  

Urban Jewel Box

Architectures are jewels, and the city is a box of jewels, says Tadao Ando, Guest Editor at Domus for 2021.

“When I came to Milan I was impressed by its powerful architectures and by their history. Discovering the work of Zanuso, Sottsass and other I could work with, I immediately wanted to reproduce their method and work. Later, I came back from a long trip around the world, and I had learned the this world is one, reuniting the lives of different people: where things are created in such light, to communicate with each other, harmony will be created.”

Domus started this way, to create an interconnected world: by turning back to  its mission of sharing design and architecture worldwide in the 60s and the 70s, it will be able to show such a connected world again to students, to people. 

  

Magali Anderson, Chief Sustainability and innovation officer, Holcim Group, illustrates building industry sustainable scenarios in an expanding world

Global population is on the rise, and our future is increasingly urban, with 4 billion people living in cities today: already now, 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing and sanitation. Holcim is deploying affordable and sustainable solutions to improve living standards for all and democratize housing without compromises on aesthetics. Solutions as 3D concrete printing and Durabric are being applied in Africa in housing and school buildings, and integrated in highly innovative programs, with very low embodied CO2 footprint. 

  

Philosopher Cosimo Accoto investigates the transition from city-state to stack-city

The connection between philosophy and city dates back to ancient times, to a symbiosis embodied by Greek city-states. Contemporary urbanism is nonetheless generating stack-cities, layered and coded, sensible and  programmable, based on algorithms and protocols. What happens to philosophy as it meets stack-city? Which new urban philosophy is evocated by such “terraforming”, such new way of inhabiting the planet? The relationship between technology and space is not destructive, it creates instead new volumetric intelligences, structuring a constantly evolving space where we the humans are called to face the management of both the information overload of the present and the information shortage of the future.   

  

Round table: Energy, design, environment, education, finance. Future as an open matrix

Paola Brambilla, member of the Central Charity Commission of Fondazione Cariplo, opens the debate: “Man, as Greek philosopher Protagoras thought, used to be the measure of all things. Now humans are measuring things, including well-being”. International reflection on law has now identified the one health principle, globally valuable and recognized. It is about common yet differentiated responsibilities: soft law tools have a highly relevant role in creating scenarios of distributive justice of well-being, and profitable alliances between the profit world and society can grow within such scenario.

Stefano Caselli, Dean for International Affairs at Bocconi University, is then invited to outline the role of education system: education and growth of talents, Caselli says, are collective processes, requiring hubs for contamination of different knowledges, requiring structures and capitals to be implemented. Italy is not yet conceiving such processes as collective, they are still seen as individual matters, and as our percentage of neet in younger population has grown to 24%, this winner-loser dynamic is the real issue to be tackled. Universities, then, should be the ones to complete such processes, to attract talents and to enable them to change society.

Martina Starke, Director of Munich Studio of Designworks (a BMW Group Company), introduces the role and attitude of designers as they join the transformation process: a position based on the love for constant change, dynamicity. “In the automotive world we are currently researching the interaction between user and vehicle, next step will is the self-driving vehicle, then the interconnection between circulating vehicles. We also move towards a more ecological approach employing recycled materials in a framework of circular economy”. 

Paolo Quaini, Head of Urban Regeneration Projects at Edison Group, interviewed by Walter Mariotti, shows how urban regeneration today means a new approach to spaces and resources. And today we are moving from a qualitative approach to a measurement of such transition, which is widely based on reuse. In the building itself, multi-functionality is key to implementing this scenario. In energy terms, the highest responsibility comes now from formulating adequate solutions, in a fit-for-purpose perspective, capable of supporting a variety of functions over time, distributed between the building and the external context. 

Paola Brambilla adds that it is necessary to link data science with citizen science, institutions with a newly active citizenship.

What about finance? How can finance be defined as sustainable, Mariotti urges.

For Caselli, sustainable finance does not mean a milder finance, finance must do its job to guarantee us a future. But it must be oriented, investing in projects that are capable of producing an overall return: the State is fundamental to this, not as an entrepreneur but as a designer of incentives. “We must aim for distributed finance, as it is already happening in projects where investors hold investment tokens that can be controlled in real time.” Brambilla also recalls the relevant role of Environmental Taxonomy, a new European legal framework.

To answer the fundamental question of how the relationship between cities and technology will change, Starke, while reminding us that her company works within a hybrid design framework, applied to the relationship between design and the individual by combining different disciplines, sees very clearly how necessary this approach will be in the transition to the urban scale. For Quaini, on the other hand, in terms of data management there are still shortcomings in the approach of integrating solutions between different players, and there is still a long way to go to create a real ecosystem gathering companies, institutions and citizens.

  

Sustainable finance, digitalization and Citizenship. Massimo Valz-Gris interviews Alessandra Perrazzelli, Deputy Governor of Banca d’Italia

How can finance, allying with new technologies, return to territories, especially after the pandemic?

Digitalization is a tool that can do a lot to bring finance, families and the territory closer together: the pandemic has given us a chance to understand this potential. However, this process requires digital education, because technology must not create further divisions, polarizations in the population of our cities.

The Bank of Italy has launched several tools in this direction: a fin-tech channel since 2017, the Milano Hub experimentation space for new industry, and the Ministry of Economy's regulatory Sandbox, a tool to reflect on systemic mutations from analogue to digital.

With respect to the concept of sustainable finance, we should note that the pandemic has increased the importance of sustainability in investments, policies, attitudes, business choices. A collective awareness of the importance of sustainability and climate impact of certain choices, of the risks taken and of good governance is essential. This affects the financial sector, but also other industries where the SDGs are increasingly important and implemented.

Beauty also comes from respecting rules that are based on effective applicability within an increasingly decentralized, technology-enabled context.This is why away from greenwashing dynamics is also decisive, and this is why the Italian G20 presidency focused specifically on the three axes of people, planet, prosperity, and specifically on their application.

Sustainable Finance, Digitalisation, Citizenship – Massimo Valz-Gris interviews Alessandra Perrazzelli, deputy governor, Banca d’Italia, at domusforum 2021
Sustainable Finance, Digitalisation, Citizenship – Massimo Valz-Gris interviews Alessandra Perrazzelli, deputy governor, Banca d’Italia, at domusforum 2021

Melting Pots of the Future: Global Cities Amidst Climate Change

Parag Khanna, global strategy consultant, outlines the phenomenon of mass migration driven by climate change, and the types of cities that will emerge as humanity’s future home. Four layers of an only seemingly univocal geography combine in this phenomenon: environmental, political, demographic, down to the layer of human geography, the geography of usResponses to global change are deeply rooted in this layer, and there is where the focus should be concentrated: the geographic redistribution of global population as the most effective response to climate change. It will a fundamental feature of civilisation 3.0, a dimension that embraces history as it strives towards the future.

  

Walter Mariotti converses with Marco Pierini, director of Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria

How do cultural institutions deal with the pandemic? Marco Pierini tells us about the immediate anxiety for initiatives that exploded during the first lockdown, to which his institution responded with silence: a silence where the project for the future was already boiling. The very role of the museum is to help us think about the future. Digitalization is the basis for enhancing and cataloguing heritage, in order to democratize the access to it, but direct experience remains at the heart of everything, says Pierini, an experience that should be offered to everyone as freely as possible.

  

The Living City

Stefano Mancuso, Professor of General arboriculture and arboreal crops at the University of Florence, confronts us with a radical interpretation: the city has become the natural place where humans live, like the beehive for bees. Man is part of nature, and so is its product. Mankind is a generalist species, who can live and thrive in different environments. But this species is now specialising: we can almost only live in cities, and that would require a global stability that no longer exists. We should look at the city as Patrick Geddes did, as a living organism: so we would understand its ecological footprint, but most of all its future, the need for cities to connect as a network of living beings.

  

The Future of Physical Space in the Society of the Digital Spectacle . Walter Mariotti converses with David Rockwell, Founder and chairman of Rockwell Group

Architecture has a proactive role, according to David Rockwell, the power to create connections, as he demonstrated during the pandemic with his urban open stages project.

Technology, which often replaces the physical world, has the risk to create a barrier against  individual involvement, and that is where architecture gives its fundamental contribution, giving directions to make technology  properly immersive. It is a process that draws a lot from the culture of entertainment and stage design, but also a process where Walter Mariotti identifies three characters: curiosity, innovation and the leadership of thought.

  

Conclusions

The day is closed by Walter Mariotti, who reminds us that Domus is increasingly becoming a laboratory, where different knowledges merge, and where an attempt is made to provide a vision of the future through architecture, science and the arts.  Quoting Krishnamurti, 

We are the result of mutual actions and reactions, this civilisation is a collective product. No country and no people is separate from one another, we are all interrelated, we are all one. Whether we recognize it or not, we share in the misfortune of a people as we share in its fortune. You cannot distance yourself to condemn or praise.

The position of Domus has always been based on a critical vision and on freedom of thought, and this is the direction that Domus will keep on following.

  

The program

9.30 – 9.35 Greetings, Giovanna Mazzocchi Bordone, President of Editoriale Domus

9.35 – 9.40 Inauguration and welcoming session, Walter Mariotti, Editorial Director, Domus

9.40 – 9.45 Greetings, Fiorenzo Marco Galli, General Director Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci

9.45 – 10.05 Presentation of the research How will we heal by Boston Consulting Group – Lorenzo Positano, Managing director & partner Boston Consulting Group

10.05 – 10.15 Urban Jewel Box -Tadao Ando, Guest Editor, Domus 2021

10.15 – 10.30 How will we live? - Magali Anderson, Chief Sustainability and innovation officer, Holcim Group

10.30 – 10.45 From City-State to City-Stack: Toward A New (Urban) Philosophy - Cosimo Accoto, Philosopher, cultural innovation consultant, affiliate researcher at MIT, Boston

10.45 – 11.45 Energy, design, environment, education, finance. Future as an open matrix Round table featuring: Paola Brambilla, Coordinator of EIA, the Commission for Environmental Impact Assessment, at the Italian Ministry for Ecological Transition; Paolo Quaini, Head of Urban Regeneration Projects at Edison Group; Stefano Caselli, Dean for International Affairs at Bocconi University; Martina Starke, Director, Munich Studio of Designworks, A BMW Group Company

11.45 – 12.00 Sustainable finance, digitalization and Citizenship – Massimo Valz-Gris interviews Alessandra Perrazzelli, Deputy Governor of Banca d’Italia

12.00 – 12.15 Melting Pots of the Future: Global Cities Amidst Climate Change - Parag Khanna, Global strategy consultant

12.15 – 12.35 Walter Mariotti converses with Marco Pierini, director of Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria

12.35 – 12.50 The Living City – Stefano Mancuso, Professor of General arboriculture and arboreal crops, University of Florence

12.50 – 13.05 The Future of Physical Space in the Society of the Digital Spectacle - Walter Mariotti converses with David Rockwell, Founder and chairman of Rockwell Group

13.05 – 13.10 Conclusions and goodbyes, Walter Mariotti

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