From post-industrial city to the new urban campus

This year’s The Class Conference will explore how these areas of dereliction are being transformed into the brightest beacons of innovation

The past decade can be considered nothing less than a miraculous one in human innovation. More ideas and products have been realised than any decade before, with greater flows of people, goods, and services between cities, countries and continents. In this new, global world-order, life goals and work preferences are changing too. Younger generations are steering clear of the isolated office parks of the second half of the 20th century as they seek more integrated, compact communities offering many different lifestyle opportunities and spatial uses.

Not only is this seen as more desirable than the hospital-like sterility of suburbia, it is better for business in the ‘idea’-based economies of the 21st century. However, as more people pour into cities to consume and contribute to the innovative atmosphere of dense, human capital-rich centres, they also run into the physical roadblocks of the cityscapes, structures, and infrastructures not yet adapted to their new needs.

But where challenges exist, opportunities arise.

A key challenge in many cities comes in the form of abandoned, former industrial areas. However, as the industrial world of the last century crumbles away, it has left in its wake not only the challenges of relatively vacant, post-industrial spaces, but also ‘concrete playgrounds’ for the creative, entrepreneurial spirits of their respective cities. These brownfield sites are ripe opportunities for transformation, perfect for cultivation into idea-breeding grounds by the municipalities they lie within.

Likewise, for local knowledge centres like universities, there is a strong desire to reposition within a post-industrial world, to leverage the changes around us, including reimagining and redefining former industrial landscapes to act as urban campuses where their students can experiment and learn to contribute to new societal wants and needs of our new, global world-order.

A key challenge in many cities comes in the form of abandoned, former industrial areas

Italy is currently in a transformational phase when it comes to studying and student accommodation. While the number of Italian students has decreased to about 1.8 million, the amount of international student numbers has been rising. There are about 90,400 international students in Italy, compared to approximately 73,600 in 2011. With this increased share of internationals, it becomes more and more interesting to investigate what brings them to Italy, or what could be improved in order to attract the global student. As Emilio Faroldi, Vice Rector at Politecnico of Milan, underlines: “One of the most important mission here at Politecnico di Milano is to generate the interest in students from all around the world. Our aim is to create continuous exchange of skills and ideas that can help our different schools to grow and always be competitive.”


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