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CODE 95274
ACADEMIC YEAR 2024/2025
CREDITS
SCIENTIFIC DISCIPLINARY SECTOR ICAR/14
LANGUAGE English
TEACHING LOCATION
  • GENOVA
SEMESTER 2° Semester
TEACHING MATERIALS AULAWEB

OVERVIEW

Operative Machines. The Port Grammar

Port cities are mirrors of each other. Every port possesses a list of similar elements that, combined with the urban syntax, make it a place that is both peculiar and generic. These are operative machines that, to quote Reyner Banham, generate a specific “vocabulary of forms” (1986), an analytical language that derives its main connotation from its infrastructural character. 
The course “Operative Machines. The Port Grammar” takes as its case studies a selection of operative machines found in ports all over the world: windscreens, bridges for water transhipment, craneways, floating elevators, harbor dams, off-shore platforms, etc. Even before tackling them with design action, the course aims to represent them as architectures and to catalogue them as components of a collective and extreme grammar.

AIMS AND CONTENT

LEARNING OUTCOMES

The course will develop in the students a broad design ability to address coastal and port city topics, as well as environmental issues in an integrated matter with issues of public space through an urban/architectural proposal that can adapt to changing conditions.

The students will develop the ability to think and work logically and sequentially to develop a hierarchical strategy (from schematic to developed, from permanent structure to, eventually, ephemeral elements) and over a range of time.

The students will develop the ability to work in a multicultural and interdisciplinary team to learn to communicate and collaborate within a design team, integrating the knowledge and viewpoints of others from other fields of expertise.

They will be able to build up an extensive body of literature and project references on the subject of coastal areas and port cities.

The language of instruction is English, so the improvement of communication skills in English and developing a disciplinary vocabulary will be stressed.

AIMS AND LEARNING OUTCOMES

After the previous courses “Port-City Architectures. Inclusive and Hybrid Approaches for Land-Sea Settlements” (a.y. 2022/2023) and “Solid Water. Port Dams as Land-Sea Architectures and Settlements” (a.y. 2023/2024), the course “Operative Machines. The Port Grammar” takes as its case studies a selection of operative machines found in ports all over the world. Even before tackling them with design action, the course aims to represent them as architectures and to catalogue them as components of a collective and extreme port grammar.

The course “Operative Machines. The Port Grammar” main goals are: - dealing with urban/architectural design in an inhabited/developed coastal context; - confronting the relationship between the built environment and the sea; - addressing coastal environmental issues, as well as issues of adaptability over time; - tackling climate change, aspects of temporariness, seasonality and impermanence of marine settlements and social/cultural living patterns.

Upon completion of the course the student will be able to: - develop a decision-making design process based on forming options and making justifiable choices; - develop design proposals that permit and encourage adaptation and transformation with contextual changes (human, climatic, etc.); - develop different scenarios for completing the schematic architecture over short and long periods of time, with degrees of the permanent, temporary and ephemeral; - build up an extensive body of literature and project references on the subject of coastal areas and port cities; - learn new ways to work with modeling software and minimal rendering; - communicate more effectively in spoken English.

PREREQUISITES

The student is required to have: - basic knowledge or sense of architecture in an urban environment; - basic knowledge about the condition of coastal areas and port cities; - good ability with modeling software (Sketchup); - strong ability in Autocad or VectorWorks; - strong ability with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Indesign; - skill and interest in the realisation of physical models; - previous understanding of design and environmental issues is useful; - capacity to communicate and interest in improving presentation skills in spoken English.

TEACHING METHODS

The course will be based on three Exercises – “Drawing”, “Series”, “Vision”.
Each exercise is overall aimed to articulate a progressive knowledge and design process.
Each exercise will complement each other resulting in different but coordinated graphic products.  

The drafting of design ideas, drawings, graphics and physical models will determine the overall exam grade. The methodology of collecting data, diagrams, site drawings, photographs and models through publications (in books, magazines, scientific journals, web) will be very important. Gathering information, generating design proposals/options/schematics, and making justifiable choices from initial scheme to final development will be a process repeated throughout the semester.

Depending on the number of course participants, students will work individually.

Exercises will be accompanied by weekly collective screen and/or print reviews.

Lectures given by the professor or by external guests of international standing and expert in the course topics will provide bibliographical and design support for the work of the students.

It is planned to undertake a Site Visit to port areas of Genoa to make direct contact with the port context, its geometries, proportions and relationships with the marine and built environment of the coast.
 

The Exercises 
Each student will select a specific operative machine in a port context. The selected machine may be in a contemporary port (i.e., still present and in use) or it may belong to a port of the past (i.e., having been employed in operational activities but no longer in use). The overall work of the exercises will consist of analyzing the machine and the context in which it is set, the spatial and volumetric configurations, its technical dimensions, the particular technologies, materials or devices integrated into the operative component.

Each student will have to set up a knowledge and design according to three connected steps/exercises.
Each step/exercise will correspond to an A1 panel (59.4 cm x 84.1 cm) for a total of 3 vertical A1 panels.

In parallel to the exercise materials, students will produce physical Models (scale TBD). This work will have to communicate the features of the operative machines studied, paying particular attention to architectural components, structural layout and cladding, as well as its position in relation to the context. The models should be conceptual and synthetic and represent, as a whole, the vast sample of port grammar.


"Drawing" | Representation of the selected operative machine by means of architectural drawings. Each student must draw up an A1 panel in which the selected operative machine is shown in orthogonal projection with plan(s), elevation(s) and section(s).

"Series" | Construction of an iconographic series, a repertoire of images differing in scale, function and era that narrate an imagery of collective inspiration for the selected operative machine. Inspired by the photographic work of the German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher and their series of photographic images, each student will have to draw up an A1 panel by selecting 28 images (in a 7x4 grid) according to a principle of analogical juxtaposition of shapes, volumes, proportions and colors in relation to the selected operative machine

"Vision" | Graphic elaboration of an axonometric or perspective view exemplifying a possible design intervention on the selected operative machine. Drawing up an A1 panel, each student will have to suggest an architectural project by making plastic and morphological additions, demolitions, replacements of volumes, etc. Starting with the formal, compositional and structural characteristics of the operative machine under study, projects will either take the form of individual architectures or larger settlements, expressing the phenomena of differentiation, plurality and imbalance requirements of the land-sea border. A major goal will be to elaborate a distinct new architectural-infrastructural device. Particular attention will be devoted to the definition of development phases in which the designed architecture and its context evolve and are able to be transformed to meet new conditions and uses. Students will form a sequence of alternative scenarios, potentially mid- to long-term duration.

Students who have a valid certification of physical or learning disabilities on file with the University and who wish to discuss possible accommodations or other circumstances regarding lectures, coursework and exams, should speak both with the teacher and with the Department Architecture and Design's disability referent (https://architettura.unige.it/commissioni_e_referenti_dipartimento).

SYLLABUS/CONTENT

Port cities are mirrors of each other. Precisely because of their analogous character, they generate a common and replicable port grammar, so extreme that it also defines a new architectural typology in which the rhythm of volumes, the alternation of full and empty spaces, the arrangement of openings, the profile of the roofing, the connections between artefacts, and the accessibility schemes are all designed according to operational requirements.

Especially between the 19th and 20th centuries, ports underwent comparable phases of development, characterized by the impressive expansion of their territory and the gradual obsolescence and decommissioning of the oldest maritime centers. More recently, global phenomena (such as, the unification and automation of cargo, naval gigantism, intermodal traffic, the ports regionalization and the rise of port systems or clusters) have forced ports to provide themselves with the same equipment to meet operational needs such as loading and unloading ships, storage, handling and control of goods, distribution and, in some cases, processing of semi-finished products. This proliferation of recurrent forms and devices at the service of mechanization, standardization and, ultimately, of the rules of logistics is the origin of collective characteristics: a special morphology of landscapes and utilitarian architectures that recurs in ports even at very distant latitudes. 

Sometimes inherent to the formal aspect of the architecture or, on the other hand, to the industrial function or the construction or material choices, the features of the port architectural typology have ancient roots that manifest themselves through analogies that distinguish them and, at the same time, unite them. Every port possesses a list of similar elements that, combined with the urban syntax, make it a place that is both peculiar and generic. These are operative machines that, to quote Reyner Banham, generate a specific “vocabulary of forms” (1986), an analytical language that derives its main connotation from its infrastructural character. 

Already in the first decades of the 20th century, the industrial aesthetics of silos, warehouses, bunkers, elevators and barges conditioned the architectural style of the time. It is well known that in its forty years of hegemony, the International Style was the bearer of structural and constructive authenticity to the extent that every building aspired to be an expression of declared practical needs. Thus, the appearance of industrial resemblances in non-industrial buildings was interpreted as a commitment that these architectures would be structurally honest and functionally economical. In addition, such buildings were often designed as “vast shelters for all practical purposes” (Libert, 2015), i.e. able to be incredibly versatile, to accommodate change and not subordinate to their original purpose.

The port grammar is capable of responding to the logics of production and, in the contemporary framework, to those of logistics and the environmental upgrading of ports, becoming strategic in terms of emission reduction, use of sustainable energy sources, decarbonization of port transport through innovations in digitization and automation, etc.

On a theoretical basis, the course aims to study, catalogue and intervene with the tools of architectural design on a selected sample of port operative machines. The founding theoretical principle of the course is to recognize an architectural quality in artefacts designed and used mainly for production, trade and logistics. Windscreens, bridges for water transhipment, craneways, floating elevators, harbor dams or off-shore platforms are all functional components that contribute to the shaping of port spatiality and offer themselves as active constituents of the heritage and design of the contemporary port. They are extreme forms of settlement and territorial morphologies. 

The remarkable engineering efforts for settling these operative machines on the land-sea edge appear as attempts to solidify and crystallize the restless fluidity of water, thus making the process of design completely focused on the need to replicate the ground of the land onto the water surface.  Furthermore, this liminal condition affects not only the aesthetics of their architecture, but also the politics of the space, as highlighted by concepts as viscosity and blankness. The relationships between public and private space; the role of technology in shaping the accessibility of space and the constant relationship with the land urbanism are some of the topics that interest architectural design within this spatial context.

After the previous courses “Port-City Architectures. Inclusive and Hybrid Approaches for Land-Sea Settlements” (a.y. 2022/2023) and “Solid Water. Port Dams as Land-Sea Architectures and Settlements” (a.y. 2023/2024), the course “Operative Machines. The Port Grammar” takes as its case studies a selection of operative machines (see below) found in ports all over the world. Even before tackling them with design action, the course aims to represent them as architectures and to catalogue them as components of a collective and comprehensive grammar.

The course aims to elaborate on the idea that large operational infrastructures respond to spatial formation rules that differ from land-based artefacts and, at the same time, can be recognized not only as mere functional devices but as architectures capable of accommodating, including and triggering extreme and complex activities. The course is based on the following goals: dealing with urban/architectural design in an inhabited/developed coastal context, confronting the relationship between the built environment and the sea, addressing coastal environmental issues, as well as issues of adaptability over time, tackling climate change, aspects of temporariness, seasonality and impermanence of marine settlements and social/cultural living patterns.

RECOMMENDED READING/BIBLIOGRAPHY

[selection]

BOOKS/ESSAYS

Allen S. (1999). “Infrastruc­tural urbanism” in Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, pp. 46–59.

Andriani C., 2020, “Oltre. Metabolisms at the City/Port Border”, in Moretti (2020: 14-19).

Andriani, C., Moretti, B., Servente, D., 2018, “Patrimonio di confine tra Città e Porto. Il caso di Genova” in Paesaggio Urbano. Paesaggio Urbano, 3, 29-39.

Brenner N., Katsikis N. (2018). “Operational landscapes: Hinterlands of the capitalocene” in AD Architectural Design, 90, 1: 22-31.

Brenner N. (2013) Implosions /Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization, Berlin, Boston: JOVIS Verlag GmbH.

Bruttomesso R., Alemany J., 2011, eds., The Port City of the XXIst Century: New Challenges in the Relationship between Port and City. Venezia: RETE Publisher.


Couling N., Hein C., 2020, (eds.), The Urbanisation of the Sea. From Concepts and Analysis to Design. nai010 publishers, Rotterdam.

Couling N. 2015, The Role of Ocean Space in Contemporary Urbanization, EPFL Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne.

De Carlo G., 1992, La Città e il Porto. Torino: Marietti.


Ducruet C., 2011, “The Port City in Multidisciplinary Analysis”, in Bruttomesso, Alemany (2011: 32-48).


Hein C., 2011, eds., Port Cities: Dynamic Landscapes and Global Networks. Abingdon-New York, NY: Routledge.


Hein C., 2020, “Designing Thresholds in the Port Cityscapes”, in Moretti (2020: 200-205).

Hein C., van Mi Y.l, Azman-Momirski L., 2023, Port City Atlas. Mapping European Port City Territories: From Understanding to Design, nai010 publishers, Rotterdam.

Khosravi H., Bacchin T.K., LaFleur F. (2019), Aesthetics and Politics of Logistics. Humboldt Books, Venice and Rotterdam.

Moretti, B., 2022. “Architetture della Città Portuale Contemporanea. Composizioni Ibride ed Eccezionali Contesti” in GUD, Composizioni – Compositions, n. 6, 24-33, Stefano Termanini Editore, Genova.

Moretti, B., 2021, “La grammatica dei porti, una morfologia speciale di paesaggi analoghi. Il caso del Grain Elevator di Buffalo” in GUD, Analogia – Analogy, n. 3, 46-55.

Moretti B., 2020, Beyond the Port City: The Condition of Portuality and the Threshold Concept. Berlin: Jovis.


Moretti B., 2020, “The FRAC of Dunkirk by Lacaton & Vassal: About Incommensurability, Duplication and Openness” in WA – World Architecture Magazine, 356, 114-119

Moretti, B., Komossa, S., Marzot, N., Andriani, C., 2019, “States of co-existence and border projects in port cities: Genoa and Rotterdam compared” in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil EngineersUrban Design and Planning, 172(5), 191-202.

Nesbit J. S., Waldheim C. (2022) (eds.). Technical Lands: A Critical Primer, JOVIS Verlag GmbH, Berlin.

Pavia R., Di Venosa M., 2012, Waterfront: Dal conflitto all’integrazione. Trento: LISt Lab.

Rosselli A., 2005, “Il porto come struttura e significato” in Portus, 10: 4-9.
Unwin S., 2007, Doorway. Abingdon-New York, NY: Routledge.


Tschumi B. (1981), The Manhattan Transcripts. Academy Editions, London.

Young L. (2019). Machine Landscapes: Architectures of the Post-Anthropocene. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Inc.


WEBSITES

PULSE - Port-clUster LandScapE: Developing a Spatial and Design Approach to Port Clusters
EU Funded Project, Next Generation EU, NNRP, Young Researchers Public Notice 2022
https://pulse.unige.it

TRANSITIONAL TERRITORIES, TU Delft, NL
https://transitionalterritories.org/

DELTA URBANISM, TU Delft, NL
https://deltaurbanism.org/

PORTCITY FUTURES
Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities, NL
https://www.portcityfutures.nl/home

BORDERS&TERRITORIES, NL
https://www.borders-territories.space

PORTUS, the online magazine of RETE, Venice, IT
https://portusonline.org/

OSSERVATORIO DEI PAESAGGI COSTIERI ITALIANI
https://www.paesaggicostieri.org/

SEASCAPE. International Journal of Architecture, Urbanism and Geomorphology of Coastal Landscapes
https://seascape.it/

North Sea Wind Park, MVRDV, 2006
https://www.mvrdv.nl/projects/98/north-sea-wind-park

DELTA WORKS, NL
https://www.zeeuwseankers.nl/en/story/deltawerken-safety-and-recreation

TEACHERS AND EXAM BOARD

LESSONS

LESSONS START

According to the academic calendar.

 

Class schedule

The timetable for this course is available here: Portale EasyAcademy

EXAMS

EXAM DESCRIPTION

At the end of the semester, students will present and discuss with critics their design rationale and justification for the project based on the course objectives.
The work presented for the final examination will be the series of 3 vertical A1 panels (59.4 cm x 84.1 cm) and the physical model on an architectural scale (1:200 or 1:100).
A digital pdf version of the 3 A1s will also be submitted and discussed during the exam. A template of the layout, in Indesign format (.indd), will be provided for panel processing.

Aspects to be emphasized in the final evaluation are: research, references, case studies, use of information; interpretative approach developed for the study and design of the selected operative machine; typological and functional design action the architecture of permanence and change; urban strategy, insertion of the designed architecture into the context, design of public spaces and connections; environmental conditions and integrated architectural response; collaboration and communication; visualization of the project and effective use of media; effectiveness of the work and final presentation.

ASSESSMENT METHODS

Assessment and evaluation will take place at the end of each phase of work, by both the professor and the group/class itself. 

The presence of external guests during the final exam, as jury, will offer a direct and qualified confrontation in which the student will have to demonstrate the critical-theoretical and strategic-planning skills acquired during the course.

The final examination, conducted in presence and in oral form by all students, will verify the level of learning of the primary notions of architectural design and the themes proposed by the course.