International Workshop, 2022: “Planning Cities for the (Post-)Pandemic/Crisis Era”

This Workshop is a research activity organized under the framework of the International PhD POLIS University/ Ferrara University in Architecture and Urban Planning. Aimed at the 36th and 37th cycle PhD candidates, the workshop builds on the previous and ongoing research work, focusing in the city and architecture scale developed under the Department of the Scientific Research, Department of Applied Research, Observatory of the Mediterranean Basin (OMB) unit, within the FKZH, Faculty for Research and Development at POLIS University.
Each year the research activity promoted by the workshop is aimed at a specific topic, which is then open for debate and critical analysis by each PhD student individually, in order to develop their capacity for operating within any given planning context by developing theoretical tools, able to generate design processes and new research paths.

After the global crisis of 2020, the settlement seems to be in an irreversible transformation. Large transformations that affect the space where people gather, the way they gather and interact (the role of squares as collection points; the point where urban space is contemplated; the telematic square); transformations affecting financial exchanges (it seems that large businesses that are moving online are dominating the market economy by overshadowing small businesses); transport of persons and goods; the space of the apartment as the dwelling is appearing more and more as a space that tends to contain all the functions in the interior where beyond the classic ones is added the space of working / creating or even that of recreation; intelligent city administration; transformations that affect social inequality; the way of nutrition; transformations regarding working process and many other aspects. All these transformations necessarily translate into transformations of the inhabited space of man.

Aim of the Workshop:
Given the crises of the last two years at the national and international level, which have generated a series of phenomena and new needs for urban spaces and housing different from those of the previous period, the purpose of this project is to research these phenomena and the need to provide a solution at the spatial level, with respect to the preservation of the environment, thus anticipating the spatial models of the cities of the future.
In this framework, the Workshop is aiming at housing a scholar and professional discourse on the following questions:

  • What is the nature of (post-) pandemic city transformations?
  • What urban factors and qualities stand at the core of these transformations?
  • In what ways do health and wellbeing intertwine with city-making in a post-pandemic context?
  • To what extent COVID-19 will/could alter our understanding of urban/living space and pertaining life dialectics?
  • In what ways will the society operate within urban/living environments in the future? What about our houses, leisure activities, public space, mobility, and work environments?
  • What lessons will architects, planners and city experts draw on their role for city making? What about the education and research for these professions? What about the new models of life?

One of the main objectives of this international PhD since 2014 is to collect multidisciplinary experiences coming from different field of Architecture knowledge, in order to consolidate a group of researchers and professionals with a capacity to accept new complexity and challenge for the future urban crises.
In relation to the above transformations (Paragraph 1), this research project aims to find and propose settlement alternatives that respond to the transformations and spatial crises generated by the situations that have emerged in recent years involving the Albanian context but also international.
These objectives touch on three different areas related to the main focus of the project which are I) proposals for planning and settlement models II) Proposals for the protection and conservation of biodiversity and the Environment, III) Proposals for innovative housing models that reflect the needs of contemporary society.

From a methodological point of view, this workshop starts with a clear research question. The research question of this workshop is related to finding spatial answers that provide solutions to urban problems generated precisely by the transformations listed above and the recent global crises. Specifically, the research question of the project is: how should a settlement from a territorial and urban point of view be able to withstand major shocks such as earthquakes, floods, fires, droughts, infectious situations for both people and the chain of life?
To answer the above question the project will be divided into several steps that are not necessarily sequential but that may even overlap with each other.
The first step is to gather information at a theoretical level that is directly related to theoretical studies on resilient and innovative cities. In parallel with this step, detailed analyzes will be made at the territorial and urban level on the case of the Lezha region, emphasizing the risks and dangers to which this region is exposed.
The second step has to do with the processing of the data extracted above within the workshop. In this intensive workshop beyond the analyzes made in the first step it is expected to give specific proposals at the theoretical and practical level to answer the research question posed at the beginning of the paragraph. In VVorkshop will be created 3 groups of researchers with members with expertise from different fields. The workshop will be led by a group of professors from Polis University (coordination: Prof. Besnik Aliaj, Dr. Llazar Kumaraku), while many others will help every day or with selected interventions / presentations. Participants will focus on three main dimensions: i) planning and development; ii) housing and infrastructure; iii) durability and resilience. The workshop will analyze the current situation, including the main threats to a sustainable and resilient future: i) floods and fires; ii) earthquakes; iii) and pandemics. Other threats can be identified during the analysis.
The third step of this research is related to the detailed research for each of the dimensions mentioned above where each participant in the workshop is expected to make a theoretical and practical contribution in proposing new strategies or spatial models that are able to withstand shocks in the cities of the future.
The workshop is structured in a way that promotes the merger of different expertise to address the diverse aspects related to Lezha and its region. The following steps will be used as a pragmatic approach to combine theoretical knowledge, physical environment and existing data:

1-Introduction to the Area.
2-Theoretical Lecture + Case studies.
3-Site Visit-fieldwork.
4-In class work + Project discussion.

Expected Results.
Regarding the objectives, research activities and methodology followed, it is expected that from this workshop will emerge a series of concrete proposals for the case of Lezha region which will be required to become instrumental proposals in all national and international contexts that have a similar character. Concrete proposals are expected to be related to the environment, risks and hazards at the environmental level and planning. This project provides new proposals for an intelligent infrastructure, as well as new proposals at the residential level where the issues highlighted and previously raised are related to the various risks to which the Lezha Region is exposed.
The results of the project are expected to be announced by participating in various conferences and other research activities. They are expected to be published in conferences, congresses or other national and international research activities. The final step of this project will be the dedicated publication of all the findings made in this project on new spatial instruments and models that are able to respond to the shocks that a settlement receives.

– Graphical materials (format will be delivered to the students during the workshop)
– Presentation + exhibition
Planning Cities for the (Post-)Pandemic/Crisis Era. Aspects of territorial sustainability and resilience @ Lezha Region, Albania. (scientific papers drafts)

The case of Lezha Region, Albania.
Lezha is a coastal city in the north-western part of Albania, and the capital of the Region (Qark/District) of Lezha. Dating back since late 4th century BC, Lezha has been an historical Illyrian settlement that remained an important Albanian town between the Roman and Ottoman times. It is still an important administrative center and a port city. The total population counts 65,600 inhabitants (2011 census), with a total geographic area of 515 square kilometers. The population of the main urban center (Lezha) at the 2011 census counted 15,500 inhabitants. The city has a strong emigration base, mainly in neighboring Italy, and is considered one of the strongholds of catholic community in the country, and a symbol of resistance against ottoman occupation. Both, emigration and Catholic Church, have played a significative educational role, boosting the development of the local culture, economy, agriculture, tourism, hospitality, culinary and a relative sensitivity over the environmental aspects. The region includes also 2 other urban centers: Mirdita and Shengjin towns, and several other administrative subunits of rural character.
Nowadays, Lezha is a growing city/region. Its proximity to the port of Shëngjin as well as its location on the national road between the Montenegrin border to the North, and Tirana to the South, makes it an attractive location for industry and business, not mentioning growing numbers of tourists and visitors from Kosovo. Recently national authorities supported the process of drafting and approving a local territorial/municipal plan (locally known as PPV), prepared by a mixed team of Italian and Albanian experts.

Main Issues of the Workshop.
Tentatively the workshop will take place in Tirana and Lezha between 8 – 19  November  2021. In total there will be involved 25 students/researchers, 20 of them from Phd Program, and other assistants from Polis University. There will be established 3 groups of research with 6-7 members each and mixed backgrounds. A group of academic staff from Polis University will lead the workshop (coordination: Prof. Besnik Aliaj, Dr. Llazar Kumaraku), while many others will assist daily or with selected interventions/presentations.
Participants will be paying special attention to three main dimensions: i) planning and development; ii) housing and infrastructure; iii) and sustainability and resilience.
The workshop will analyze the actual situation, including main threats for a sustainable and resilient future: i) flooding and fires; ii) earthquakes; iii) and the pandemics. Others might also be identified, as well.

Previuos Applied Research activites developed within the Applied Reaserch Department, Observatory of the Meditarranean, OMB Unit.

Durana (2015)

Albanian Riviera (2016)

When a River Flows (2018)

Projecting Shkodra (2018)

Prishtina. The new Image of the City (2019)

Dropull Rurban Sequences (Inquiries on Dropull’s states of Liminality)  2020

  • ALIAJ, Besnik, Eranda JANKU, Ledio ALLKJA, Sotir DHAMO. Albania 2030 Manifesto. A national spatial development vision. Tirana: POLIS Press, 2014.
  • MÄLER, K.-G. (2008). Sustainable Development and Resilience in Ecosystems. Environmental Resource Economics, 39, pp.17-24;
  • PERRINGS, C. (2006). Resilience and Sustainable Development. Environment and Development Economics, 11, pp.417-27.
  • DI RAIMO, A., LEHMANN, S., MELIS, A. (2020) (eds) Informality through Sustainability Urban Informality Now, London: Routledge.