Tag Archives: Giuseppe Strappa



Here are the schedule and the program of next year’s Urban Morphology course, which will be optional.  Attendance to the course will be free. The course, taught in English, will provide 6 credits and will be open to all students of the Facult . It will also be open to all Erasmus students.


VALLE GIULIA room V 8 (Aula Fiorentino)





Valle Giulia – Room V8 – Tuesday – h. 15-19.30

prof. Giuseppe Strappa, arch. Anna Rita Donatella Amato, arch.  Francesca De Rosa, arch. Huimin Ji, arch. Alessandra Pusceddu


5          15.00 –  A.  Meaning and utility of Urban Morphology for the contemporary architecture.

17.00 –  B.   Paolo Carlotti: considerations on the relationship between Urban Morphology and Design Studio courses.

17.30 –  C.  Course organization. Presentation of the program. Student registration.

12        15.00 – A. Territory: notion, forming process and contemporary condition.

17.30 – B. Salaheddine Heffaf: The forming process of the Algerian territory

19        15.00 – A. Urban fabric: notion, forming process and contemporary condition.

17.30 – B. Ayşe Sema Kubat lecture: Morphogenetic survey on the transformation of a political center to a transportation hub: Taksim & Gezi Park, Istanbul. Discussion.

26        15.00 – A. Base building forming process and the notion of substratum

17.00 – B. Marco Trisciuoglio lecture: The Bridge and the Wall. For a Survey of the Urban Form of Southern Nanjing. Discussion.



9          Field Survey on base building topics.

16        15.00 – A.  Special building forming process and modern examples.

17.30– B. Vitor Oliveira lecture: Morphological research in architecture.

18.30. classroom work/discussion (only for students who intend to deepen the topics of the course with practical exercises).

23        15.00 – A. The notion of architectural knotting and the transition to modernity.

17.30 – B :(Fiorentino Room) Renato Capozzi, Federica Visconti lecture: Definition of urban voids: a project for Padua. Discussion.

30        Field Survey on base building topics (collaboration: Annamaria Pandolfi).


7          15.00 – Roman modern architecture.  Discussion.

17,00 – B. Re-design exercises and classroom work(for students who intend to deepen the topics of the course with practical exercises).

14        15.00 – Short recap/summary of the course main topics (for the exam) and conclusions.  Student opinions and suggestions.



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prof. Giuseppe Strappa

arch. Anna Rita Donatella Amato

arch. Francesca De Rosa

arch. Huimin Ji

arch. Alessandra Pusceddu


The course aims to teach a method of reading the built landscape through the knowledge of the forming processes common to urban fabrics and buildings. The basic notions of organism and process will be used to read the built landscape.

The main purpose of the typological study proposed by the course is the identification of the characters of the built environment and the recognition of the  formation and transformation processes , having as ultimate goal the architectural design.


The course will consist of:

  1. a series of lectures (see schedule)aiming to provide the student, through the morphological / processual method, with the tools to read the built environment, historical and contemporary, having the architectural design as its goal.
  2. a series of independent lectures given by external professors or experts, on complementary subjects. The purpose of these lectures is to give a general idea of the contemporary studies on urban form through the knowledge of methods different from those followed by the course. Some re-design exercises will be proposed to apply the concepts learned.
  3. “morphological walks” eventually organized in small groups to examine the fabrics and buildings under study. The participation and writing of a short report entitles the student of Ar course to 2 credits.


Students will be evaluated through an oral test.

The student will be free to choose one of the following forms of exam:

1. presentation of the work carried out during the course on one of the themes included in the program. The student’s work will be followed periodically by the teachers and may also contain a simple project proposal as an example of the theoretical study.

2. Discussion on one of the theoretical topics listed in the course program.

The students will also be free to present all the works they consider useful for evaluation.


  1. Strappa, L’architettura come processo, Franco Angeli, Milano 2015

The main chapters translated into English can be found on the teacher’s website (http://www.giuseppestrappa.it/) and are indicated below:

. G.Strappa, notes on base building,  http://www.giuseppestrappa.it/?p=8400

. G. Strappa, learned language / everyday language http://www.giuseppestrappa.it/?p=8340

. G. Strappa, The aggregation process and the form of the fabric,  http://www.giuseppestrappa.it/?p=8380

. G. Strappa, Special nodal building,   http://www.giuseppestrappa.it/?p=8159

. G.  Strappa, Architectural knotting,. http://www.giuseppestrappa.it/?p=8414










Lettura tipologica dell’organismo urbano della città di Trani all’interno delle mura Longobarde



Lettura tipologica dell’organismo urbano della città di Trani all’interno delle mura longobarde

Tesi di laurea di : F. De Benedictis, P. Di Chito, E. Gabriele, N. Incampo, L. Miano, R. Petrelli

Anno Accademico 2005/6


Tesi di ricerca



U+D  issue 15   EDITORIAL

by Giuseppe Strappa

In the life of every journal, I suppose, there are moments of reflection and regeneration: one takes a look at the work done and takes stock, looking at the future with new eyes, and makes plans. The U+D new issue is one of these moments for us. It is the result of a considerable commitment by the entire editorial staff, and we present it, I must admit, with some expectations. It poses, in fact, two relevant goals.

The first is to try to review the current situation of research in Italy concerning urban morphology, particularly in architecture schools. Courses in this discipline are now active in the faculties of many countries, which share the need for rationality, concreteness, transmissibility of the proposed methods. In Italy, the signs seem contradictory. In Rome, for example, despite the presence of an important tradition that stems from the teaching of Saverio Muratori, the urban morphology course has become optional. In other faculties such as in Bari, Bologna, Ferrara, Florence, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Parma, Turin, Venice, these courses, even if given with a limited number of credits, are highly active and open to new perspectives. The term “urban morphology” is employed in an extended and open meaning, as a study of the form of the built landscape based on different founding principles, which share, however, their role as a rational and communicable tool aimed at the project. For this reason, I believe that urban morphology could also prefigure a choice of fields (sometimes not easy) with respect to current production, often based on methods aimed more at communication and individual expression than at construction. Against this egocentric inclination of the architect, in the past schools have in some way constituted a remedy, playing an important aggregation and sharing role. Yet, I wonder if it is still possible today to speak, in the proper sense, of schools. They presuppose masters and require, together with common theories and methods, shared values. The master is such not only for the quality of his scientific production, but above all for his ability to express common goals, the competence to recognize a common substratum in the work of individuals. Just as the school is an organism, a unit of parts held together by a unifying objective. Two conditions that are impossible today: we have long lost the unity of things, the vision, or at least the hope, of an organic world where every knowledge finds its place, every cultural heritage its congruent location.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that specificities and shared lines still exist, albeit indirectly. I believe that the contributions of this issue, at least in part, are proof of this. Moreover, the study of urban form, in order for it to be a field in which differences have a rational and legible basis, is the terrain that best allows us to distinguish areas of research and affinities, and also oppositions, which originate even further back than the lesson of the masters. The specificities of the Milanese research have more distant roots than the writings of Aldo Rossi and Guido Canella, they have their distant origins in the Lombard Enlightenment; the experiments in the Roman area go beyond the lesson of Gianfranco Caniggia and Saverio Muratori, they go back to the studies of Gustavo Giovannoni, Giovan Battista Milani and many others. But these specificities are now unstable, recognized in an uncertain and controversial way. It is no coincidence that today there is no disciple who is willing to defend that legacy openly, who does not feel obliged to claim his secularism, his independence. It is true that identity, in the contemporary condition, is not inherited: it is a strenuous search in which the vigorous defense of the origins can be a risky bond. The contemporary condition of those who investigate the urban form is that of a disorientation: orphans of the masters, whose lessons we jealously guard, we understand how certainties no longer exist, how it is impossible to reconstruct the lost unity of things.

Yet, perhaps there is, more than we are willing to admit, a long-lasting cultural layer that gives a sense of continuity to our research. I believe that, to understand how the Italian response to the new demands of objectivity and realism shows its own characters, it is necessary to compare it to the “quantitative” drift of the studies often conducted abroad, influenced by the success, even professional, of the Space Syntax. Certainly, useful studies which throw new light on the structures that regulate the shape of cities, but still giving an indirect contribution to the urban project. On the other hand, I believe that many of these studies, based on the notions of density, flows, networks, are in my opinion an update of the issues addressed by the traditional urban planning discipline. This diversity perhaps explains, if it does not justify, the improper term, used above all abroad, of the “Italian School”, because it is true that the research on the form of the city is characterized with us by a humanistic and historical background that has always prevented determinisms and taxonomies, allowing us to recognize how a building or a fabric exists, in its fullness, only in a more general context, in a becoming that, together, explains them and gives them meaning. Although the invitations to the participants to the study day did not cover the broad spectrum of research that derives from the multiple meanings of the term “urban morphology”, I consider the almost total absence, in the following contributions, of the strictly “quantitative” field of study to be significant. A remarkable specificity which allows us to look with optimism at the original role that studies conducted in our country can play on the international scene. In my opinion, the evidence of this condition poses with increasing evidence, after the long late-romantic season of individualisms and spectacular gestures, the problem of a radical renewal of research in architecture that could give our work a new civil sense.  Beyond the slogans, the real tools of sustainability and regeneration of our cities (which will not die of Covid, with all due respect to our prophets of the return to the villages) consist, I am convinced, precisely in the careful study of the built reality and its form, its continuity and its ruptures, which provides awareness of the crisis we are going through and can show us the way to future transformations.

The second important goal of this issue is to experiment new forms of construction and a different way of collaborating with the authors, having in mind the place of our journal in the international panorama of studies that are being conducted today on urban form. Perhaps it is useful, in order to understand the urgency of this issue, to summarize the cultural framework in which our work arises.

The magazine was born in 2014 as an Italian contribution to the International Seminar on Urban Form (Isuf), a scientific society that already owned its own, relevant journal dedicated to urban morphology. However, it was interested in it, above all from the point of view of geography, in the wake of the research of M.R.G.Conzen. His fertile teachings, heirs of the Kulturlandschaft, were developed in the 70s by the Urban Morphology Research Group (UMRG), with which we found, at the beginning of the 90s, considerable affinities and promising prospects for collaboration, starting from the very definition of “urban structure” realistically understood, basically in architectural terms, as an integrated system of routes, lots and buildings. But also, some significant differences. Geography is above all a descriptive science, when the goal of urban morphology, from our point of view as architects, is above all aimed at the project. The problem of geography is to make the infinite irregularity of a mountain ridge coincide with the simplicity of the line drawn on a map. It is the difficulty of any descriptive science that seeks synthesis in the general and abstract representation of the concrete details of the object it describes. The problem of architecture is different: recognizing in that ridge a beginning, a first provisionally inhabited form and the origin of the paths that structure a territory. Saverio Muratori had devoted a lot of energy to formulating a “theory of ridges” based on the shape of the soil and its anthropization process. A formulation conducted with the designer’s tools. Was it, too, a science? Certainly yes, if by the term we mean a form of systematic knowledge. But it was also a critical form of investigation, a reading oriented by the operating subject that proceeds by layers and phases, recognizes in the object the aptitude for transformation and, fundamental fact, the expression of a civil context. Reading is therefore already a project, it is an evaluation and a choice. For this reason, it cannot aspire to the (moreover relative) objectivity of the descriptive sciences, as well as the design that follows is the full responsibility of the designer, with the inevitable discontinuities due to an evident condition of crisis.

However, the Conzenian school had inherited a particular meaning of geography, that of the cultural landscape, of the territory as a synthesis in the making of successive transformations. A meaning that we felt close to. This is the definition of urban morphology that Jeremy Whitehand, the best-known exponent of the Conzenian school gives: ‘Urban morphology is the study of the built form of cities, and it seeks to explain the layout and spatial composition of urban structures and open spaces, their material character and symbolic meaning, in light of the forces that have created, expanded, diversified, and transformed them ‘. A broad and open meaning, in many ways similar to ours. On the wave of this affinity, Isuf was born, which over time had to reach its current dimensions of international association, transforming itself into a large container in which many souls live together. The Italian journal, therefore, was born as a complementary communication tool devoted to the reading and to the architectural design. Within this context, our initial aspiration was to consider the journal itself as a project, an architecture in some way, made up of congruent parts linked by a relationship of necessity. The ideal reference could only be the post-war publishing tradition, the season in which architecture magazines reported the great debates that then revolved around the revision of the international modernity. We soon realized, however, how that production was the result of a cultural climate in which different and cohesive communities of experimenters converged, who grouped around common convictions, making clear the positions taken, clear debates and controversies. A quite different climate from the current one, fragmented in many separate research, rarely communicating with each other. Moreover, within a more general condition in which the common meaning of the term “form” considers the rational and concrete aspect of our profession to be of little relevance. A context in which the term “type” smacks of archaeology and those of “construction” and “fabric” of obsolete techniques, despite the fact that their unifying meaning, and their civil value are in direct relationship with the emerging issues of the current city.

Every author ends up today by producing autonomous contributions to the journals, linked to the others only by a common theme. For this reason, we have tried to involve some designers and scholars interested in the problem of the concrete study of urban form already in the planning of this and the next issue. At the same time being aware, however, of the inevitable partiality of the operation. While we were not deluding ourselves that the structure of the issue could be born from this day of study (task and responsibility of the editorial staff), we believed that this meeting could however compare themes, ideas, points of view in such a way that each author could take into account the context in which his article ranks. It seems to me that the result confirms, with all the limits of an experiment, the effectiveness of the method. This issue, in fact, does not constitute a form of proceedings of the study day, but the collection of contributions by it oriented, often quite different from those presented during the meeting.

The articles derived from the study day are partly published in this and partly will be published in the next issue of the journal. The following issue, just because of the questions that have arisen on the concrete usefulness of morphology studies, will be dedicated to the urban project.



METU – Middle East Technical University – Ankara

Turkish Network of Urban Morphology


Prof. Giuseppe Strappa –  Sapienza, University of Rome





Kahn revisited




Kahn revisited

Giuseppe Strappa

In architecture, certain ideas and key figures need to be continuously reinterpreted, and each generation has its own form of reinterpretation. It has happened in the past in the case of certain architects, from Vitruvius to Borromini, whose lessons in creativity end up being the product of the times in which the interpretation took place, a result of the many, changing readings that have been made, layer upon layer, over time. It happens still today. I believe, however, that this fruitful form of rethinking and further examination is readily, if not principally, applicable in the case of Louis Isadore Kahn, who was the bearer of a message that was, by its nature, predisposed, one could say, to many different interpretations.

This book – the progress of which I have had the pleasure of following during its various stages of evolution – proposes exactly this: a new interpretation of Kahn’s legacy carried out with scientific scrupulousness, while being aware of the critical state in which design projects find themselves today. A “new” Kahn, in other words. A Kahn, certainly, who is completely modern, since in him are embodied the anxieties and abuses of the contemporary condition. But his is a modernity that is exceptional and different, one to be totally re-examined, because he painfully attempted to diagnose these divisive factors and re-arrange them in a single framework, to recompose the scattered elements of the shattered reality around him into an ideal form that would unify everything and hold it in place. In this quest for knowledge lies all the drama of Louis Kahn, and his perpetual innovation: surrounded by the most contradictory of all possible environments – the America of mass-production industry and market forces – he imagined a different, organic world, in which each thing had its own place in accordance with timeless rules (timeless, not ancient), and where everything recomposed itself, in a way unlike what happened in the past, of course, since nothing can take place without change. In a world dominated by speed, Kahn managed to perceive, once again and afresh, the slow, eternal ebb and flow of life in architecture. This concept was not linear in time, one could say, but a kind of cyclic, endless reappearance of forms.

I believe it is important for us to recognise his ability to place a measure on things, to set a limit that determined the actual meaning of a form: progressively rediscovering the poetic wisdom of the rule, and how it had functioned so well throughout history. We can sift through the ruins of a major calamity, but Kahn seems to be telling us that we know how to put those ruins back together again, like the young man in Tarkovsky’s Andrej Rublev, who faced with the annihilation of every scrap of traditional knowledge, remembers how to cast an iron bell, and gives this information to his fellow-citizens who are wandering lost among the destruction wreaked by the invasion of barbarian hordes.

And so, this re-composition, this activity of reconstructing anew what has been broken and scattered, is the great epic theme of Kahn’s entire course of experimentation, the anti-modern “other side”, we might say, of some of his many contradictory facets, which does not allow for simplification. This idea was inherited, to a certain extent, from Paul Philippe Cret, a remarkable architect and educator, whose career has been somewhat overshadowed by Kahn’s bright shining star, but which has also been dignified, as Elisabetta Barizza points out, by a recognition of Cret’s fundamental maieutic role in Kahn’s education. However, I believe that in the American architectural milieu, Kahn’s message was fated to fall on deaf ears. Despite the formidable amount of work that went into spreading his views, and the efforts of art historians in exploring influences and interconnections, there are few traces, in the work of architects of his time or later, of the influence of Kahn’s passing star.

The power of his architecture has, on the other hand, been the unintended driving force for an entire generation of Italian architects, who themselves had been brought up on teachings that differed from those of Cret, yet which were, in some sense, linked to them by an underlying idea of unity between parts, conveyed by geometry. Above all, the semi-forgotten notion of organism, put forward by teachers in Italian architectural faculties (in particular, that of Rome in the pre-war years), acted as an underground stream, deep-running and subliminal. Perhaps for this reason, Kahn’s teachings held a particular attraction for some members of the architectural scene in the 1970s, when, during a period of crisis and impermanence, they seemed to offer the illusion of certainty and longevity. Kahn appeared above all to bestow a new sense of pride and faith in the ways and means of architecture, which, long under threat for its basic principles, at that time was reclaiming its independence as a discipline.

Yet there was another affinity that, to my mind, favoured Kahn’s reception in Italy: a distinctive, Mediterranean way of perceiving the tangible quality of materials. The plastic potential inherent in Kahn’s work was, to a large extent, due to the genuine, masonry-based solidity created between spaces and construction, between the walls that supported the weight of a building and, at the same time, closed up the spaces; it also relied upon the form constructed out of the organic act of holding all the component parts of a project together. An act that nonetheless abandoned the precision of classical measurement, the ideal home of all ideas of organism, and took into account the fact that the ancient geometries of perfect cosmogonies had given way to the ambivalences of the modern world, and it was no longer a question of maintaining absolute unities, which did not include at least the beneficial seeds of the undefined. Since our minds have need for a crystal-clear esprit de géometrie, our hearts welcome the devices that create large shadows, the mystery of collapsing spaces, the light that shines from some hidden source, the glare that we want to shield our eyes from. Courageously, Kahn once more brings forth forgotten, grandiose themes that appear to engage the central core of an architect’s work: great imposing public buildings, the malleable design of monuments and the study of Platonic forms created by a meta-historic line of reasoning far removed from any form of internationalist rationalism. Thus, Kahn, using a language that was immediately comprehensible to Italian architects, assuaged the widespread distress and discomfort that emerged at that time, as architects were confronted with a modernist legacy, the limitations of which were already seen to be too confining. His ideas soon uncovered the real nature of this cultural crossroads – a point where many came together, or found themselves, only to disperse once again and follow other paths. That however brief moment of meeting nevertheless appeared to lay down a lasting foundation for an identity that was otherwise on the way to extinction. What would the researches, albeit original, of Franco Purini, Alessandro Anselmi, Claudio D’Amato, Massimo Martini and many others (if we consider only the Roman architects) have been like, without their encounters with Louis Kahn? I think that even apparently distant cultural contexts, such as that of The Swiss Ticino canton, managed to forge historical links with Italian architecture through the medium of Kahn. One only need think of the design project experience of Mario Botta, who inherited from Kahn certain research themes during his collaboration on the Palazzo dei Congressi project in Venice.

This subject matter has already been given wide treatment by the present author, along with Marco Falsetti, in their book Rome and the Legacy of Louis Kahn (Routledge, London, New York, 2018), which includes contributions from many of the protagonists of the time. Her working hypothesis, therefore, is solidly based on research into how much Kahn imparted to the Roman architectural scene, allowing her to claim that one could, in some ways, refer to a “Kahn season” experienced by all concerned. To go beyond this, to examine how this shared experience could have been drawn from a background of common ideas, is undoubtedly a task beset by uncertainty. However, what is clear and plausible is a recognition of a methodological source and a Kahnian poetic core, founded on a vitally new definition of an architectural organism, in its deepest sense of a design model that reconciles and links together the individual parts of a construction into a single, close relationship based on necessity, and assigns to each of them a common purpose. This interpretation is demonstrable – and is, in fact, demonstrated by Elisabetta Barizza – and links Kahn’s work to a European tradition of teaching and theory that found, in the inter-war years in Italy, not only its most modern and inheritable expression, but also its most convincing practical validation. This is to put forward an explanation that is partial, but that is also the task of any architect filled with enthusiasm for their work, even at the project stage. In today’s cultural climate, where it seems impossible to talk of unity and synthesis, the notion of organism remains one of the basic ideas on which one can establish a critical interpretation of constructed reality and, thus, of architectural design itself.

For this reason, then, a return to a study of Louis Kahn is a useful decision: to rediscover to what extent his work is valid for contemporary design, in order to resolve the current impasse in architecture, which has been stalled for decades in abstract, eye-catching researches, continually innovating without any form of central focal point. A new reading of Kahn’s concept of organism, by revisiting his works and his writings, I am convinced, can help our discipline of architecture find its way back to reality. This concept, updated and vital, does not, as his work demonstrates, imply any form of mechanical determinism, but is the expression of the multiple connections that link together elements, systems and structures, which together contribute to the final constructive outcome of architecture. The organism and organicity that Barizza identifies in Kahn’s work is altogether different from the naturalistic arguments utilised throughout history, nor do they have anything in common with the numerous interpretations proffered incessantly from the 16th century up to the current ideas of the organic, which have indirectly traversed modern architecture. The idea used here is more similar to the modern term, unknown before the Enlightenment, of “organisation”, in the sense of a set of rules that govern the coordination of separate elements with one another. This term entered the scientific vocabulary with the meaning of “ordering, arranging” in the mid-17th century, used to indicate a set of parts that collaborate together for the same function. Kahn’s employment of this idea – and his acknowledgement of the importance of necessity, congruence and proportion in design – enables one, in an exemplary fashion, to regard an architectural work as an artificial product of a unifying thought process that does not rely on the study of nature nor even on the study of single works created by architects, but on a form of universal formative structures that operate throughout history, within all histories. All of which goes to say that it is far removed from current thinking – which proves, to my mind, its greater usefulness.