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Istituto Nazionale di Urbanistica INU
Italo-American City And Regional Planning Seminar (1955)
2 Aprile 2004
Urbanisti Urbanistica Città
The conclusive document of the Italo-American City and Regional Planning and Housing Seminar conducted on the island of Ischia, June 20-30, 1955 – Memorandum, in Urbanistica n. 17, 1955 qui il testo italiano

This memorandum attempts to express “the sense of the meeting” growing from the Italo-American City and Regional Planning and Housing Seminar conducted on the island of Ischia, June 20-30, 1955 under the sponsorship of the Italian “Ministero dei Lavori Pubblici”, the “Comitato Nazionale per la Produttività”, and the “Istituto Nazionale di Urbanistica”, with the cooperation of U.S.O.M.

The Seminar was attended by governmental officials, practicing town planners, architects and other professional people closely allied to planning, by professors of planning in Italian and American universities, and by editors of seven professional magazines in the fields of city and regional planning, housing and architecture. Many of these individuals made valuable contributions to the discussions out of which the present notes have been distilled.

At the beginning of the meetings, papers were presented by the following responsible Italian officials: Prof. Cesare Valle for the Ministero dei Lavori Pubblici; Dr. Francesco Curato for the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno; Ing. Camillo Ripamonti for other public housing agencies.

During the Seminar, discussion was focused on eleven papers which had been prepared by the American participants, and by prepared comments on the subjects of these papers by their eleven Italian counterparts. These papers, their authors and their Italian commentators were the following.

Howard K. Menhinick, The South in the U.S.A. Commentator: Manlio Rossi Doria.

Albert M. Cole, The United States Housing Program.Commentator: Camil1o Ripamonti.

Girard Davidson, Regional Resource Planning by the Federal Government.Commentator: Giovanni Astengo.

Oskar Stonorov, The Coming Reconstruction of American Cities. Commentator: Luigi Piccinato.

Lawrence K. Frank, The Human Dimensions of Planning.Commentator: Angela Zucconi.

Frederick Gutheim, Plans for Today and Tomorròw. Commentators: Ugo La Malfa and Ernesto Nathan Rogers.

Edmund M. Bacon, Philadelphia's Planning Program. Commentator: Ludovico Quaroni.

Vernon De Mars, Choice as an Objective in Planning. Commentator: Adriano Olivetti.

Douglas Haskell, Roadtown U.S.A. Commentator: Bruno Zevi.

Robert B. Mitchell, Transportation in Contemporary City Planning. Commentator: Vincenzo Di Gioia.

Paul Opperman, Central City Planning in a Metropolitan Context. Commentator: Gino Pollini.

Planning processes at the national, regional ;and local levels need to be inter-related. They should include programs for economic development and for social services and social adjustment as well as schemes for the physical adaptation of physical arrangements and facilities. No single element, such as an economic program or a physical design should be undertaken in isolation. The continuous practice of the process of planning requires a form of organization which can be related to government. It should be responsible for the synthesis of the contributions of citizens and public officials as well as its technical staff toward the preparation of plans and programs. Many American city planning commissions are examples of such an institution, which might be useful for adaptation in other circumstances.

Out of these discussions there came awareness of many common problems and opportunities shared by planners in the two countries. In the midst of varying points of view on techniques and methods of application, certain principles came through clearly. In the conversations the participants were trying to define these problems and opportunities rather than to devise universally applicable formulae. The central and continuing problem; was seen to be that of translating human needs and aspirations into a fitting environment for modern life, and of developing methods and practices so that planning can become a progressively more useful instrument of democratic choice.

It is clear that urban and regional planning is entering a new phase all over the world. In this new phase a humanistic approach, which tries to adjust man's environment to these changing needs and resources, will supersede a preoccupation with types of urban structure. Planning will emphasize not static schemes of physical arrangement but schemes of development to guide the “creative evolution” of communities.

This new planning requires the development of a more profound method and enlarged scientific knowledge of communities and regions. It is our hope that through its humanistic approach and with the aid of greater knowledge and improved method, planning can produce more suitable and useful designs of arrangement in the physical sense.

We believe that planning is a new democratic function. The institutions of planning must have a functional continuity.

Planning represents a technical, social and human service to the community which requires a competence in the formulation and the implementation of long-term programs, beyond day-to-day decisions which may be dictated by political expediency.

We believe that with the increasing social responsibility of the technical planning process the work of the politician and the administrator will be placed in a broader context and will be facilitated.

Regional planning for the wise conservation and utilisation of all of the resources of a territory was recognized as a most important device for raising the standard of living of the people, especially in depressed areas. The development of all of the resources of a region in a unified manner, with active participation of the people directly affected, to produce “not a planned region but a planning region” has been successfully demonstrated.

The reconstruction, conservation and preservation of central cities is a matter of high importance, and the conditions of modern life give it an urgent status in the community, its public administration, its economic productivity are concentrated in these centers.

Reconstruction must be based upon a sensitive respect for cultural treasures of past generations to conserve that which may be maintained and fitted to the life of the present and new uses of the land areas of such communities.

The relation of “core city” to the metropolitan area, ought to meet requirements of the numbers of the inhabitants to be served, and their economic purposes. The scale and character of the community as a whole, likewise, should receive an appropriate architectural design to create worthy cultural symbols of the qualities and purposes of the people.

The need for a sense of community both functionally and visually was felt desirable by the representatives of both countries. Some felt that the need for center or focus of neighborhood living at the human scale is one of the major problems of our times. At this scale, the possibility of a variety of choices on the part of the individual as to how he wishes to live is a positive objective of planning; not a mere accidental by-product.

In the whole field of housing, some major problems of housing credit and finance, were identified and the door opened for further exploration of Federal Housing Administration mortage insurance and of other type of financing to meet the special problems of Italy.

Furthermore, it, was agreed upon that in housing programs it is necessary to adopt, measures under which a part of the allocations goes toward the establishment and operation of collective social services, because such services constitute an integral and essential part of a program for the elevation of the living standard of low-income people.

We have identified specific planning techniques which should be further explored to adapt and introduce them into the planning structure and practice of our respective countries. Among these are the advance acquisition of sites for community facilities and public works through reservation and dedication procedures as well as by direct purchase, the preparation of capital programs and budgets on the basis of detailed study of planning offices in collaboration with operating departments of local governments, and processes of “mandatory referral” to insure that specific project proposals will be judged in the context of general plans. Other examples could be cited.

In the important field of planning education, major shortages of qualified personnel exist in both countries. Current developments in the two countries are complementary to each other.

In Italy every young architect is given training in community planning. Many engineering schools also teach courses in planning. This has resulted in a high level of housing and neighborhood design not generally achieved in the United States, where such a policy of planning training does not exist in all architectural schools. The United States might emulate Italy in this respect.

In the United States the profession of planning is recognised as a subject in its own right. Within the structure of twenty American universities, post-graduate courses in planning have been established, leading to a Master’s degree. While the contribution of many disciplines, including architecture, engineering, economics and sociology has been recognized, the planning instruction is carried on independent of domination by any of these specialities. The training is designed to produce persons competent to carry on planning as a broad correlative force, bringing into play the full potential of the many contributory professions. This concept of planning education may present suggestions which Italian universities might want to consider.

In both countries, close relationships between practitioners in planning and planning schools should be encouraged, and the student exchange program should be strengthened.

In conclusion, we regard this Seminar and its results as a distinct success. We have built a bridge of friendships and understanding among a group of students of two nations. We have laid the foundation for future cultural collaboration. As an institution, the Seminar has proven to be a communications device which, properly conceived and utilized, has great utility. As such it should be further exploited. We believe that future regional and town planning work and housing programs in both our countries will be enriched by the understanding which these conversations have given us.

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