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 le Isole 

The seemingly innocent exercise of ‘drawing an island’ offers invaluable insights on how architecture pedagogies can benefit by thinking through these territories. Engaging with their inevitably bounded nature while simultaneously acknowledging their uniquely expansive qualities, islands defy binary thinking and open up kaleidoscopic possibilities for embracing these seemingly incompatible identities.

In its third season, the research of the Florence Program will engage with Islands as  laboratories, places where ideas can be tested and developed to re-imagine better ways to be in the world. Throughout the semester, we will leverage the potent ideologies and landscapes of imagination that are embedded within the space of these bounded landforms to reflect on architecture’s agency in today’s globalized yet increasingly divided world.


Taking a step back, if we look at the Syracuse Architecture Program in Florence as it positions students, curriculum structures and cultural expectations from an American Institution in the 'sea' of the Italian context, we might be able to identify, once again, the figure of an island. The ambition of this research then is to develop a pedagogical approach that rejects idealized, distant representations of a 'known' Italy (as it is imagined in either Canonical or stereotypical terms), in favor of an embedded, discursive experience of shared exploration.

As we think and design through islands, it is paramount to leave behind common depictions of these spaces as insular, unfairly characterizing these territories and their peoples as backward, small minded and indulging in their isolation.

We aim to invoke qualities of islandness, “a place that seeks autonomy while also opening itself up to engage with the world.” (Aureli and Giudici, 2019)

on Islandness

Sharing a common brief, the studio will offer three sections working closely with each other to reflect on the relationship between architecture and islands. Moving beyond stale dichotomies of urban and rural, culture and nature the studio aims to suggest contemporary strategies of coexistence on the territory. Varying in scale and programmatic focus, the three sections will share a common regional emphasis to construct a collective reading of the largest Italian island. The multi-layered histories of Sicily, its geopolitical position in the Mediterranean Sea and its vast repertoire of cultural influences will serve as the speculative site to imagine experimental programs of cultural exchange ranging from summer camps to spaces of comprehensive integration and temporary residency programs.

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w/ Luca Ponsi

Sicily’s history and cultural evolution is, and has always been tightly bound with migratory fluxes across the Mediterranean Sea, due to its insularity and geographical location. The south-western coast of Sicily and its archipelago of islands is still today the arrival, or often-times the passage, for large numbers of lives, seeking for a new beginning and a prospect for constructing (or re-joining) their families and futures in and across Italy and Europe. 

The project of the semester consists in designing spaces of intercultural integration and opportunity for the New Sicilians arriving on the island via the filters of problematic “Hotspots”, pursuing a positive evolution of their lives. Each project will define through investigation and research the field of operation, program and opportunity for a system of integrating reception and interculturality, to develop the sense of belonging to the territories, overcoming the perception of being "foreign", on the other hand to promote cultural and social growth of local communities.

Studio Z will investigate the archipelago of experiences between cultural exchange, tourism, architecture and education. inside/outside, home/apart, connected/separated will be only a few of the relational attributes to experiment on strategies of commoning beyond commodity-driven extractive practices. In simpler terms, how can we foster exchange of ideas and multiplicity of perspectives while operating in direct connection with a territory?
Throughout the semester students will be asked to design both the ambition and the required infrastructure of a ‘visiting residency program’ for artists, activists, scholars etc… Moving away from an elitist format of retreat from ‘the messiness of everyday life’ often found in these institutions, we will focus on spaces of participation, exchange and dialogue. A particular emphasis will be placed on designing spaces of cohabitation between transient contributors and the local community. A strong focus will be placed on imaging and rendering to multiply possible future narratives of the proposals. 

Entirely built around rituals and actions and hardly ever affiliated with any architecture genius, we find a rather peculiar and overlooked typology in architecture, that of Summer Camps. Although having fundamental differences throughout their possible declinations around the world, this cross-cultural phenomenon embodies many themes linked to human expressions such as rituals, play, hierarchy, education, nature and communal living. And, especially in the case of the Italian colonie estive, have been shaped and remain a testimony of the sociopolitical conditions they were built in. Camps are fundamentally islands of their own, bubbles of tiny utopian societies or heterotopian settlements. 

During the course of this semester, students will be asked to reimagine the model of the Summer Camp by proposing their own program and settlement at the margins of the town of Marinella di Selinunte. The studio will look into various domains of human expression present in Sicily as a tool to shape the proposal while deepening the connection and knowledge of popular culture and traditions. 


w/ Olivia Gori


w/ Daniele Profeta

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