Regional Design is characterized by a communicative and argumentative approach, capable of activating processes of extended interaction, involving social and institutional actors, in order to transpose knowledge into action through cooperative practices. For this reason, the Regional De- sign approach is appropriate for strategic planning of vast territories, which in the national con- text has discovered renewed propulsion with the administrative reorganization determined by the law 56/2014 and through the establishment of metropolitan cities. Metropolitan cities, in particu- lar the metropolitan city of Florence, represent the key issue of the laboratory.


Visioning is the fundamental and connotative component of Regional Design that combines the ‘analytical’ and ‘normative’ dimension of planning concepts; moreover, Regional Design assumes a third dimension, the ‘discursive’ one, through which spatial representations assist the analytic process of co-production of knowledge and, at the same time, attribute meaning to the definition of policies, through their spatial transposition. The design effectiveness of the Vision is adopted, in the Regional Design laboratory, in large scale planning: in river contracts and in the strategic planning of Unions of Municipalities.


The project aims to understand the forms and outcomes of cooperative spatial planning practices at a supra-local level. Assuming co-operation as one of the key challenges for planning strategically across local boundaries, the research will deal with the rescaling of formal planning activities carried out by joint local authorities, under a cooperative attitude that, in a Localism era, is supposed to replace sub-regional planning strategies. The research focuses on the changes occurring in the Italian planning system after the Law 135/2012 that, in the name of the spending review, aims to abolish the provincial level, obliga- ting municipalities with certain population and territorial surface requirements to come together into “Unionsofcompetences”,includingplanning,andobligatingthe10mainregionalcitiestoformjointme- tropolitan city governments.

Notwithstanding the obvious differences in the institutional systems and planning cultures, the resear- ch provides a comparative perspective with other West European countries where this obligation is acti- ve since several time (i.e. the “agglomerations” system in France, introduced in 1999) or has just been putted in place (i.e. the obligation for municipalities to face strategic issues under a “duty to cooperate” in England, under the Localism Act 2011) or in other countries where the national or regional govern- ments incentive cooperation (i.e. the “Regionale” in Germany or ongoing sub-regional planning practi- ces in The Netherland and Sweden). Despite the strong differences between countries, Italy could take advantage from looking to these experiences, that have conveyed to questions and answers very close to the demands for change in place. Of course, the need of co-operation on strategic issues is not new. Institutions have an old history of working together and with other bodies to address planning issues of common concern. Nevertheless, the emergence of cooperation as a duty, i.e. as a new obligation for Local Authorities in all fields (including spatial planning), certainly poses some questions concerning the redefinition of planning spaces, the role of the planner, the access to the cooperative arena. If these are typical problems of collaborative planning, the government expectation for plan-making authorities to undertake joint work on supra-local concerns affects issues of governance rescaling and accountability for planning. The research aims to systematize the lessons learned from the solutions given to strategic issues in previous Italian and European sub-regional/ supra-local co-operative practices, in terms of shared strategies, in order to define:

– the pertinent extension of cooperation, in relation to the concerned issues and typologies of agreements; – a model for evaluating the effectiveness of cooperation;

– a virtual platform for managing supra-local planning.

The expected results are concerned with the definition of policy recommendations for join supra-local planning, addressed to Local Planning Authorities and practitioners. The challenge is the redrawing of inter-institutional relations and spaces of planning on cooperative basis, for defining relevant planning strategies across local boundaries. The research should thus provide guidelines (collected in a manual for planning officers and councillors) aimed to approach supra-local planning practices as co-operative pla- tforms between different councils, capable to really imprint local planning strategies.


The Regional Design approach is tested through studies and explorations that address the con- crete aspects of spatial and urban planning: the laboratory provides scientific and technical sup- port to research institutions and public bodies in drafting of guidelines and in development of local urban planning tools. The effectiveness of the Regional Design approach is experienced on a multi-level field: from macro to micro scale, from strategy to tactics (and return). The research interest concerns multiple areas in which it is essential to link wide strategic visions with punctual urban interventions, especially proposing disused and abandoned spaces as case studies.