Architecture and design cultures


The research topic refers to time, processes, practices and tools of design, expressed in the designed events as agents of transformation in relation to the individual, the community and the territory.

The context is the contemporary city affected by a process of continuous mutation, due to the economic and financial crisis since 2007 onward, and transformed by the effects of digital enabling technologies, whose changing condition has now amplified by the Coronavirus epidemic. More precisely, the great crisis of financial capitalism has deprived public administrations of resources and policies to support top-down urban transformation, while enabling technologies have accelerated and disabled the traditional processes of relationships between subjects. Furthermore, the current crisis is encouraging the migration of social behaviours from the natural environment to the virtual environment, replacing the physical space-time experience of the city within the digital experience, at the advantage of incorporeal.

The weak signs witnessing this transformation process are the emergence of interactive platforms that enable co-design models for development, production, distribution and communication. Thanks to open-source software and creative commons licenses, they do encourage bottom-up engagement processes. These techniques to create and collaborate are based on methodologies borrowed from design; on widespread practices such as crowdsourcing and crowdfunding; on informal actions and temporary events that rely on enabling technologies and the participation of communities of interest.
The research developed from a record of international cases; up to contextualize the experience of large Italian cities. It finally moves on, assuming the city of Bologna as application field, where I experience the research topic through Bologna Design Week.

The demonstrated hypothesis is that the designed events can be assumed as a tool for cultural reactivation and community care; as a strategy for orienteering changing identities in the contemporary city; as a set of repeatable practices of commoning design, creativity, digital technologies and storytelling.


Elena VAI

Doctorate type


Year of completion


Case study type

Impact case study

Institution details

Department of Architecture

Advanced Design