Mapping urban diversity

Vernacular, modernist and contemporary Matera

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This thesis takes the Southern Italian city of Matera as a case study to analyse the role urban diversity plays in the growth of cities. The analysis focuses on tracking changes in intensity and distribution of urban diversity in representative moments of Matera’s development, from the expansion of the vernacular neighbourhood of the Sassi with the 1950s introduction of modernist architecture, through the present-day. Whilst the historic center of the city, dating back to the Neolithic, has experienced remarkable economic growth and continues to thrive under the impulse of international recognition, the more peripheral modernist neighbourhoods are in decline, despite their widely acknowledged architectural and cultural value. Provided as a political answer to the lack of suitable and affordable housing after World War II, these often forgotten neighbourhoods are representative of the Italian re-construction efforts, guided by Adriano Olivetti’s Community Movement and designed by a team of architects, lead by Ludovico Quaroni and Luigi Piccinato, under the theoretical framework of Friedrich G. Friedmann. Initially intended to recreate the forms of aggregations and social ties of the Sassi in modern forms of living, neighbourhoods such as La Martella, Borgo Venusio and Spine Bianche have experienced progressive decline, whilst the historic center of Matera has been object of public investment and continues to be a sought destination. This research will enquire the role urban diversity has played in this discrepancy in order to derive conclusions that might inform present and future urban planning policies. The Diversity Index Method developed by Dan C. Baciu and Callum Birchall (Baciu, Birchall, 2021) applied to primary historic records will be used alongside secondary literature to analyse the different urban configurations to find patterns that lead to urban density or isolation. The preliminary argument is that diversity of both building uses and outdoor public infrastructure leads to growth and urban vitality, whereas mono-functional developments lead to isolation and decline.