Il Quaderno: the ISI Florence Architecture Series


In his famous 1748 map of Rome, Giovanni Battista Nolli represented the solid, often-monolithic monuments of the “eternal city” as voids, pairing them with open-air public spaces and piazzas. This was not only a different way of representing the built environment but also one more faithfully representing the experience of the city, where spaces continuously blend and merge one into the other, depending on their degree of public accessibility.

This graphic operation revealed clearly that Architecture has more to do with the space contained than with the container. The building is not the one, and only, goal of Architecture. Within this framework, a contemporary challenge for architectural design is to create value by designing environments with an overall negative balance toward the built volumes.

In other words, it is about projects and examples with:

  • a negative balance in volumes, meaning that what is built is less than what is demolished, what is given to public use/pleasure/habitation is more than what was exclusive and inaccessible, what is artificially heated or cooled is lower in square footage than what is naturally enjoyable,
  • a positive balance in the civic performances of the built environment, meaning the capacity of the anthropized environment to be enjoyed, inhabited, experienced by all populations, of all age groups and conditions of any kind.

This issue of Il Quaderno invites projects and papers focused on enhancing the quality of the built environment by removing volumes --or their impact-- and using tools ranging from dynamite to the demolition hammer, from the surgeon’s scalpel to the architect’s sketching pen. It seeks proposals aiming to un-build, dismantle and free the surface of human habitats from dysfunctional, polluting, dangerous and unnecessarily obstructing buildings.

Despite its frequent reference to demolitions and destruction, Making Room does not want to be a negative advertisement for architecture or a narrative on the faults of design. Instead, we are looking for a positive and constructive collection of  virtuous examples and theoretical speculations where architecture displays and demonstrates the (at once new and traditional) capacity of spatial ideas to create value in ways other than that of mere financial balance.

The forthcoming issue of Il Quaderno, entitled "Making Room," will seek to promote the following:
  • Increasing the financial value of the built environment in ways that are alternative to maximizing the square meters;
  • Evaluating elements such accessibility, naturality, permeability, flexibility, public services;
  • Minimizing land costs, by considering the built environment (not the virgin land) as the ground for design;
  • Re-examining obsolete buildings unable to evolve because of their too strict connection to the original programs;
  • Focusing on badly built, inefficient suburbs, suffering from lack of public space and of opportunities for adaptation;
  • Reducing the impact of faulty considerations on construction costs;
  • Eliminating building materials that have proved to be either harmful or inefficient;
  • Optimizing materials, as well as pre-existing conditions, construction sites and waste;
  • Avoiding high maintenance spaces that are expensive to keep in shape and operational;
  • Maximizing open-air and cold spaces (like terraces, loggias, urban passages, gardens and inhabitable roofs), as they cost less but greatly affect environmental performances and the quality of life;
  • Limiting the powers of highly specific use programs to determine how a project unfoldst, as Aldo Rossi noted in The Architecture of the City, buildings last longer than programs.

We are Making Room when:
  • we prepare an environment for something to happen;
  • we mark out the field with bags and other kinds of objects before an informal soccer game among friends;
  • we clean the table before starting to play Monopoly;
  • we push all our “working from home” stuff to the side of the table so we can eat dinner;
  • we squeeze into a tight space, like when we ask someone to make some room on the couch.
This issue of Il Quaderno wants to gather projects and reflections that promote architecture by bringing space (rather than buildings) back to the center of the architectural discourse, thus making room by:
  • demolishing buildings and giving land back to nature,
  • subtracting and transplanting volumes,
  • opening boundaries and permitting bio-diversity,
  • unwalling spaces and maximizing natural lighting and aeration;
  • removing obstructions and increasing permeability and accessibility;
  • evaluating the as-found condition and the layered contexts;
  • celebrating the public components of private spaces;
  • removing unnecessary encrustations from our lives and starting afresh by enjoying everyday basics.

Making Room, is a strategy to get ready--by getting rid-- to trigger the post pandemic re-naissance.

We are asking for your contributions in one of the following formats:
  • articles, reflections and theoretical speculations
  • project nominations (both built and unbuilt) with:
    1. a form summing up the project’s data,
    2. short description (max 500 words) of the project explaining its relevance to the topic of this issue,
    3. a site ground floor plan, 4_pictures (max 4)
Deadline June 1st ,2021. For submission guidelines, please contact

Articles and Project nominations will undergo a blind peer review process.
Before acceptance for publication, edits and/or implementations might be requested. 



SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610