Drawing the Ephemerality of Design

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Axonometric, Line Drawing, Students, Texture

Drawing the Ephemerality of Design

Francesca Esposito, Violetta Gambino, Francesca Icardi & Marina Mori



A City of Opportunities aims to show how good design can help improve certain social conditions such as the refugees welcoming process. The specific guidelines emerged from an earlier research have made possible to develop an urban project -including social housings gathering spaces and furniture- that triggers the integration of asylum seekers.”

Genoa is not only the city where we lived for six years, but it also is an important harbor and primary destination for migrants. As demonstrated by the migrant crisis of the past few years, the Italian welcoming system was not prepared and structured enough for such an increment of the migratory flows. The city was unable to react to the increased new coming, finding itself without suitable spaces reserved to asylum seeker. For this reason, Genoa is the chosen project site. In particular, debate instead of increasing the already high building density in the Genoese context, the design involves three existing buildings that are both unresolved places and topic of local debates.



As architects, we must be able to answer to controversial challenges: as stated by UNHCR, the migration crisis that affected the Italian peninsula in the past few years represents a global emergency. The willingness of playing a part in trying to solve this problem led us to research and analyse the literature on this topic. Consequently, “A City of Opportunities” is a thesis that embraces several disciplines involved in the architecture field. Moreover, it highlights how architecture and urban design are able to determine a positive change in social issues; for instance, they can facilitate the problematic process of integration of asylum seekers.  First, a sociological research has been conducted in order to identify statistics and fundamental data on migratory flows and the Italian welcoming system. Thanks to the information retrieved, specific guidelines for the design process have been detected.



The project involves three existing buildings that share common characteristics and act like urban triggers; all of them are abandoned and work on a physical limit. Together, they develop an urban system that crosses the city of Genoa from north to south. Those buildings represent the main features of the regeneration process discussed above; they are refurbished with facilities useful for both the city and the refugees. Some examples are shared apartments, gathering ad co-working places and a day hospital. At the same time, the areas where they are located take benefit from the restoration action. The result is “A city of Opportunities”, in this specific case the city of Genoa, a place where people can think of immigration as a resource rather than as a problem.



Who influences you graphically?

Our illustrations aim to highlight the ephemeral aspects of the design, which is meant to look incomplete and ever-evolving from the initial stage. We look to surrealism as the source: artists such as Hopper, Magritte and De Chirico, but also architectural practices like Gosplan, Viar Estudio, Dogma, Kersten Geers and Fala influence us. Generally, we are following the return to the analogue, as it happens in the world of design, illustration and fashion.



05former national railway building

​Former National Railway Building – View from the town centre


Former Gavoglio Barrack – View on the park


Former Gavoglio Barrack – Apartment

What dictates the choice of colour and texture for some images when compared to fine lines for others?

We wanted to express the difference between the traditional architectural representations (such as plans, sections and ) and the idealistic visions that show how people interact with the proposed design.  In the first case we used a neat “CAD style” in order to let the technical features stand out; for the visions, instead, we chose to utilize intense colours and unreal textures in order to suggest an imaginary setting. In both cases, we utilized a crafty style to capture the attention and to stimulate the imagination of the viewer.


​​Former Gavoglio Barrack – Section of the greenhouse


How could this research be brought forward so that it becomes a real proposal which challenges and tries to change the current situation? 

The objective of this project is to supply general rules to further examine migratory flow. Furthermore, it aims to provide guidelines that cities can follow to adapt their urban pattern to the growing density using old abandoned buildings. The research would then be presented by developing a common path between architecture, sociology and anthropology.  Using a small, specific scale and then applying that to a broader, more general scale, facilitates the analysing of singular cases.


​​​​​Former Gavoglio Barrack – Patio


How does the choice of graphic language sit in relation to the issues discussed? 

The issue in not easily discussed. The stylistic language suggests how abandoned buildings can be restored to solve refugee’s integration and housing problems. The visions are not only a mere representation of the design but proper manifestos of this city of opportunity.

You always reveal the project from a distant perspective how could a more interior and human perception have helped?

We used a distant perspective to represent our vision because we wanted to focus on the urban regeneration topic. Cities and abandoned buildings are the protagonist of the project: coming together as a complex machine that offers a positive impulse in the urban and sociological context.  A human perception would have implied a focus on the single architecture itself and maybe lead to a completely different, more specific design.



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