Learning to design cultural districts and learning from designing them

Alberto Francesconi, Claudia Dossena

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivista


Cultural districts are becoming an important field of study to promote a growing number of initiatives for local development. Despite substantial research in this field, knowledge gaps remain, especially with regard to initiatives at supra-urban level. Many policy-makers, funding agencies, local administrators and managers still face important design issues. This paper contributes to the developing body of theory on cultural districts in two ways. Firstly, focusing on concepts from complexity theory, it expands the debate on the conception of cultural districts as complex adaptive systems. Secondly, it highlights the dysfunctional tensions that can arise from conflicting ways of conceiving organizations, organizing and designing among ‘promoters’ and designers. We have been involved for three years in a large project aimed at designing a wide supra-urban cultural district in Italy, financed by a major banking foundation. Adopting an organizational perspective and through participative action research, we develop an explorative case study. Our core argument is that a linear, predictable and deterministic approach to analysis and design presents many limitations for such complex projects, offering learning opportunities from the design experience.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)704-722
Numero di pagine19
RivistaEuropean Planning Studies
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2016


  • Cultural district
  • case study
  • complex adaptive system
  • complexity theory
  • designing approach
  • participatory action research


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