Rethinking the rules of cities

The Recoding project investigates the ordinary making of the urban fabric. In this context, the city is conceived as the combined result of spatial planning, market forces, swinging frames of reasoning, conformity to norms and individual expectations and aspirations. To do so, the Recoding project focuses on the role of urban codes in shaping the structure of our cities. Specifically, FULL aims to explore the intertwined connection between urban codes and city morphology. Urban codes refer to a set of rules relating to singled out ‘elemental types’ (height, roofing, windows, etc.) and their relations within the built environment, with no correspondence to a predetermined and unique location. The complexity of regulation system might, however, hinder the immediate understanding of the extent and impacts that such regulations have on the built environment, particularly when the overlapping of well-intentioned regulations generated in different time frames result in distorted outcomes, such as use segregation, contradictory directions and scarce flexibility, to name a few, in a time in which cities have to deal with progressive alterations rather than massive greenfield expansions.



Scientific director

Research group

Lucia Baima, Michele Barale, Francesca Frassoldati, Valeria Todeschi, Valerio Roberto Maria Lo Verso, Maddalena Martina, Guglielmina Mutani, Anna Pellegrino, Riccardo Ronzani


#Urbanism #TransformativeUrbanism


Research project

The complexity of the Italian regulatory system is an obstacle faced daily. It slows down administrative works, makes it difficult to foresee the effects of rules and impinges heavily on the economic activities of citizens and businesses. The need for rationalisation and optimisation of this system is not new. Simplification and streamlining of bureaucracy have been keywords in the international political environment since the post-war period. Despite many efforts taken to overcome these issues –due in part to the progressive increase in the complexity of our societies and the consequential accumulation of rules and laws – the issue of complexity of the regulatory system cannot yet be considered resolved.

1 An Effective Solution

FULL has created the Recoding project, as well as a research team that deals with the simplification of urban rules. The scope is to support policymakers and administrations to optimise the complex system of rules.

2 An Alternative Method

FULL proposes a more radical alternative to the current procedural simplification approach. The method involves: reduction of procedural steps and distribution of responsibilities between actors involved. Existing rules are systemised and put in order. Overlaps, redundancies and contradictions are identified and reduced. Opportunities to reorganise the content within regulations or even to rewrite parts of the rules emerge.

3 An Opportunity to Be Seized

Making rules more readable and transparent means unlocking the potential for transformation of cities and regions.

A ‘simple’ city is a city in which:

  • Citizens can easily understand how to transform their properties, feel active in urban transformation and more involved in the system.
  • Municipalities – as well as provincial and regional administrations – can effectively facilitate ongoing procedures and transformations, rather than resolving disputes.
  • Companies are encouraged to invest in a context with clear rules that enable clear risk assessments.
  • Professionals can offer more competitive design costs thanks to simpler compliance verification.

4 An Exportable Model

The Recoding team has been experimenting with this approach since 2018, working alongside the Municipality of Turin. Thanks to its interdisciplinary nature, the group has the skills to operate in different regulatory areas, including construction, energy, urban planning and environmental design.

Through this method, which puts simplification at the core of the activity, FULL is (re)defining an exportable and replicable model.


  • Books

    C. Barioglio, D. Campobenedetto, M. Nigra, M. Barale, F. Frassoldati, M. Robiglio, Re-coding. Ripensare le regole della città, Dipartimento di Architettura e Design-Politecnico di Torino, Torino 2019, 978-88-85745-28-5.

    [Contributo elaborato nell’ambito della Convenzione tra Politecnico e Città di Torino e pubblicato anche come allegato alla relazione di revisione del PRGC.]

  • Conference proceedings

    C. Barioglio, D. Campobenedetto, M. Nigra, L. Baima, The Hidden Designer. Rethinking Urban Rules in City Making, EAAE-ARCC International Conference – Valencia 2020 – Conference proceeding (under review)

  • Scientific papers (released/forthcoming)

    G. Mutani, V. Todeschi, The effects of green roofs on outdoor thermal comfort, urban heat island mitigation and energy savings, in: Atmosphere, 11(2), 123 (2020) DOI: 10.3390/atmos11020123.

    V. Todeschi, G. Mutani, L. Baima, M. Nigra, M. Robiglio (…) Smart Solutions for Sustainable Cities. The Re-Coding Experience for Harnessing the Potential of Urban Rooftops, in “APPLIED SCIENCES” – ISSN 2076-3417, 10:7112(2020), pp. 1-27.

    G. Mutani, V. Todeschi, Low-carbon strategies for resilient cities: a place-based evaluation of solar technologies and green roofs potential in urban contexts, in: Tecnica Italiana – Italian Journal of Engineering Science (under review).

    C. Barioglio, D. Campobenedetto, La trasformazione ordinaria. Gli effetti della legge n.106/2011 sulla forma urbana a Torino, in “Territorio”, (forthcoming).

  • Scientific papers (ongoing)

    M. Nigra, V. Lo Verso, A. Pellegrino, M. Maddalena (…) Re-coding Environmental Regulation – Simplified versus Complex Predition Models for Daylighting, in “Energy and Buildings”, ongoing.

    C. Barioglio D. Campobenedetto (a cura di) Coding turn. Regole, forme e funzioni, nella città contingente, servizio su Territorio, con contributi di C. Baima, M. Barale, C. Barioglio, D. Campobenedetto, M. Nigra, F. Frassoldati, M. Robiglio.