“The cities of the future are already contained in the cities of the present, like insects in a chrysalis.” Italo Calvino, Invisible cities, 1972


Avant-garde initiatives of the nineteen-seventies such as the extraordinary experience of Pollution in Bologna had the merit of casting light, with all their provocative power, on the huge contradictions concealed in the idealisation of the natural environment as an easily accessible resource, independently of the models’ society was implementing for its use.

Our awareness of the future effects of the way we interact with the natural environment has evolved greatly since then, and it is thanks to a reading of reality based on experience and on objective data that we are now ready to face the great challenges of the future in a less antagonistic, more proactive way.

While Pollution 1972 offered tools for revealing the contradictions in the capitalist economic system, it is undeniable that much industrial production and policy at the national and international levels is now directed at attenuation of this model’s effects on the planet, and that we are experimenting with innovative ways of creating products, spaces and places capable of representing a balanced relationship between man and the ecosystem he is a part of. A particular form of awareness is evolving in Italy, in certain sectors more than others, that takes a product’s production process and life cycle into account in evaluating the product’s quality and beauty.

These are encouraging signals, but they do not offer all the answers to the challenges that face us, for example, when it comes to working in the urban ecosystem, where the impact of climate change has made our urban environments and spaces more vulnerable. Though pollution is not an effect of climate change, it certainly does intensify the phenomenon.

The challenge facing Pollution 2018 is indicating new paths for working in today’s more fragile urban settings, offering technically appropriate solutions which respect the stratification that has produced them and is capable of promoting environmental quality and comfort. The vision of the future, the evolution of our perception of the risks inherent in pollution and the need to re-establish a balanced relationship with nature will be the key elements of the event, with a special focus on the point of view of the new generations, who have an immediate relationship with technology and view nature as a variable which is dependent on human decisions or failure to act.

The young professionals of the post-graduate school called SOS School of Sustainability, founded in Bologna by Mario Cucinella, have been entrusted with the task of expressing the themes of Pollution 2018. The method adopted in the study programme and SOS’s holistic approach to issues of sustainability are useful tools for building a project combining education, research and professional practice.

This experience will take the form of a laboratory for sharing and listening, with multiple voices, with the participation of the Iris Ceramica Group, SOS School of Sustainability, Laboratorio delle Idee, students from the Bologna International School, Ascolto Attivo and experts from other disciplines, each of whom will bring their own know-how and way of perceiving and experiencing urban space to the project.

The work team has traced a path beginning with the act of accusation that characterised the first edition of Pollution and continuing in search of new tools that will permit responsible, shared, participatory use of urban space as a place for reconstructing the bonds between man and nature.