Complex Analysis for the Sustainable Planning and Construction of The Place Identity: the Sensitive Relief Method

Complex Analysis for the Sustainable Planning and Construction of The Place Identity: the Sensitive Relief Method

M. Sepe

Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Rome, Italy

Dipartimento di Progettazione Urbana, Università di Napoli Federico II, Naples, Italy

3 March 2006
| Citation



The city is not an artificial construct: the city is a set of habits, customs and lifestyles. These elements are interrelated, and rather than being viewed individually, they are subsumed in the identity of place and the identification of the city. The contemporary city is characterized by complexity, simultaneity and instability, producing situations of transience and transformation. As a matter of fact, the mutations in interpersonal relationships and intergenerational gaps, technological development, mass migrations and globalization have transformed the spaces in the urban landscape; new types of place have arisen and the utilization of existing spaces has been modified. These transformations have contributed to an increasing urban identity crisis and transformed cities into heterogeneous, multi-ethnic and multicultural societies. The new urban features of the territory are not easily identifiable and cannot be represented by a traditional planimetric relief, often remaining ‘invisible’; other elements can only be identified by sense perception, which becomes a measure of analysis and a reference for planning. In order to give suitable terms and explain such new sites, several academics have tested maps, words and multimedia images, hypertext and software able to render this complexity and to permit readability, which have in most cases created new interpretations of urban features. Starting from this premise, the aim of this work, carried out in the framework of a Convention between the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche and the Dipartimento di Progettazione Urbana, Università di Napoli Federico II, is to illustrate the analytical method of the Sensitive Relief. This method individualizes those elements that have value for the identification of the place identity, and are able to provoke cultural transformations and also influence the sustainable urban complexity construction. The final product is a complex map and the relative legend is designed to integrate the traditional planimetry and support the sustainable urban identity planning and construction. The Sensitive Relief method has been tested in various European cities and beyond; in this paper the results of the application to an urban area of Naples are presented.


complex mapping, place–identity, Sensitive Relief, sustainable city, urban planning.


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