The UTRAS research is one of the researches that the Planning Studies Centre has developed in the frame of the QUADROTER research over many years.
In the area of theoretical studies on the organisation of the city and on the urban effect (from the first researches on the ‘City-region' to the researches on the requirements of the Urban systems, carried out by the Centre under the coordination of Prof F. Archibugi) and in the area of experimentations concerning the Italian territory which the Centre has developed, at various occasions (regional plans, Progetto 80, QUADROTER etc.), a concept and the zoning of policies of environmental and historical-cultural recovery have been consolidated, which have been concluded with the identification of special ‘territorial Units of environmental and historical-cultural recovery' (in Italian, ‘Unita' territoriali di recupero ambientale e storico', hence UTRAS), for which the present research represents an attempt and a proposal, applicable to the Italian territory.
The research (in its latest version of 1994) has been developed with the contribution of the National Research Council (CNR) and also the Raffaello Programme of the European Union. The research has produced a publication by Prof. F. Archibugi in which the theoretical and practical aspects of identification and management of UTRAS are being confronted.
The research concluded proposing the planning of about 300 territorial structures allocated on the Italian territory, for the qualification and the environmental and historical-cultural recovery. These have been identified and defined as components of a more general national policy of urban Systems and have been called – in the documents and works which have defined and supported such a policy – ‘special sub-systemic structures' or ‘environmental under-systems'.
The UTRAS Research Report (only in Italian) (for which see here the index (only in Italian)) discusses and defines a policy for these sub-systems situating them in the broader framework of a policy of urban systems, in the way already defined (first Chapter).
But the main object of the research was that of better defining the nature and typology of the systemic units (as far as it hadn't been done yet), obviously at a general and schematic level (second Chapter).
In the first chapter, in a first part the principles and methods of a policy of describing urban systems are being recalled – again, in brief and with cross-references to the indicated sources, aim and method of implementation. And in a second part, reasons and strategies of participation of the above mentioned sub-systemic units (highly thought of by themselves) have been further discussed.
The report places itself, therefore, in the line of critical deepening studies of the urban systems policy and in that of one of its further deepening studies; a research line that the Planning Studies Centre has followed for many years with specific contributions by researchers who gradually have gathered around the centre.
One can also view the Maps of 300 UTRAS as identified by the research on a national scale, divided into the country's three big districts: North , Central and South.
Finally, one can view a sample of an Index card of municipal settlement (only in Italian) of each UTRAS, of which the catalogue of the UTRAS proposals is composed, also enclosed to the research.
Some reflections on the results of the UTRAS research
In the UTRAS research (in 1994) an object has been imagined as a first step towards the deepening of the topic, that of a more detailed listing of those environmental Sub-systems (which have already, in brief, been identified when those areas of national territory that functioned as ‘urban Systems' were delimited).
The classification of sub-systems was agreed on, in fact, either in relation to the urban Systems, to which the sub-systems belong, or in relation to the role which, in terms of total surface area and of ‘specificity', such sub-systems develop in their entirety in the territorial policy of the Country.
Dealing with vast and numerous, but dispersed and little populated areas, with reduced unitary dimensions and frequently endowed with original regional characteristics, it has been thought that their planning should not only be at exclusive competence of local agencies and regions, but that also there shouldn't be a superior scale to that local one, suitable to face their issues.
To these considerations, even if acceptable in general terms, need also to be added others that reduce their importance.
No doubt that, in effect, the most suitable scale for the planning of individual environmental subsystems could be that regional one; no doubt that it would be opportune to allocate to the Regions large responsibilities in elaborating and/or coordinating such plans. However, the potentiality existing in a national policy is not to be neglected, confronting, according to a unitary strategy, the planning of the environmental, urban subsystems – although its modalities and detail levels are all yet to be defined. We must take in account that most of the national territory falls into the ambit of free areas.
These programmed actions should be engaged within a more general policy of the environmental Systems, in order to be articulated later, also in an autonomous way and possibly at national level, according to modalities that are, among other things, the object of this research to be outlined. The main effect of such a policy is to be a positive intervention in the recovery and the protection of the environment and of the historical and cultural heritage.
However, as far as it is right to put this objective explicitly at the first place among those concerning a policy favouring environmental subsystems, it is also necessary to emphasize that this kind of action is not intended for exclusive patterns of an environmental policy, but as a part of an overall strategy of urbanisation of the national territory. Besides, it is sound to advance right now that a strategy of recovery of the peripheral areas and the environmental Sub-systems, functional to the economy of the city, represents a guideline of the present research.
We can look at two essential motivations, and some connected to them, for which it is desirable and possible to promote a policy of the environmental subsystem:
because of the important share of the entire surface of the national territory included within the borders of the environmental Subsystems, the functions plaid by them, in their entirety, cannot escape the attention of national planning;
thus these areas must be valorised and managed with the idea that they constitute not only a local, but also a national heritage, because of the environmental and historical-cultural functions that they developed.
In particular, at this moment it can be stated that, in principle, while the policy of urban Systems is aimed at the achievement of the city effect in every area composing the system, the policy of the environmental Subsystems is mainly aimed at environmental issues, intended also as a safeguard of the local, natural and historical-cultural specificities.
The study of an operational taxonomy of the environmental Subsystems, of which the implementation constitutes an introductory operation for the research of common programmatic outlines, is therefore integrated in the more general and comprehensive urban policy and completes it by emphasising on environmental issues.