Workshop leader

Born in Milano in 1955, Cino Zucchi has earned degrees in Architectural Design at M.I.T. and at the Politecnico di Milano, where he is currently Chair Professor. He has taught in many international design workshops and has been a John T. Dunlop Visiting Professor at the GSD of Harvard University. Author of several articles and books on matters of architectural and urban theory, he participated to various editions of the Milano Triennale and of the Venice Biennale of Architecture, where he has been the curator of the Italian Pavilion in 2014. He has been the chairman of the jury of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture / Mies Award 2015.


Together with his studio CZA he has designed and realized several projects, among which the ex-Junghans factory site in Venice, the ex-Alfa Romeo-Portello Nord area and of the Corte Verde in Milano, the Keski Pasila master plan in Helsinki, the Car Museum and the Lavazza HQ in Turin, the Salewa HQ in Bozen.

Cino Zucchi Workshop 2018

"Inhabitable Screens"

Workshop Leader: Cino Zucchi
Assistant teacher: Belén Hermida

MCH Workshop Length: 5 days






The workshop held by Cino Zucchi in MCH 2018 will explore a specific problem of housing design: the one of the “interface” or “buffer” between the private realm and the collective one, and of its possible evolutions in the light of the ongoing changes on urban and natural environments.


In the urban expansion of the nineteenth century, building facades were considered and designed as a simple backdrop of the urban scene, an unified architectural “dress” to screen the decorated variety of bourgeois interiors. The Functionalist attitude of the following century, dismissing previous practices as “formalist”, denied any figural autonomy to the vertical envelope of residential buildings, considering it the natural consequence of the correct resolution of a “typical” apartment unit.

But the scale of the single living unit and the one of the city, our need of a personal realm and the search for a shared space, are not able to dialogue directly without a mediating element.


This element is the depth of the building envelope, which it has also to perform a number of sophisticated tasks: modulate the light of the sun (directly or by the employment of screening devices) in relationship with latitude and geographical orientation; protect the interior from excessive hot and cold, wind, rain, noise, pollution; create inhabitable open air spaces for the dwellings, including fragments of nature; provide visual privacy to the interiors; act as a social mean of communication; give a meaningful form to the collective urban spaces.


On one side, this conception of the building envelope as the backdrop of collective public space could ignite new thoughts on the relative autonomy of it from the interior design of the single living units. On the other, the continuous appearance of new materials and building technologies, the changing lifestyles tied to the media revolution, our different sensibility in relationship to nature, the new forms of social interaction and the experiments on communal living: all these elements can change the form of things, and guide our quest for innovative solutions.


In the short time of the workshop, the participants are required to research on an architectural design response to many of these issues, and do that in a tight sequence of progressive approximations towards the final product.

This product will not be the design of a full housing organism completed in all of its parts, but rather of an architectural device enquiring on the “depth” of the interface between interior and exterior, between a housing unit and its urban environment.

How a housing complex touches the ground and generates a transition with the street, how it ends towards the sky, how it borders the space of the city, how it creates in-between spaces hosting private outdoor life: these quite “classical” tasks can and should be dealt with in very innovative ways.


The development of a given master plan by the students will go through a series of quick one-day design charrettes, each dealing with a single aspect of the theme.

The final product, realized by groups of not more than two people, will be a limited number of drawings (between 1:200 and 1:20 scale) and a physical model to the scale 1:50 to be assembled into a single artefact representing a cluster of living units bordering a common open space.

The overall massing of the buildings, the shape of the open space and the main elements of the housing typology will be given by the teachers, establishing the rules to obey to and the degrees of freedom which can give complexity and variety to the ensemble. The idea is therefore to concentrate the architectural task and to aim our efforts towards a very precise theme, in the belief that this focus can lead us in a short time to unexpected experiments and marvelous results.




The site chosen for the design task of the workshop is one urban block in a very large, unfinished development in Madrid, Valdebebas. The quarter between the Parque Felipe VI on the west and the Barajas airport on the east. Even if slightly disturbing, the almost total absence of historical context forces us to reflect on the environmental qualities that these kind of new developments can strive to achieve, and how these qualities depend on design factors.


To accelerate decisions and to get to the required design scales in the short time of the workshop, we decided to work on the base not only of a given master plan, but also on given typological assumptions.


The general aim of the master plan is to determine a shared semi-public green space common to all the inhabitant of the block, to reinforce the urban front on the main boulevard of Valdebebas on its north-west border, to guarantee good solar insolation all year round to the green space and to all the apartment units, and to create a variety of shared spaces, spatially well-defined by the volumes of the buildings, yet visually open to the neighborhood. The overall massing has been then divided into nine separate parts marked by three typological schemes.


The first one is a thin, long type with a common circulation running on one side and the main outlook on the other, and one vertical circulation block serving an external gallery that gives access to all the units, ideally maisonettes and/or one-bedroom types (type A) its dimensions in plan are 9 meter depth by undefined length including the distribution gallery, and it is planned of being not more than 5 floors high.


The second is a deeper body, with the vertical distribution attached to one side of the building so to leave the possibility of different interlocking units and flexibility over time in their rearrangement, ideally one bedroom and two bedroom units (type B), its standard dimension is 13 meters depth by 25 meter length; its height can go from 5 to 9 floors.


The third one is based on a central vertical distribution scheme, and the four fronts have free lookouts in all directions; its dimensions are 20x20 m in plan, and its height goes from 9 to 18 floors.


These given schemes can be taken in two possible ways; one is to keep only the given depth and the position and the interior arrangement of the vertical distribution block; in the graphic material given to the participants, there is also one possible complete typical floor, which can be freely used as a base to work on concentrating on the main theme of the workshop, the “inhabitable screen”. Each building type has a flexible perimeter – in the sense that it can be freely manipulated in and out to create more interesting environmental relationships between the interior and the exterior – and a 3 meter deep free depth around all sides that have outlook that can be used to design terraces, balconies, loggias, verandahs, bow windows or the like to respond to the theme of private outdoor space.


The first day, the 9 typological units (2 of type A to the north-west side, 4 of type B on the north-east and east sides, and 3 of type C on the south side) will be assigned to groups of two students each with a lottery. The design of the ground floor and the roofscape is part of the task, while the design of the open spaces between the buildings could be a collective design endeavor. The last two days, the models constructed by the single teams will be put together in one big collective one.



Cino Zucchi MCH'18 Workshop was held in Madrid, from Monday 23th of April to Friday 27th of April 2018.


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