For nearly a thousand years, the sovereign Republic of Venice established itself as a trading superpower between Europe and the Levant, expanding its maritime dominance into the Adriatic Sea and, from there, connecting the West and the Far East.
Today, more than two-thirds of trade value between the European Union and China goes by sea (via the Suez Canal) and the North Adriatic maritime transport route is the shortest way to reach inland parts of the Old Continent from East Asia. Italy has recently endorsed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.
The projects under the BRI are mainly related to infrastructure development in the transport, energy, mining, IT and communications sector but also cover industrial parks, Special Economic Zones (SEZ), tourism and urban development. This epochal geo-strategic masterplan puts the spotlight on the role of the Adriatic region – its coastline and its ports- in the massive trade and infrastructural project that aims to link China to Europe.

The Adriatic City
The urbanisation along the north Adriatic Sea, across Veneto Emilia Romagna and Marche, represents a unique, and all too often overlooked, laboratory to study the evolution of the contemporary European city.  
Beside the simplistic dichotomy between the city and the countryside, the contemporary urban condition is characterised by the fragmentation of the urban texture, the coexistence of irreconcilable traits and the diffuse urban sprawl. This situation reflects the uncertain and precarious reality of the contemporary urban and sub-urban condition.
The Adriatic City is characterised, on one hand, by the presence of a diffuse networks of small and medium-sized enterprises, manufacturing factories and industries, that have historically punctuated its territory determining its socio-economic success. At the same time, the early formal and informal settlement along the coast have developed over time determining its leisurely character. The industrious inland and the laid-back coastline are the two faces of the same coin. Between these polarities the Adriatic City unfolds relentlessly across different regions, provinces, counties and municipalities: holiday resorts, city-state, historic city, industrial compounds, logistic infrastructures, amusement parks, urban fringes, agricultural land, density and unrestricted growth, etc. Despite its apparently chaotic prosperity, the Adriatic City has developed out of a rather specific set of socio-economic and historical circumstances that will become the subject of our study.

Think Tank
In 1974, Giancarlo De Carlo, together with a group of colleagues and friends, most of which were members of Team10, founded the International Laboratory for Architecture and Urban Design (ILAUD). The new ‘Laboratory’ was concerned with the transformation of the physical environment promoting research into new methods and techniques of design and fostering cultural exchanges between teachers and students from different countries and universities. The laboratory’s main objective was to lay the foundations for a different approach to architecture, one that would explore issues bound up with the territory, participation, and reuse.
In line with this spirit of independence and cultural anarchism, the AA Visiting School will work as a “think tank” set to study the evolution of the urban costal condition of the Adriatic city: its historic heritage, the formal and informal nature of its conurbation, its present condition and future potentials. The Adriatic City has grown and keep striving under the pressure of social, technological and economic forces. We set to develop the first comprehensive study and, where possible, a urban theory describing this vast territory unfolding along the Adriatic Sea.

Each year, the Visiting School will focus on one specific aspect characterising the Adriatic City. We will study the existing condition, its social and economic structure as well as its planning, urban types and archetypes.
We will look at turism, hospitality and leisure, how it has transformed the Adriatic City over time and how it can evolve and transform in the future. We will look at the industry (manufacturing, services, agriculture, etc), the way it has transformed the countryside and how it can help propel the economy of the Adriatic City into the 21st Century. We will look at housing: how to transform and adaptively reuse the existing building stock as well as planning its growth.

The body of research developed during the Visiting School will converge into the first comprehensive publication on the Adriatic City.

We will carry out a series of seminars that will offer specific insights into the history and culture of the Adriatic City. We will discuss how the cinema has depicted the Adriatic City, from Zurlini’s Adriatic trilogyto Dino Risi’s L’Ombrellone, from Fellini’s Amarcord to Deserto Rosso by Michelangelo Antonioni.
We will look at the architectural heritage: from Francesco di Giorgio Martini to Bramante, from Alberti to Valadier all the way to the post-war modernism (De Carlo, Aymonino, ect).