Sergio Porta

Prof

  • United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile

Academic / Professional qualifications

Professor of Urban Design, Director of Urban Design Studies Unit.

Former Head of Department (2011-2014).

Personal Statement

Graduated in Architecture and PhD in Urban and Environmental Planning at the Polytechnic of Milan (IT), visiting scholar at University of California at Berkeley (USA), associate researcher at King Fahd University of Petroleum and MInerals (SA) and Murdoch University - Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy in Perth (WA), I am former Head of Department and currently Professor of Urban Design, Director of the Urban Design Studies Unit, Course Director of the MScUD program at the Department of Architecture of University of Strathclyde.

Chair of the International Seminar of Urban Form conference 2021 in Glasgow, I am advisor to international organisations, member of editorial boards of leading journals in urban science and design, section editor of Urban Morphometrics and Design at the journal Discover Cities (SpringerNature) and regularly invited speaker to international conferences.

I published over fifty papers on international peer-reviewed journals and three monographs. My h-index is 23 on Scopus and 33 on G-Scholar (as to April 2024). My latest book “Masterplanning for Change: Designing the Resilient City” was published in 2020 by RIBA. In 2023, I was awarded two prizes as author of best papers of the year: the Mellick Medal (Institution of Civil Engineers) and the Michael Breheny Prize (journal Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science).

My research is on masterplanning the adaptive city, evidence-based urban design coding, urban morphometrics and radical community-based construction process.

My overarching focus of interest is what we can do as designers to make our built environment the best possible place for people, communities, businesses and the environment, in time. Inevitably, this point of view leads to consider beauty in the built environment largely as the result of the uncoordinated efforts of people and organisations in time, one of which being design itself. Basically, it leads to reframe change in urban form in evolutionary terms: Urban MorphoMetrics is my effort to do so by comprehensive, systematic and scalable scientific analysis, rarther than purely speculatively, analogically or metaphorically. Our mission as urban designer is then established as to ensure the (spatial) conditions for those uncoordinated efforts to emerge and evolve in a way that keeps maintaining the urban system in operation (resilience), while meeting our definition of public good (sustainability).

At UDSU, we value a lot the circular relationship between teaching and research. We pull together urban morphology, environmental conventional urban planning and design analysis, advanced spatial analysis and deep community engagement practice into a comprehensive science of urban design for change.  

Research Interests

My research sits in three areas: 1. Urban Analytics and Morphology; 2. Construction and Therapy, and 3. Urban Design. .

In Urban Analytics and Morphology, I work on street networks and spatial centrality with physicists like Vito Latora, Luciano Da Fontoura Costa and Marc Barthelemy (http://www.udsu-strath.com/5-publications/5-1-articles/articles-2010-networks-in-urban-design-six-years-of-mca-research/).

In my most recent work, Urban MorphoMetrics (UMM), I work with geo-spatial analysists such as Martin Fleischmann, Alessandra Feliciotti and Alessandro Venerandi on the development of a digital ecosystem designed to generate a quantitative, systematic, comprehensive and scalable taxonomy of urban form. In order to do so, we measure the similarity of urban types and ultimately infer “parental” relationships between them. This brings us to value trans-disciplinary collaborations with scientists in biological evolution and morphometrics, such as Mark Pagel and Philipp Mitterhöcker. Foundational papers in this area are: a) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2399808317725075, and b) https://doi.org/10.1177/23998083211059835.

In Construction and Therapy, I work with students and communities to the real construction of buildings through a process of direct and collective design/construction inspired by the legacy of Christopher Alexander. The involvement of end-users throughout three phases (Land Exploration, Pattern Language and Conception&Construction) is a crucial step towards "healing the people and healing the land". This generates a radical re-think of architectural education, which I am testing at: www.BuildingBeauty.org.  

In Urban Design, my research links up to Urban MorphoMetrics to explore an innovative masterplanning process based on evidence-based urban design coding systems. The theoretical framework of urbanity and change, as developed through 15 years of academic work with colleagues at UDSU (http://www.udsu-strath.com), is presented in Masterplanning for Change (https://www.ribabooks.com/masterplanning-for-change-designing-the-resilient-city_9781859469262) along with a step-by-steb guide for the generation of resilient and sustainable masterplans. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Keywords

  • urban design
  • public space design
  • spatial analysis
  • urban regeneration
  • adaptive urbanism

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