Project by
Giulia Spagnolo
Master Track
Urbanism
Supervisors
Luisa Calabrese, Mike Emmerik

Designing with tourism

The scale of people’s movement across the world is increasing every year. The reasons behind this phenomenon stand in politics, economy and culture. Investments and private interests have made possible more affordable and more frequent connections. One of the main reasons behind people’s temporary movement is the increasing phenomenon of tourism. An increment of more than 50 mln of tourists has been registered in the last year across the world (UNWTO, 2015) and is still expected to increase in the next years. The outstanding role of tourism for the local economies implies investments and promotion for its even further development.

Scheme: author, Source: ISTAT

The stream of tourists is shaping places, spaces and their economy according to its dynamics. The region of Apulia, in Southern Italy, for its natural characteristics, for its geographical position and for its historical sites is one of the most crowded touristic destinations in Italy. Renowned internationally, its economy is increasingly relying on the revenues of tourism and the regional government is working for the touristic promotion of the territory, mostly in terms of advertising. However the touristic facilities are hold in private hands, infrastructures are lacking and the region is still occupying the last positions in the national statistic charts regarding welfare, culture , public services and employment.


The two contrasting trends show an incapability of the region to gain revenues from the positive trend of tourism and aim to its own development.
The political engagement into the promotion of tourism does not evolve into a development of physical territorial facilities and services that could back-up the positive trends of tourism. The urgency of tackling tourism in the region rises from the risk of losing part of this incomings to other international, better prepared, competitors in the coming years. The issue emerges as a matter of Design As Politics.

Research questions


  • How can the potentials of tourism be used for the sustainable development of the region?
  • How does the global trend of tourism affect the local realities?
  • How can we design for/with tourism?

Goal of the project

The project would explore the meaning and the consequences of tourism on the local realities envisioning a possible scenario for the development of the regional territory using the potentials of tourism. The design project would be used as a tool for structuring and planning a sustainable development taking as case study the touristic region of Apulia, Southern Italy.

Design Description
The thesis project claims the possibility of using the global trends of tourism for the local sustainable development. The project aims to propose an alternative approach for the regional development that takes in consideration three main scales:  a regional Large Scale, a territorial Medium Scale (macro-areas) and a Local Scale.
The project will be composed by three sections: the Formative Principles of the approach, the Operative Principles for the application of the approach to the territory
and a Test Case Design at the local scale.  The approach is based on a bottom-up strategy in which spatial design at the local scale becomes the fundamental key for the success of the development model (J. Busquets).

The Local Scale is the strategic scale for the regional development in which the alternative approach is concretized into a design project and its impacts are tested as hypothetical consequences on the territory. The Local Scale project takes care of  four key-categories identified (Mobility – Heritage – Ports – Coastline) that aim to combine the potentials of tourism with the regional development through spatial design.