GSSI Alumni Stories

I earned a BA in Architecture followed by a MSc in Urban Planning at the University of Roma Tre (2006-2012). After a six months research stay in Vienna (Austria), I graduated with a thesis on contemporary Vienna’s urban policies and development. My research concerned the relationship between ‘large urban projects’ and ‘public space’, which led me to conduct a comparative analysis of the most important urban regeneration interventions in the Austrian capital since the early Nineties.
My research in GSSI focused on spatial strategic planning in European cities and on the link between strategies and practice in urban planning. The thesis explored the different moments of filtering of the urban development strategies in local administrations. My findings regard the diffusion of spatial and governance innovations in European cities and their institutionalisation inside existing planning infrastructures. Through a comparative approach, I have analysed the spatial strategic approaches of Rome, Vienna and Paris during the 90s and 2000s, with an in depth exploration of Rome’s project of polycentrism.
The research was developed at the crossroad between urban planning and public policies analysis. I have further deepened this multidisciplinary dimension during a five months research stay in Paris (2015), at the Centre d'études européennes (CEE) of Sciences Po, under the supervision of Professor Marco Cremaschi (director of the Master in Urban Planning). Back in l’Aquila, I have organised a cycle of seminars involving GSSI PhD students and Post-docs, with the Urban Studies Seminar team. I have co-organised the conference “Roma in transizione. Governo, strategie, metabolismi e quadri di vita di una città capitale” (coordinated by Alessandro Coppola and Gabriella Punziano), hosted in GSSI in April 2017. I am actually living and working in Rome. 

Research interests:
Urban public space and landscape analysis and management, including a wider concern for economic, political and social processes of territorial evolution.

Matteo Del Fabbro graduated in Urban Studies in July 2017 (XXIX Cohort), with a thesis titled Transforming Proximity. Local actors enacting territorial strategies and restructuring policy-making in metropolitan Milan, and Prof. Tommaso Vitale (Sciences Po) as supervisor. The dissertation addressed the metropolitan challenges faced by local actors in Milan, and contributed to explain the relationship between territorial integration and socio-political action in polycentric urban settings. Using both quantitative and qualitative research techniques such as GIS analysis and semi-directive interviews, Dr Del Fabbro studied how the political-economic structural context of the metropolis is apprehended, reformulated, and transformed by local actors through intentional practices. Through his work, Dr Del Fabbro proposed an innovative research object for the study of metropolitan political-economic dynamics, which are new kinds of metropolitan controversies related to issues of identity and belonging. In the first half of his research, Dr Del Fabbro followed the interdisciplinary doctoral program offered at the the Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI), focusing on the long-term structural changes of European cities and metropolitan areas. He spent the next 18 months as a visiting doctoral fellow at the Centre d’Études Européennes of Sciences Po in Paris (France), where he deepened his knowledge on metropolitan governance and institutional change. At the same time, he also contributed to the GSSI Social Sciences collective research project called L’Aquila of the future. After completing his PhD, Dr Del Fabbro has been acting as scientific tutor of the Executive Master in “Real Estate Strategies and Finance” at Sciences Po, Paris. Beyond bringing forward his research agenda, through peer-reviewed papers and collective research projects, he has been reaching out to non-academic audiences such as urban professionals and local policy-makers.

Research interests:
Polycentric city-regions; metropolitan governance; local government reform; territorial strategies; urban political economy; place; Milan.

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I graduated in Architecture at University of Ferrara in 2013, with a master thesis that focused on the urban transformation of a former railway area in Milan. In October 2013 I joined GSSI as a doctoral student (XXIX cycle). In July 2017 I defended my Ph.D. thesis, which focused on the long-term impacts of major urban regeneration projects in progress in Milan and the evaluation of urban synergies among complex strategic actions. My research focuses also on the investigation of the cognitive roots of Milan’s governance framework and the emergent discrasia between the planning tools and the implementation process of urban regeneration projects. In December 2015 I took part to the third public forum on ‘L’Aquila of the Future’ – promoted by GSSI. Together with my colleague Joanne Ahern, I presented a research on urban mobility in L’Aquila, focusing on the walkability issue. In the framework of the ‘International Biennale of Architecture Rotterdam 2016’ (IABR) I coordinated – together with Cora Fontana and Dr. Alessandro Coppola – a research project on ‘L’Aquila of the Future: Strategies, Architectures, Spaces and Urban Identities after the 2009 Earthquake’ (January-May, 2016). I’m currently co-editor of the publication on the research’s outcomes. From September 2015 to September 2017 I have worked as Research Assistant at the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio (Switzerland) where I carried out a research project – directed by professor Antonio Calafati – on the ‘Architectures of Innovation /Architectures of Subsistence in Milan'. In 2016 I was also active in a research group that explored the social, economic and spatial transformations of Milan and its metropolitan area. Currently, I’m working at Politecnico di Milano as Research and Teaching Assistant in Urban Design and Planning – Department of Architecture and Urban Studies.

David Gogishvili received a doctoral degree with honours in Urban Studies in September 2017 (XXIX Cohort), with a thesis titled Mega-Events as Spaces of Exception: Strategies and Manifestations of Planning by Exception. Prof. Alberto Vanolo from the University of Turin acted as a supervisor of David’s doctoral research. In the dissertation, David analysed the exceptionality of mega-events and their role in influencing urban policy and practice. Agamben's and Ong’s concept of exceptionality was deployed as the main pillar to conceptualize the unfolding of the exceptional practices in cities initiated through and for mega-events. A combination of qualitative methods, including on-site observations, in-depth interviews, and document reviews were used to aggregate data for three different and understudied cases. The first case explores how the Glasgow City Council used mega-event hosting as a justification to catalyze the implementation of a large road infrastructure project. It demonstrates the links between the infrastructure project and the role the official discourses of exceptionality. The second case study explores the ways in which the organization of the Formula 1 race on Baku's public roads was facilitated through the government's imposition of temporary regulations and the creation of temporary “spaces of exception” in the city and reveals exceptional practices brought into the urban realm during the luxury event tailored primarily towards the needs of the F1 and the Azerbaijani elite. The third case investigates the strategic coupling between construction of an athlete's village for the second-tier sport event, and the establishment of a Special Economic Zone in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. This work argues that a set of exceptional decisions and zoning changes were put in place through governmental executive decree to mobilize investments for an essential part of the event infrastructure which laid the foundation for the creation of an extra-legal special economic zone. David, besides working on his doctoral research, contributed to other research projects including the GSSI Social Sciences collective research project entitled as L’Aquila of the future. Currently, David is a research fellow at New Europe College at Bucharest, Romania where he is working on a research project related to the conflicting uses of public space in post-Socialist cities affected by the increased car ownership.

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The GSSI enormously contributed to both my personal and professional life. Lectures and interdisciplinary research inspired me greatly during my PhD studies. My favourite aspect of the GSSI is the fact that it provided me enough flexibility to pursue my own interest. With the support and encouragement I received, I could study and conduct research abroad in UK and Turkey and also had the chance to work with amazing scholars.

At the GSSI there is a huge variety of people from different backgrounds, with different opinions, beliefs, interests and passions and this support students' professional and personal development. Also the interdisciplinary approach, the broad range of classes and frequent meetings with advisors nurture a nuanced vision of the urban studies. Then, in addition to the PhD scholarship, the support for academic activities like conferences and visiting periods, offers unique opportunities.

The GSSI has a truly international and collaboration-oriented nature. The most remarkable aspect of my experience at the GSSI is related to the chances that I got for collaborating, sharing ideas and thoughts, or just interacting with internationally-recognized scientists from all over the world. The international DNA of the GSSI is also evident when looking back at my travels: I had the opportunity to visits places all over the world, from large cities like New York or San Francisco, to more hidden places islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Priceless!"

At the GSSI it is very common to meet and talk with leading scholars in the scientific community, the ones that you read about only in the books. As a student, if you will be brave enough to ask, you can even be supervised by one of them.

Being part of the GSSI is a 360° experience: you live your days feeling that you are really making a concrete impact on science. At some point this may be a little bit "stressy", but at the GSSI we invented also ways for cooling down the pressure. For example, during my first winter at the GSSI we organized a series of pizza+movie nights where we explored the sci-fi movies landscape, projecting the whole Star Wars saga and many other sci-fi movies.

The most important aspect of my experience as a GSSI student was the high level of education and research activity. In fact, during the first year the courses offered by the school cover many hot topics in astroparticle physics and allow the student to acquire a wide knowledge, useful for the future career as a researcher. In addition, the level of research is competitive and the students have the possibility to work with highly qualified professors and researchers. Finally, the international environment of the school provides a remarkable human experience in which people from all over the world constantly interact and share knowledge and free time.

I would recommend GSSI for several reasons. First of all, the school offers a wide education and the possibility to do a very high level research in an international environment. Moreover, the scholarship and the additional benefits (housing and ticket restaurant) makes GSSI also economically convenient. Finally, GSSI is also a lively environment where students and researchers often organize funny activities such as sports (calcetto and volleyball), watching movies, card games etc.

Chiara Vitrano was born in Brescia in 1986. In 2012 she got a Master in Sociology at the University of Pisa with a thesis on the social and urban segregation of migrants, and its connection with urban security policies and media representations. During her Ph.D. path at the GSSI, Chiara mainly studied the processes at the basis of urban inequalities. While defining her thesis project under the supervision of Prof. Matteo Colleoni (Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milano-Bicocca), she explored those inequalities connected to mobility and accessibility, focusing on time-related disadvantages.
Between October 2015 and April 2016 she was a visiting student at the Department of Urban and Regional Economics of the Institute of Urban and Regional Planning at the Technische Universität in Berlin. Under the supervision of the head of the Department, Prof. Dietrich Henckel, she deepened her knowledge about urban rhythms and time policies.
In the last year, she delivered lectures on these topics for Bachelor’s, Master’s and Summer Schools’ students at the Department of Sociology and Social Research of the University of Milano-Bicocca, where she helped with the teaching activity, co-supervised students’ thesis projects, and took part in the organization of public meetings and dissemination activities.
Her Ph.D. thesis, "Mobilità e disuguaglianze temporali: uno studio empirico sull’accessibilità e il lavoro notturno a Milano." (Mobility and temporal inequalities: an empirical study on accessibility and night-work in Milan), points out the significance of the temporal dimension in the study of accessibility, focusing on the emerging temporal inequalities in the contemporary city. In particular, her empirical research investigates night work and night-time accessibility by public transit in order to better understand the potential temporal disadvantages and conflicts related to the process of colonisation of the night.
During her Ph.D., she carried out research projects also on different topics, such as civic engagement, area-based urban policy, and urban security, whose results were presented at international conferences.