Ricerche sull'innovazione urbana


A Transnational Research Project on Urban Change

(status: networking & fund raising)

A research project applied to the field of Urban Change Palermo@Tbilisi is a transnational research project on the urban change of Tbilisi, capital of Georgia.

Palermo@Tbilisi is placed within a more ample research program called “Urban Cosmographies” which looks to analyze the various declinations of local development and urban innovation. Among the themes subject to investigation are the processes of social, urban and economic innovation; the competitiveness of local production systems and the dynamics of internationalization; the analysis of flows, of mobility and social relations; the sustainable urban development; cultural infrastructure.

Why Tbilisi?

The Georgian Capital is living a phase of development and opening that is changing the face of the city. The translocal importance of this process is emphasized by the livelyness of the Local Development Forum which have taken place over the last few years and by the large presence of international institutions and foreign investors. Among the most interesting factors of economic and social innovation which can be observed in the city is, without a doubt, the process of redevelopment of the historic city centre, which is still ongoing.

Blessed with a architectural heritage of great value, which accounts for the richness of Georgian culture and its capacity of original synthesis for heterogeneous influences, the ancient part of Tbilisi is still very degraded but there are some strong signals of transformation: the renovation of historical houses and buildings for residential use, the opening of new hotels, restaurants and cultural centres. As is often the case for these kind of processes, even in Tbilisi change can bring – as well as opportunities for economic development – also some risks, like that of the gentrification of the urban areas mentioned and the loss of identity for whole areas.

Why Palermo@Tbilisi?

Italy is considered very prestigious in Georgia. There are many Georgians who know the culture and the language of our country and this contributes to a enforce a strong relationship between the two communities. Sicily and Palermo in particular hold an important place in the relations between the two countries. The Sicilian regional capital and Tbilisi are united by a strong historical legacy, shown by the 'twinning' of the two and by the role that numerous Sicilian families have had in projects to do with welcoming young people and refugee children during the political and military crises' which have hit Georgia in the last 20 years.
The current situation in Tbilisi shows many analogies with the long and laborious process of Palermo's renewal of the historical city centre, which is ongoing.

From here the idea of a qualitative research using the ethnographic method whose first objective is to rebuild and observe – in almost real time – the most significant aspects of the urban transformation which is happening in Tbilisi and as a second objective can give the Georgian institutions and its members, through the promotion of transnational exchanges of experience and know-how, the assets of technical competence, strategic thoughts, urban knowledge and social innovations nurtured in Palermo over the last twenty years and recognized today at international level.


The research will mainly concentrate on:

-Analysis of the recent evolution of the city within this context and of local government

-Analysis of the recent evolution of flows and urban forms

-Detailed analysis of a sample of places and artefacts which represent the phase of urban change

The research will involve three categories of actors:

- Opinion leaders and policy makers (institutional actors; businessmen; experts; intellectuals);
- Actors which take part in the conception, circulation and use of the artefacts (project leaders; realizers; buyers; managers; consumers; users);

-Foreigner resident in Tbilisi (professionals, artists, students, businessmen).

As part of the research the attention will focus on those areas and urban artefacts which most significantly witness the urban innovation of contemporary cities:

-Reconversion of the heritage of industrial archaeology.

-Projects to re-use the monumental heritage

-Hotels and internationally designed bars

-Public Spaces;

- Multifunctional cultural centres

The report on the research will be accompanied by the promotion of themed workshops in Italy and Tbilisi and the discussion of field research results.

Expected Impacts

The research hopes to offer policy makers and economic actors an up-to-date knowledge tool on the urban evolution of Tbilisi and a reflection on the possibilities of further development and trends. Furthermore, by using a comparison with Palermo, the Palermo@Tbilisi project intends to offer an opportunity of circulation and exchange of best practises, technical knowledge and methodology in the field of the retrieval of the cultural and architectural monumental heritage and the protection of local identity of the built environment and of the residing community.

At the same time the research intends to contribute to the growth of international visibility of Tbilisi as a centre for attracting investment for urban innovation and to promote the involvement of designers, Italian businesses and investors interested in the process of urban requalification of Tbilisi.

Finally, the research project intends to offer an opportunity of qualifies employment for young Georgians which competence in various fields (architecture, urban development, history of art, ethnography and sociology, statistics and economics, translation and interpretation, reporting and videophotography, web design).

The Georgian staff employed on the research project will be selected through the ARGO database – planned and implemented thanks to the support by the Italian Foreign Ministry – which collects thousands of CV's of young Georgians who can communicate in Italian.

Main Phases

Preliminary field visits (Done)

Intervention in the IV Local Development Forum in Tbilisi (2010) (Done)

Meetings and networking with main stakeholders in Georgia (done)

fundraising (in process)

Field analysis

Processing of the research report

Promotion of the themed workshops in Palermo and Tbilisi for the discussion of results of the field research

City presentation in Tbilisi and Palermo with institutional actors, designers and Sicilian businessmen specialized in the restoration, the innovative re-use and the requalification of monuments and property of historical value.


urban cosmographies un progetto di Next nuove energie per il territorio