Learning from Gulf Cities

The Learning from Gulf Cities initiative is a long-term research launched by Harvey Molotch (New York University) and Davide Ponzini (Politecnico di Milano) for reconsidering the approach and examining the evolving urban dynamics in the Persian Gulf region. Scholarly workshops in Abu Dhabi, New York and Milan have taken up its themes. Among the results are two exhibitions in Abu Dhabi and New York and an edited book titled The New Arab Urban: Gulf Cities of Wealth, Ambition and Distress by NYU Press.


Harvey Molotch (New York University)

Guido Guerzoni (Bocconi University)
Laura Lieto (Federico II University of Naples)
Serena Vicari (University of Milano-Bicocca)


Amale Andraos, Dean, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP)


Transnational Architecture and Urbanism

In recent decades, cities in the Western world and Asia develop projects and master plans designed by famous architects, working across the world. Urban and architectural scholars, geographers and others approached the issue from specific disciplinary angles or with a narrow scope – one name architect, one building type such as the skyscraper, etc. Moreover the methods that have been used are mostly qualitative. This research aims at developing and testing new mixed qualitative and quantitative methods for the study of  transnational projects, transnational design firms and their implication at the urban level. The work explores three broad questions: what are the recent historical and geographic trajectories of transnational projects? What are the behaviors of the most acknowledged design firms working internationally? What are the strategies of cities using such designers and projects and what are their urban effects and implications?

With support from: Department of architecture and Urban Studies – 2016 FARB fund

The final outcomes were published in the 2020 book titled Transnational Architecture and Urbanism: Rethinking How Cities Plan, Transform, and Learn

Principal Investigator

  • Davide Ponzini

Research team

  • Maria Antonietta Clerici (Politecnico di Milano)
  • Matteo Poli (Politecnico di Milano)
  • Fabio Manfredini (Politecnico di Milano)
  • Mina Akhavan (Politecnico di Milano)
  • Anita De Franco (Politecnico di Milano)
  • Zachary Jones (Politecnico di Milano)
  • Luca Astorri, Celeste Calzolari


Starchitecture is an urban and photographic research project which was started in 2008 by Davide Ponzini and Michele Nastasi.

The research explores and discusses the roles that star architecture plays in planning and developing contemporary cities. It highlights current issues regarding the spectacularization of architecture and the urban environment, as well as its paradoxical effects. Among the publication one book co-authored by Ponzini and Nastasi was published first in 2011 and the second edition in 2016. The Italian version published in 2019.


  • Davide Ponzini
  • Michele Nastasi