San Polo


San Polo is a neighbourhood of around 19,000 inhabitants in Brescia in northern Italy, and represents a unique example in Italy of a neighbourhood built through public initiative. The construction of the neighbourhood is a radical operation that overturns the ordinary logic of Italian planning and urbanisation. Typically, in Italy, where land is private, the change of land use from “agricultural” to “buildable” originates from a modification to the master plan. The new plan suddenly and significantly increases the value of the land – its “land rent” – benefiting the private owner and allowing for extensive speculation.


To avoid speculation, San Polo adopts a different method. The municipal administration acquires a sufficiently large portion of land to build a neighbourhood that satisfies the entire housing demand and initiates a market for public buildable areas. The price is determined, based on the total expenses incurred by the municipality for land acquisition and the completion of all public works. This operation mitigates land rent and substantially lowers house prices throughout the city for years. The significant reduction in buildability on private land and the concentration of public urbanisation in a single large area preserve an open and green periphery, where built areas alternate with free and cultivated spaces.
The operation was possible thanks to a unique political moment in Brescia, administered by the “Democrazia Cristiana” Party. Luigi Bazoli, the Councilor for Construction and Urban Planning of the Municipality of Brescia from 1965 to 1980, directly enlisted Leonardo Benevolo to design the plan. The new master plan, adopted in 1977 and approved in 1980, takes inspiration from English New Towns, such as Thamesmead, evident in the variety of building types (terraced houses, row houses, towers), a large central green area, and the division into sub-neighborhoods.

Representative Organisation:
Teatro 19
University of Venice (IUAV)

Dimitrovgrad (BG), Drumul Taberei (Bucharest, RO), Dunaujvaros(H), Evry-Senart(Gran Paris Sud, FR), Fritz Heckert/Chemnitz (Berlin, DE), Hellersdorf (Berlin, DE), Ilijas(BA), Milton Keynes(UK), Nowa Huta (Krakow, PL), Kohtla Jarve (ET), Nova Gorica(SLO), Rotterdam (NL), San Polo (Brescia, I), Spijkenisse (Nissewaard, NL), Visaginas (LT) and Zoetermeer(NL)