In the night of August 24, an earthquake of 6.0 magnitude has struck central Italy killing 295 people. Italy’s civil protection agency has been coordinating the rescue operations. In the meantime, temporary camps and kitchens have been set up to house and feed the several thousand made homeless. While the first emergency fase is still ongoing, architects and institutions focus on the next step: the architectural recovery. Video: a drone flies over the city of Amatrice.
Italy’s territory is highly seismic. Laws on earthquake-proof constructions have been trying to prevent major damages. Still, corruption, negligence and irresponsible ways of building are among of the main causes of death. How can architects contribute to set a possible rebirth?
“Nature is indifferent to our suffering. But we have a great power: intelligence. Talking about fatality offends human intelligence” said Renzo Piano in an interview to Corriere della Sera – Video: a drone flies over Amatrice at night.
The Italian architect has been called upon to lead reconstruction efforts in Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto, the towns that were more damaged by the earthquake. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi asked Piano to help develop a plan for future disaster prevention. Such program involves also changing the laws on earthquake-proofing for housing and public buildings.
“The soul of places must not be erased. We must not separate people from their homeland. We must re-build everything as it was and where it was in the first place” said Renzo Piano. According to the architect the re-building site should be light, recyclable and less then 600€ per square metre. “… It is a very delicate, surgery-like operation”.
“The first challenge is the emergency. Then it is very important to build temporary structures that won’t become permanent” says Carlo Ratti. In 2012, Carlo Ratti Associati teamed with locals to build The Learning Garden, a sport and educational centre in the city of Cavezzo in Northern Italy. “The project responded to the fear generated by the earthquake. Not by covering up the school with impenetrable structures, but, on the opposite, with a more natural and light design”.
“Locals must be involved in the design and planning of their own cities and homes and the whole reconstruction process should respect the former architectural heritage” wrote Carlo Ratti in an editorial on La Repubblica.
“Let’s rebuild how it was and where was. It could be the strategy most appropriate both emotionally and socially” says Cino Zucchi. “Beside, the issue is not about creating ‘fakes’ that copy the past, but to understand if it is still worthy to rebuild a lost architecture we were attached to just because of our emotional drive. Can the new design bring new life, new choices and inpirations?” – Video: construction of a temporay school in Amatrice, ANSA.
“It won’t be easy and it will take time. But if we really want to make a change we must think and act joining efforts for the long term” said Giuseppe Cappochin, president of the Italian Architects‘ Association. “We do not have to rebuild ‘how it was’ and ‘where it was’, but ‘how it will have to be’“.
After meeting the special commissioner for the reconstruction, Massimiliano Fuksas is at disposal to collaborate. “It a very tough situation. A complex recovery. It’s not just about finding building materials, but to rebuild a sense of community in areas that are mostly inhabited by elderly people…”
In 2009, Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas completed the the church of San Paolo Apostolo in Foligno, central Italy. A strong symbol of rebirth after a major earthquake in 1997.
What’s the next (long term) step? Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi launched the Casa Italia program: a response to the urgency of country to develop a culture of prevention. “Not a challenge for the next months but for the next years” said Renzi. The plan is focused on five major priorities: the adaptation to higher seismic standards thanks also to financial subsidies, a concrete action on rundown neighborhoods, school building, protection of the architectural heritage and the prevention of hydrological instability – Video: in the wake of the disaster.
A road-map for the maintenance for a whole country is a massive challenge. “But we must start. Let’s take on the responsability of the past and deal with it seriously” says Renzo Piano.