A Diptych for Camerino
Reconnecting Community through Culture in the Crater Area.
Biennale Architettura di Venezia 2018 - Padiglione Italia
Like many hilltop towns, Camerino is perched atop a rocky outcrop and enclosed by high defensive walls. The jagged outline of the historical city center juts out from the bulwarks, melding ground, wall and town into one solidified artefact. And yet, the very solidity of Camerino is what belies her fragility. With the most recent seismic waves of October 2016, the bedrock has shaken violently only to betray Camerino time and time again.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the town is defiantly intact, but her newly acquired “red zone” status has reduced her to a ghost town. The only inhabitants are the excavators and bulldozers whose numbers and presence pale in comparison to those digging tirelessly away below the city’s embankments in the appropriation of new, safer grounds for the displaced. Neatly terraced earthworks swathe the rolling hills in a Christo-like installation of orange—the perforated, soft fencing of these newly sprung sites of construction constitute the new Camerino. These structures are only temporary, fine examples of militaresque encampments. However, as time will tell, they are most likely here to stay.
While earthquakes cause destruction and the defacto rebuilding of that whicht crumbled, they are also largely responsible for the rapid propagation of new, anonymous buildings. Two important questions emerge in the struggle to strike the right balance between the pre-and post-seismic conditions and the staggered timelines of reconstruction: What about the old? What about the new? While Burri buried the remains of Gibellina in a tragically poetic monument, the new Gibellina is but a shadow of her former self. Camerino, in the midst of reconstruction, is busy building her own shadow.
Tucked into the underbelly of the medieval town, however, already lies a second, shadow city. Extraordinarily intact, this place of cavernous wonders safeguards the artefacts of Camerino’s historical and cultural patrimony. Relics, paintings, and antique books, albeit rescued, languish in their subterranean safe haven only to become imprisoned by their inaccessible chambers in the long wait of reconstruction.
The project grapples with the fragility of Camerino and the present-day dispersion of people, places and things with two iterations--one inside the city, the other outside. Together the two sites generate hybrid spaces in one, single trajectory for the community. The first intervention huddles up close, just outside the medieval archway of Porta Bonaparte, with a hybridized “rural urbanity” that defines the axis connecting old Camerino with her improvised alter ego some 2km away. The second intervention tackles the inertia of the historical city center at the site of Camerino’s oldest monument, the 13th century church of San Francesco. A new passageway pulls together the
existing urban fabric with a series of new, emergent figures and subterranean places, connecting Camerino with her adjacent, outlying territories.
Italy offers an inventory of solutions and outcomes (good, bad and everything in-between) for the “new town” versus “in loco” dilemma of post-seismic reconstruction: Noto, Gibellina, Friuli, Irpinia, Aquila, and now Central Italy. A Diptych for Camerino is both a strategy and a specific architectural response to the resulting, interrupted condition that all of these post-earthquake towns have had to withstand.
The cadenced, two-site intervention addresses the unwieldy and intertwined timelines of an “inside-out” regeneration, while the architectural proposal searches for a tectonic able to bridge the divide between what Camerino once was, and the possibility of what it may become. In a bricolage of contrasting qualities drawn from Camerino’s current and historical narratives, the project re-combines different artefacts, typologies, construction methods, and programs inherent to Camerino to produce an other, hybridized architecture.
The dense encampment of thatched roofs at Via Madonna delle Carceri plays off the tectonic and temporal qualities of the straw sheaf, conjuring up the collective image of the region’s agrarian landscapes. Stepping lightly across a series of earthbound platforms, the clustered volumes grab hold of Camerino’s fraying community to fill the present-day void of spaces for cultural and social exchange. As the renewal of the historical city center gains footing, these thatched volumes reduce in number and leave behind their supporting structures where a crossover community of academics, entrepreneurs, and associations can thrive.
On the site of the (to-be) demolished former courthouse of the 1970’s, a newly formed complex draws together old and new, above and below ground spaces to house a civic library. The library combines all of the closed, inaccessible city and university libraries, state archives, reading rooms, event and gathering places that have been time and again damaged, compromised and ultimately closed. The central space of the library is a safe place, a large, subterranean hypostyle hall that recounts the stratification of Camerino’s history whose seemingly forgotten future can finally be set free.