Slow post-earthquake reconstruction in Abruzzo


By URBACT, on February 24th, 2011

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After the Abruzzo earthquake, housing emergency experienced an innovative model of reconstruction in comparison with the last fifty years’ experience in Italy.

After a first phase during which the population  experienced temporary housing solutions for five-six months, two programs of residential settlements have been launched: the C.A.S.E. Plan (Antiseismic Sustainable Eco-friendly Complex) and the M.A.P. Plan (Modules for Temporary Housing).

The buildings realized under these two programs (especially in C.A.S.E. Plan) provide design features of long-term buildings which enable to think beyond the housing emergency, which will hopefully be done in a period of 10 or 15 years.

A new overall strategy to revitalize the local economy is needed

There is a  clear need to identify an overall strategy to revitalize the local economy. And this should include the building’s heritage in an sustainable approach.

A year after the earthquake all constructions have been led in the frame of the two housing programs. It is true that no one spent the winter in tent camps and therefore it seems that the first objective in terms of emergency housing has been fully achieved, thanks to the efficiency of the Italian Civil Protection.

However, beeing enthusiastic about what has been done and especially about what is planned is difficult, both as regards to the revitalization of local economy, and to the recovery of the immense historical heritage damaged by the earthquake, like the historical center of l’Aquila.

Reconstruction of the city as it was appears unlikely

The ancient “city of 99 churches” is still a “red zone”, even inaccessible to the residents themselves: ruins have still not been removed and rebuilding has not started.  At the moment only the unsafe buildings have been secured. Governmental authorities should take the lead of the recovery period.

There are some rising slogans (“where it was, as it was” or “widespread universitary campus”) but these are not sufficient.A new concept for the city is needed. Even though it is quite unpopular, we should now be clear and have the courage to say that L’Aquila cannot return to be the city it was.

It will take at least 10-15 years to recover the buildings of the Historical Centre; in the meantime all business forces will be transferred elsewhere, rebuilding their activities from scratch.

A new concept for the city

It is necessary to imagine “a new idea of city”, where high value-added activities, new technologies in companies and residences and the historic landscape must play a leading role.

At the moment, the few ideas mentionned on how to revitalize the economy appear to contradict one another. For instance, the way the reuse of C.A.S.E. Plan buildings is thought is symbolic of these shortcomings. Before the earthquake , L’Aquila had almost 73.000 inhabitants and a student population of over 21.000 people. Today the idea is to use the 185 new buildings of the 19 peripheral areas of the C.A.S.E. Plan to make a campus and/or a series of residences for tourists. This contrasts with a policy aimed at revitalizing the historical centre.

Why removing University and students from the old city?

On the contrary we must encourage their presence and facilitate access to renting in the central and prestigious location of the university. Then knowledge economy could become one of the driving forces behind the new birth of one of the most important Italian historic centers.

Paolo Fusero, University of Pescara-DART
URBACT NDP for Italy
extract from URBAT NDP Italy – Biannual report

2 Responses to “Slow post-earthquake reconstruction in Abruzzo”

  1. Philip Stein Philip Stein says:

    In the light of URBACT’s concern for the citizens and the future of l’Aquila as it strives still to recover from the terrible impact of the earthquake, it is extremely valuable to have this insight and update. I also agree with Paolo Fusero that based on the strength of the University and its presence in the area, focus on developing the knowledge economy can be an important catalyst for regeneration.

    Understanding the difficulties of restoring and repopulating the inner city it also seems logical even inevitable to adopt at this time a campus solution for University location. However from the experience of university cities I know well, Edinburgh, Bristol, Leuven… in an ideal situation I would always plead for significant continuation of University and student life within the urban fabric of the city. If a combination of campus and city facilities can be well managed it would not in my view detract from development of the knowledge economy and I am convinced this brings both benefits for students and city/citizens alike. In Belgium the University of Antwerp has in recent years actively adopted a policy to bring/strengthen some faculties in the centre and encourage students back into the vibrance and reality of the town.

  2. scratch repair cars…

    One day I may have the opportunity to participate in scratch repair cars. I hope I handle it as well as you did….

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