Archive for October 10, 2014

The Slow Rebirth of L’Aquila

Posted in Architecture with tags , on October 10, 2014 by telescoper

This morning there was a gap in the programme at the workshop I’m attending here in L’Aquila so I took the opportunity to dust off my camera and go for a walk around the town. It’s hard to convey in words the extent of the structural damage you can still see more than five years after the earthquake, so I’ll mainly let the pictures to the talking. What you see here is the rule rather than the exception. To preface the pictures, however, I’ll say that the main square, the Piazza del Duomo, which clearly used to be the hub of the city is a strange place now as most of the buildings around it are so badly damaged as to be unsafe. The few shops and cafes open basically operate out of the ground floor.

L’Aquila isn’t exactly a ghost town – there were quite a few people around last night when I walked back to my hotel after dinner – but it’s clearly a shadow of its former self. Only a few per cent of the properties near the city centre are habitable.

Leading out from the Piazza del Duomo is a labyrinth of narrow streets flanked by tall buildings, and most of the them now also unoccupied. The numerous shops inside the galleries that run alongside the larger thoroughfares are all closed. The earthquake happened in the early hours of the morning so there would not have been many people out and about at that time, but it would have been a terrifying experience to have been caught between rows of buildings shaking, with rubble falling down everywhere.

A couple of things are clear having walked around all morning. One is that if there’s so much work still to be done after 5 years then it will take a very long time indeed for L’Aquila to be rebuilt. You can find the phrase L’Aquila Rinasce all round the city, but if there is to be a rebirth it will be a slow and painful one. The other thing is that there must have been a very drastic triage to decide which buildings to repair and which to simply shore up and leave for later. Many seem to me to be so badly damaged that the only practical option is to knock them down and start again. Only a few are fully restored, most of them key civic institutions, although clearly a lot of work is going on in the historic centre especially on old churches.