RECONSTRUCTION AFTER EARTHQUAKES
A check-list for post-earthquake architecture?
The starting point is the reconstruction effort that followed the 2012 earthquake in northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Involving myself and other architects including Renzo Piano and Giorgio Ceruti among others, centred on the school campus located at Cavezzo, near Modena. Here are some teachings that might help in the case of other earthquakes like the very recent ones in central Italy. They are summed up in four main points.
COPING WITH THE EMERGENCY
The first teaching is all about managing the emergency. There are no shortcuts after an earthquake: it is a painful experience whichever way you look at it. Tents and shipping containers are a necessary evil the world over, not just in Italy. However, the second teaching is that temporary accommodation all too often becomes a permanent arrangement. Hasty architectural solutions are adopted to cope with the immediate emergency, but they end up being reluctantly left in place. That’s what we came up against in Cavezzo, and it stemmed from how the reconstruction process was initially managed. In order to give students a roof over their heads in time for the start of the school year, before we arrived a couple of hybrid constructions had been erected: they were stronger than a tent but hardly adequate for long-term occupancy. The situation was challenging: so much money and effort had gone into putting up these emergency structures that planning for the future could have been put on the back burner. To avoid such developments it is advisable to avoid structures that are too permanent to be temporary, but too temporary to be permanent.
LISTEN TO LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND RECOGNISE THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY
The third teaching concerns community involvement. We believe very strongly in architecture as a bottom-up, shared process – even when there are no emergencies to contend with. However, in critical conditions such as earthquakes it is all the more essential to avoid enforcing solutions from above. Modern technology and the Internet can help us listen to the needs of local communities, and even to involve them in the construction work, providing people with the necessary financial and technical tools. Cities that reconstruct themselves have a greater chance of success. The fourth and last teaching concerns time. Italy is not a country without history. The architecture of our towns and cities is the result of hundreds of years of “layering”. As architects we have a duty to honour this heritage by reconstructing buildings as sturdily as they were before, and not hastily. To ensure that people will continue admiring Amatrice and all the other towns affected by the earthquake, as they are timeless symbols of universal beauty.
Article originally published by Artribune