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“Discarded territories and landscapes”

Franca Centaro
April 17, 2021
On the Taste Trails
April 17, 2021
Ph. © Marcello Bianca

Discarded territories and landscapes

In April 2020, right after the Covid-19 outbreak in Italy and all over the world, the magazine Micromega published an article written by Fausto Carmelo Nigrelli titled “The discarded territories and landscapes as a resource”. His analysis reflects our views perfectly, and we thank Prof. Nigrelli for kindly allowing us to publish an excerpt.
… In the last few days, a group of scientists, architects and computer scientists, whose Frontman is Massimiliano Fuksas, wrote to President Mattarella asking that in the recovery period a project for the redesigning of homes, workplaces and hospitals should begin. These are all necessary things, there is no doubt. But they do not serve to reduce the risks deriving from the hyperconcentration of men, activities, means and functions. If anything, they serve to facilitate the treatment of the disease once it has already exploded.
And Stefano Boeri, author of the "vertical forest", a skyscraper that absorbs CO2 and produces oxygen at not exactly low costs for those who live there, has hypothesized a "great national project" which, in addition to intervening on architectural spaces, focuses on the repopulation of abandoned villages that would be "adopted" by the 14 Italian metropolitan areas, as well as suggesting the establishment of a "ministry of dispersion".
These two visions are metropolitan-centric: in the first case the internal areas, the villages, would almost be considered "gardens of delights" for those metropolitan citizens who, having a second home and adequate income, would move there, using the opportunities offered by remote working for longer or shorter periods. In the second, the focus is on that endless part of the Italian territory that has been invaded, from the end of the Seventies, by millions of compounds built to reside, to work, to buy, to perform the typically urban and collective functions individually, using the car as an almost exclusive means of transportation. The extreme consequence of the prevalence of the individual over the community, the 'dispersed' city risks having a second life as a response to metropolitan density.
Also in this case, I have the impression that the problem must be addressed, but it does not constitute the necessary radical change in the policies that have led to the current debacle of the European settlement system, and the Italian one in particular.
The model of living in the coming decades will have to combine: social distancing not as an imposition by decree, but as an adaptation in the behavior of humans resulting from the new condition of perceived insecurity; the need for sociality and corporeal proximity which, in any case, cannot and must not be replaced by the virtual one; real security in the face of probable new epidemics.
And it can and it must be an opportunity to start looking for a solution to the usual problem: the inequality between the north and the south, between the centers and inland areas.
A vision that puts “rejected territories / landscapes” in the spotlight, in their non-alignment with the mainstream of recent decades, would offer these answers, and an original model of progress for the country. Urban life in the Italian province, in inland areas, is rich in sociality, solidarity and a healthiness unknown in metropolitan life; the network of intangible values ​​and territorial heritage scattered outside the territories of urban dispersion is invaluable.
Just as we rebuild respecting anti-seismic criteria for fifty years after earthquakes, and then, maybe having forgotten that fear, we stop, I believe that for a few generations sociality will have new forms.
For these new forms of sociality, the small and medium-sized cities of inland areas and, more generally, their territories, provide a place, as has been experienced for centuries, in which to combine human and remote relationships. If there is something that the quarantine has made evident, it is that many jobs - especially intellectual ones - can be carried out remotely and that, therefore, it is not necessary to concentrate administrative functions of research, related to the economy of knowledge, in the metropolitan centers; that the networks of essential services, starting with health services, must be widespread and uniformly spread throughout the territory; that local businesses may have a second chance in the clash with mega shopping centers.
With the addition - and this is no trivial matter - of being able to imagine a decisive restart for the primary economy, in the logic of greater autonomy from food imports and growth of short supply chains, and finally to resume the preservation of the territory.
Fausto Carmelo Nigrelli