Double Impromptu: Navelli - unbewohnt lebendig

  Illustration of a sunset in Navelli © städtebau  

Summer Semester 2023

Period: one semester


Not only pandemics and wars do not stop at Europe, but also natural disasters have become more frequent in recent years. Various regions of the world have been hit by flood disasters in recent years, whether in Pakistan or right on our doorstep, in the Ahr Valley.
Even if such natural disasters have always existed, it is clear that this exorbitant increase cannot be contained by itself. The reason for this is the extreme weather events brought about by climate change. (heat, storms, heavy rain) 
However, some areas of the world have already been hit by the same disasters in cycles for centuries. People live in the shadow of volcanoes, conscious of the risk, for example on Java, Iceland or in Italy. Or in earthquake regions on Haiti, in South America or - as we recently experienced again - in Turkey.
But what is it like to live with the knowledge that the same, familiar natural phenomena will strike again and again?
This question moves us concretely at the example of the region Abruzzo, in central Italy, which is shaken due to its geological situation again and again by earthquakes. In the mountains there lies the province of L'Aquila with its capital of the same name. In the shadow of the highest mountain in Italy outside the Alps, the Gran Sasso (2912m). Two tectonic plates meet in a north-south course in Italy and gave birth to the Abruzzo. It is precisely this plate boundary that causes the region to be shaken by earthquakes time and again.

L'Aquila, as well as all other towns and villages in the region, learned to deal with earthquakes over the years. The last past major earthquake in L'Aquila was in 2009 and destroyed entire historic streets. It took almost a decade for reconstruction to fully begin. Even though the regulations for new buildings regarding earthquake safety are now strict, they do not apply to the old buildings in the historic towns and villages. It is precisely these cities and villages that are known throughout the world for their historical substance and that characterize the entire country. 
How do people learn to cope with the regular tremors? How does this affect your everyday life? 
Not far from L'Aquila, the village of Navelli (cf. Luther, 2011), which looks very picturesque from afar, is situated on a hillside above the unique saffron fields of Abruzzo. "But up close, the medieval settlement seems extinct," is how Helmut Luther describes it for the F.A.Z. And he is not alone in this view. The village has been emptied of people who have exchanged their center of life from the medieval mountain village for the dream of their own home on a greenfield site. At first glance, therefore, it only seems like a backdrop; the liveliness can only be discovered at second glance.

As part of the impromptu we would like to find out on site how the people (still) living there organize their everyday life and manage that the village does not die out completely. We will meet the people who make things happen on site, for example in the saffron cooperative or as hostel operators. All this is accompanied by the question if and with which acupuncture measures a revitalization could be made possible. 
And yet, if you look more closely, you can see that this village is still filled with life. A typical Italian bar for the morning espresso and the evening Spritz can be found among the old walls. A family has come here from the big city to build a life as self-supporters - with their own restaurant. In the premises of the monastery Sant'Antonio da Padua from the 15th century is today the accommodation "Ostello sul Tratturo". An indication that from time to time even tourists find their way here, they come for the medieval village structures and the saffron cultivation. After all, the saffron from the Altopiano di Navelli, the plateau, is known in expert circles for its intense aroma, "which it owes to the special microclimate"(see Luther 2011). Once the cultivation of saffron helped Navelli to wealth, because saffron is still the most expensive spice in the world. (2kg of saffron cost up to 120,000 €) Every year in October, for a few days, the crocus fields bloom, for these few days all the saffron farmers come together and help each other with the arduous harvest. In the 70s, when the price of saffron collapsed, 46 farmers founded a cooperative to ensure their financial survival, since 2005 the saffron from this cooperative is allowed to call itself "Lo Zaffranero dell'Aquila D.O.P." and is thus protected and at the latest since then very well known. The cultivation and processing of saffron brings with it some local customs and regional recipes, strongly promoting the sense of belonging to the place.
Thus, once moved out residents still identify themselves with the (almost) empty village.Is it up there with a view of the saffron fields still so beautiful, but why did they still not want to live there?How to treat a village in such a situation, which can best be described with the contrasts morbid and alive?
Is there a way to breathe life back into it? 
In conclusion, there is no better way to describe it than with the words "beautiful and miserable town" by the poet Pier Paolo Pasolini, which can be found on a plaque among the empty buildings.


Until April 14, 2023

To apply for a place in the course as a student, a promotional poster must be received or dropped off at the Department of Urban Design by April 14, 2023. Thematically, the poster should demonstrate the compatibility of climate resilience and urban heritage. How can the future sustainability of historic urban structures be designed is the central question. (Cf. Lutter, 2022) The art of combining today's and especially tomorrow's climate adaptation requirements for cities and villages with historical value should be presented in a poster in a striking and understandable way. Otherwise, the type of presentation and scope is freely selectable.
Only your name and a statement of intent to continue the course as M1 in the winter semester should be in the fine print on the poster.

Field trip period            

July 3 to 9, 2023

Introductory session     

April 24, 2023

M1 follows in winter semester 2023/24




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