What time is this place?

Beatrice Balducci

Beatrice Balducci studied in Paris and in Milan, where she graduated in 2019. She is currently a Ph.D. student in Architectural, Urban, and Interior Design at Politecnico di Milano where, since 2020, she works as a teaching assistant in Cino Zucchi’s design studio. She worked at B22 office in Milan, and she was a member of Architetti Senza Frontiere Italia. With her research, she investigates the design possibilities and methodologies that underpin the approach of preparedness for uncertain disastrous events by focusing on the design of critical infrastructures, those systems and spaces that are considered necessary for the resistance of the human environment.

“What time is this place?” Kevin Lynch wrote in 1972.

Looking at the Italian inner areas, it appears how today, many of these landscapes fluctuate between different times presenting an intrinsic and manifold dynamism: to the slow times of agriculture, pastoral activities, gradual seasonal change of the landscape, depopulation of small towns that move on the order of days, months, years, could correspond a few seconds of seismic shocks that open to unprecedented temporalities. After the 2016 seismic sequences in the Central Italy, for instance, new anthropic landscapes manifested suspended geographies, where the earthquake appears as an evident temporal fracture between a pre-disaster condition and a changeable but fixed post-disaster one. The interventions aimed at maintaining the safety and habitability of the vulnerable environments are often based, due to the urgency, on a technocratic approach that, stressing the supremacy of technical safety at the expense of site-specificity, often uniforms the landscape, flattening centuries-old settlement traditions and cultures of balanced dialogue with it. A lot has been written about the inner areas emergencies and reconstruction issues, but what if, getting out of the logic of repairing, we adopt the idea that a catastrophe represents a possible event, a limit condition that can be part of the biography of a space that lives its continuity through change? What if we consider an emergency as a potentially unstable context that interrogates the functional of formal dynamicity of architecture, its capability to transform and adapt? A stable could be designed to be transformed into an emergency housing system, a watermill into an off-grid system able to provide energy in the wake of disaster. The proposed contribution aims thus to reflect, through a series of cases, on the value of site-specific but general spaces, on principles such as transformability and typological hybridization, in the relation between architecture and a changing natural environment.

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