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Castelvecchio Calvisio Documentation Workshop

August 11, 2011

Castelvecchio Calvisio Documentation Workshop  \   4-9 June 2012

The Borgo Abruzzo Project announces a 5-day workshop on cultural heritage documentation focusing on the needs and opportunities in the medieval town of Castelvecchio Calvisio, AQ. Organized and directed by Studio Rome in partnership with Academic Initiatives Abroad, Inc. (AIA), the project carries out research and proposals toward a culturally and environmentally sustainable model for urban and regional revitalization.

Participants will gain valuable experience creating “carta dei rischi” or susceptibility reports of historical structures with particular attention to damage from last April’s earthquake. In addition to the invaluable professional training, each participant will receive a certificate of attendance from the project and its partners.

The workshop has been planned by Studio Rome with the cooperation of the Cal Poly Rome Program in Architecture, the Comune di Castelvecchio Calvisio, Academic Initiatives Abroad, Inc. and AACUPI, the Association of American Colleges and Universities in Italy.

Tentative Schedule

Day 1: Theoretical and Practical lessons on measuring, drawing, photography and standards for recording data.

Day 2: Departure for Castelvecchio Calvisio. Tour of town with local officials and experts. Orientation session and setup of laboratory space.

Day 3-5: Hands-on documentation work on site.

Dottoressa Dora Cirone, archaeologist with 20+ years of experience including similar project carried out in Pompeii.

Prof. Tom Rankin, architect and professor, Coordinator Cal Poly Rome Program in Architecture.

Participants will be housed in local homes where they will have access to a kitchen.  An excellent local trattoria will also offer meals at affordable rates.
Estimated* Cost: including transportation, housing in Abruzzo, instruction, materials and two group meals:  €450/person *may vary according to number of participants

Dora Cirone and Tom Rankin

For further information contact: (w. 06.6796908 m. 348.3307181)  or visit

Castelvecchio Calvisio Vista dagli Occhi del Mondo: an exhibit of drawings

August 11, 2011

Castelvecchio Calvisio Vista Dagli Occhi del Mondo

Una mostra di disegni, dipinti ed immagini, fatti da architetti, pittrici, archeologhe, fotografi, studenti e bambini,  a cura di Maria Rosaria Formicola con le opere sue e di Tom Rankin, Guiseppe Santoro, Dora Cirone, e Amir Sakiri.

Castelvecchio Calvisio, Palazzo del Capitano

26 agosto-8 ottobre 2011 ore 17-19.30.
Inaugurazione venerdi’ 26 agosto.

Con il patrocinio del Comune di Castelvecchio Calvisio.

The Borgo Abruzzo Project Team, together with Studio Rome and local painter Maria Rosaria Formicola, is hosting an exhibit of views of the village seen from various perspectives, the architectural sketching eye, the archaeologists analytical eye, the painter’s eye for color and energy, the photographer’s inquisitive eye, and the curious and creative eyes of children.  The exhibit will take place in the Palazzo del Capitano at the northern edge of the borgo.  The inauguration with refreshments will take place the afternoon of 26 August and all are invited.

Click here to download the exhibition poster: manifesto_small

Abruzzo 2030

May 11, 2011

Studio Rome intern put together this project for the regional requalification of the area around Castelvecchio Calvisio last year as part of her studies at RISD.


Rebuilding l’Aquila

January 24, 2011
in background, church of San Bernardino in the “red zone” of l’Aquila

Yesterday I went to l’Aquila for the Building Maker workshop sponsored by Google and organized by Barnaby Gunning Architects as part of the project “Come Facciamo“.  About 20 people, mostly it seemed architects or engineers in their “career years”, dedicated their time on a grey, snowy Sunday morning to come out and hear instructions about a tool which provides hope and visibility for a city which has seen several waves of devastation, from speculation and corruption in the late 20th century, to the tragedy of the 2009 earthquake, to the speculation and corruption of the post-earthquake “reconstruction” (not to mention the G8 fiasco).

Today, the historical center of l’Aquila is a ghost town, buildings structurally reinforced but boarded up and empty of life. Walking through the town yesterday, the echo of my camera shutter resounded eerily in the silent streets. The only other sound were the broadcasts of soccer games coming from the military checkpoints where soldiers control who enters the “red zone”.  This is not a city but a shell of a city that was.

The workshop focused on several related software tools offered free by Google: 1. Building Maker,  for creating 3D models of buildings based on aerial photographs, 2. SketchUp, a 3D modeling program and 3. Google Earth, the virtual earth on which photos, models and a wide range of geographic data can be situated. Representatives from Google (both Italian and American) were present to explain the software, working through the creation of a model on screen and then circulating among the participants as they struggled to model buildings chosen from a list of coordinates provided.

The site I chose randomly from the list was not easy, not just for its form but especially for its current state.  The earthquake destroyed a large section of the building, which led to questions about where our models were to represent the city as it was or as it is. I had an interesting discussion about this with Nicole Drobeck of Google, a 3D data specialist who was very helpful in explaining to me (in English!) the workings of the program, but the conclusion was, well, inconclusive. I learned that the Google streetview car had been through l’Aquila just days before the earthquake and that the satellite date currently on Google Earth is pre-earthquake, so we can document what the city was, but the detailed aerial imagery which Building Maker uses were gathered after the disaster, when Google sent a plane out of the way for a rare, specific city documentation of l’Aquila. The project provides a tool for inserting proposals for reconstruction but also an objective, real-time document of the slow state of reconstruction which contrasts with the narrative of success stories often heard.

I didn’t get too far on my model before I had to pack up to return to Rome, and later as I opened it again (pulling it down of the virtual shelf in the 3D warehouse) for the first time I asked myself about the story of this block. It was simply too bizarre to be working on photos and vectors and planes when the object of the study was a place with its history, its aura, its stories and its tragedies. Thanks again to Google, it was easy to pull up news articles to learn that Via Campo di Fossa n. 6 was a site which until the 1970s the city of l’Aquila had wisely avoided constructing and when the master plan of 1979 did allow construction it happened fast, with too few controls. And that on  6 April 2009 half the building collapsed on itself, killing 27 occupants.

While no virtual reconstruction can change this history, hopefully it can serve to tell the story as completely, simultaneously both concretely and transparently as possible.


Book Presentation

January 23, 2011

monday 4 october, 2010 4:00 pm

Book presentation: Il Progetto “Borgo Abruzzo” a Castelvecchio Calvisio, by Tom Rankin and the California Polytechnic Rome Program in Architecture, published by EXÒRMA EDIZIONI.

Piazza delle Cinque Scole,  23 Roma (Ghetto)

at Iowa State University


The volume, in addition to presenting the results of the 2009 workshop, introduces a project to renew the borgo through international cultural studies programs. The students from this year’s course in architecture and urbanism will discuss their observations and ideas for Castelvecchio Calvisio together with invited representatives from the local institutions.


2010 Workshop

January 23, 2011

Again in the Fall of 2010 Tom Rankin accompanied a group of students from California Polytechnic Rome Program in Architecture to the earthquake struck city of l’Aquila and the town of Castelvecchio Calvisio where students carried out an intensive project in urban analysis. Complete documentation is available at

AACUPI per l’Abruzzo

January 23, 2011

In April 2010 the Borgo Abruzzo project, together with AACUPI and MUSAA, organized a day-long excursion for faculty and administration of many of Italy’s North American College and University Programs to provide a first-hand experience of the challenges and opportunities the region represents.

Participants: − Dionisio Ciuffini, Mayor, Castelvecchio Calvisio − dr. Portia Prebys, President, AACUPI − dr. arch. Paola Ardizzola, President, MusAA − prof. arch. Sebastian Storz, Director Forum für Baukultur e.V., Dresden − dr. arch. Corrado Marsili, Sovrintendenza Beni Architettonici Abruzzo − dr. arch. Tom Rankin, Coordinator, California Polytechnic State University Rome program − dr. arch. Cinzia Abbate, Chair of AACUPI Committee on climate change alternative energy and sustainable design