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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


November 2009 Symposium

January 23, 2011

Palazzo del Capitano

Castelvecchio Calvisio
10 novembre 2009 ore 10:30

Progetto: Castelvecchio Calvisio

California Polytechnic State Institute Rome Program in Architecture  (San Luis Obispo)

e  Comune di Castelvecchio Calvisio (AQ)


Una riflessione sul passato e una scommessa sul futuro

Il California Polytechnic State Institute Rome Program in Architecture e il Comune di Castelvecchio Calvisio, il 10 novembre 2009 alle ore 10:30 presso il Palazzo Del Capitano, presentano i risultati di un primo lavoro di una classe di studenti americani svolto a Castelvecchio ad ottobre, la fase iniziale di un progetto con cui si intende puntare al recupero e alla riqualificazione di questo luogo incantato, singolare borgo sospeso nel tempo.

La scelta di volgere lo sguardo al comune di Castelvecchio è nata in primis dalla consapevolezza di essere in presenza di un ben conservato abitato medievale, capace di esprimere grandi potenzialità in diversi settori sia per le sue caratteristiche “fisiche” che offrono interessanti possibilità e spunti per studi finalizzati al campo della conservazione, sia per gli aspetti “socio-economici” che lo contraddistinguono al momento; Castelvecchio, infatti, si presta particolarmente bene per impostare e realizzare progetti di sviluppo fondati sui criteri di sostenibilità e compatibilità che rappresentano gli indirizzi strategici di riferimento a livello internazionale.

In seguito poi al terribile evento del terremoto dell’aprile 2009, che ha provocato numerosi danni al tessuto dell’abitato a ai singoli edifici che ne compongono l’ossatura, si è deciso di costruire un vero e proprio progetto che, oltre ad acquisire e consolidare le conoscenze storiche del sito, fosse finalizzato soprattutto a perseguire diversi obiettivi/risultati di carattere pratico:

  1. eseguire un lavoro di analisi dettagliata della situazione architettonica ed urbanistica attuale, anche mediante l’ausilio di metodologie nuove ed ufficialmente riconosciute per l’acquisizione dati;
  2. elaborare, sulla base dell’analisi effettuata, il progetto di restauro e riqualificazione di uno o più edifici;
  3. realizzare gli interventi di restauro progettati su singoli immobili di particolare interesse;
  4. sviluppare una serie di attività di studio e formazione in loco, con partecipanti stranieri e italiani, che possono affiancarsi alla vita e alla tradizione del paese.


2009 Workshop

January 23, 2011

The Architecture Program of the California Polytechnic State Institute and the city of Castelvecchio Calvisio (AQ) announce three days of studies at the medieval village of Castelvecchio Calvisio, victim of a long period of progress abandonment and most recently  damaged by the Abruzzo earthquake. The project proposes  the creation of valid alternatives to renew the culture, ecology and economy of such compact urban centers and their surrounding countryside.

tuesday 20 october

14:00 Presentation of student projects at the Cal Poly Rome Center, Via della Gatta, 6, Roma.


wednesday 21 october

9:00 Departure from Stazione Tiburtina.

10:40 Visit to centrer of l’Aquila with Prof. Giorgio Cota of Univ. di L’Aquila, Matthew Bronski (American Academy in Rome) e Archaeologist Dora Cirone.

Lunch on own.

14:00 Departure from Autostazione Collemaggio  by  ARPA bus for Castelvecchio Calvisio.

15:00 Arrival at Castelvecchio Calvisio. Welcome, walk through town with experts and local residents. Dionisio Ciuffini, Luigina Antonacci, Silvia Galeota, Dora Cirone, Paola Ardizzola, l’Istituto di Architettura di Dresda, Gabriele D’Oltremare. Settle in to homestays and B and B.

20:00 Group dinner at Trattoria Quattro Ville.


thursday 22 october

8:00 After breakfast meeting at laboratory with instructors Tom Rankin, Cinzia Abbate, e Dora Cirone. Division into groups to study themes of urban redesign.

13:00 Lunch at Trattoria Quattro Ville.

14:00 Continuation of work in laboratory and in town.

20:00 Group dinner at Trattoria Quattro Ville.


friday 23 october

9:00 Breakfast at housing. Completion of work session, presentation to Mayor of initial results.

12:00 Departure for Rome by chartered bus with stops at Santo Stefano Sessanio and Rocca Calascio.

16:00 Arrive Rome.


Organization: Tom Rankin, Cal Poly, Coordinator, Dora Cirone, Archaeologist e co-Coordinator progetto, Cinzia Abbate, Architect, instructor, Cal Poly,  Paolo Iannessa, local coordinator.

Project Launched

January 23, 2011

Archaeologist Dora Cirone and Architect Tom Rankin first met with officials at Castelvecchio Calvisio, including Mayor Dionisio Ciuffini in the Fall of 2007.  We found the town a perfectly preserved example of medieval urban center in balance with its natural environment, yet with a population that had dropped dramatically and needed a new approach to allow it to continue to be sustainable in the 21st century.  The project to renew the village and surrounding countryside culturally, ecologically and economically was underway.

The goals of our proposal:

1. Work with local institutions to evaluate and document current conditions of Castelvecchio Calvisio, including: photographic documentation, a CAD-city plan based on topographic survey carried out by American architecture students, a report based on historical research, creation and editing of a website to promote and document the project

2. Coordinate adaptive re-use of property in Castelvecchio Calvisio to create a Center for Urban and Environmental Studies: meeting room, multi-media facilities, archaeology laboratory, offices, exhibition space, etc.

3. Coordination of ongoing on-site courses and cultural programs for American students and adult-participants with the aim at promoting sustainable tourism. Coursework would include: photographic documentation and drawing, medieval architectural studies, ecological approaches to land-management, architectural restoration techniques

4. Establish a Forum Agenda 21 Locale to encourage communication, exchange of ideas regarding Sustainable Local Development