“Arcipelago Italia. Projects for the future of the country’s interior territories” is the title of the Italian Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale curated by Mario Cucinella, which focuses on the urban space that runs along the Italian ridge, from the Alpine Arch, along the Apennines, up to the Mediterranean. An itinerary with a hundred stages, suggested by small, high quality architectural projects realized in recent years and the result of a call promoted by the curator, in dialogue with examples taken from history, with the relationship between architecture and landscape. A journey into the future, investigating the current situation and proposing a reflection on contemporary issues such as the urban periphery, the earthquake aftermath, brownfields, railways and mobility; five experimental projects in as many areas of Italy. The 2018 Italy Pavilion will not only be an exhibition of works, projects and best practices: it is an opportunity for Italy, a reflection of international scope useful to the communities of these places and finally an applied research used to transform analysis into concrete proposals. The curator Mario Cucinella has collaborated in this challenge with an interdisciplinary collective of architects, urban planners, experts in participatory planning, photographers, representatives of local universities and other consultants, asking them to work on five strategic areas for the revitalization of Italy’s interior territories, through the development of experimental projects that can become a tool for discussion and also an aid to local communities and administrators. The goal is to help define opportunities for the territories through architecture, providing examples of a possible methodological approach for a future vision of Italy. The results of this process will be exhibited in the context of the Italian Pavilion 2018. The five strategic areas identified, which in the past weeks have been the subject of activities for engagement and specific interests, are: the Barbagia with the Ottana plain, in the central region of Sardinia that extends along the flanks of the Gennargentu massif; Valle del Belice with a focus on Gibellina, in western Sicily in the province of Trapani; Matera in its relationship with the Valle del Basento; the Crater and Camerino with the area of Central Italy hit by the 2016 earthquake; and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines with particular attention to the Casentinesi Forest Park. “Arcipelago Italia is a courageous challenge launched by the curator Mario Cucinella. The project calls for a change in the perspective from which we observe things, presents an Italy of a thousand small cities, with its thirtysix million citizens, 60% of the country’s surface, consisting of small towns and villages distant from the big cities. An Italy dedicated to quality of life, to beauty, to competence, where people, with their knowledge and skills, are the main resource of the territory” declares Dario Franceschini, Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. “The Italian Pavilion curated by architect Mario Cucinella for the 16th Venice International Architecture Exhibition offers an interesting opportunity. Italy is a composite reality, not characterized by large metropolises, but by archipelagos of places of varying sizes and densities, historical centers, big cities, peripheries, agricultural regions, minor cities, villages, a fabric of distinct entities but a continuous one, which asks loudly to be considered as a varied terrain, on which our ability to enliven is manifest without hierarchies. It fits well in the context of the International Exhibition, which has the title “Freespace”, as it does not simply represent a new reason for complacency over the legacy of the past, but because it helps to better frame the characteristics of our inhabited space, on which we see architecture at work for necessary and continuous regeneration, a real concrete ground for our present civilization, an unavoidable theme of our immediate future” comments Paolo Baratta, President of the Venice Biennale. “The research conducted for the 2018 Italian Pavilion investigates large areas from different points of view: sustainability and the environment, social inclusion and sharing of intangible heritage, earthquakes and collective memory, work and health, regeneration and contemporary creativity. Themes of perpetual concern to the Direzione Generale and contributing to the Italian urban agenda. This is achieved by placing central value on the quality of built architecture, starting from encounters and dialogue with the communities in order to respond first and foremost to their aspirations and desires.” adds Federica Galloni, Director General of Contemporary Art and Architecture and Urban Peripheries, MiBACT, and Commissioner of the Italian Pavilion.
“A sinuous dark space that can be seen not only as a set of internal territories, but as a great middle ground framed between the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian conurbations, like a pier stretching out into the Mediterranean, where the traditional contrast between North and South dissolves into to what we can define as Arcipelago Italia. These areas, spatially and temporally distant from the essential service centers, are holders of a priceless natural and cultural heritage, a factor which, combined with their territorial expansiveness, has led us to consider their revival as a highly strategic topic for our country,” explains Mario Cucinella, curator of the Italian Pavilion at the 2018 Architecture Biennale. In recent years the attention of architecture has been on the great works in metropolitan areas, with more than 4000 municipalities, representing 60% of the national territory and 25% of the population, at risk being ignored, losing that expressive biodiversity that prefers the right measure to the grandiose gesture. “With this in mind – says the curator - we want to give voice to that rich and prolific world of empathic architecture that is expressed in small actions of improvement and dialogue, confronting the relationship, obviously never completely resolved, between history, the contemporary and the landscape. Only in this way can the work of architects return to a role of social responsibility”. The design of the Italian Pavilion was conceived as a long journey through Arcipelago Italia. The goal is to convey to visitors the soul of these places, engaging them with a suggestive and inclusive narrative, which winds through a path of knowledge between present and past and leads to the investigation of possible future scenarios. There are four thematic activities which, through discussions, lectures and workshops, will involve the curatorial team with students from schools and universities. Each month (June, July, October, November) a theme will be dedicated to in-depth study with the emerging contents of Arcipelago Italia, through four workshops composed of four types of activities: plenary session, round table, workshops, readings.