Void and traces - Architecture - Domus
Lampedusa's old quarries
 

Void and traces

Vincenzo Latina’s project for the regeneration of the Lampedusa old quarries lends a voice to the memory of one of the largest and most desperate migrations of our times while, at the same time, doing justice to the island’s tourist vocation.

 

Architecture / Paola Barbera

This article was originally published, feature-lenght, in Domus 1013, special edition, May 2017.

 

Punta Sottile is the southernmost point of Italy, an extreme strip of the island of Lampedusa where the land gently turns to sea

Here, in a fairly distant past, the jagged bank of rock was hewn to supply construction stone. The human hand unknowingly shaped a mystical and archaic place, removed from historic time. A stone’s throw from the cliff, the earth sinks into a sea of goldcoloured stone that dissipates the clear-cut horizon, the water that Sciascia, and Homer long before him, described as the colour of wine. Chambers excavated in the ground with windows looking only onto the sky. The stone bears the signs left by the work: rhythmic, repeated vertical cuts that furrow the rock walls like wounds. Sometimes one gives a home to a seed that, if fortunate, becomes a flower. It is, perhaps, the only place where the island loses sight of its sea: it can be smelt and heard but the eye records its absence, the void and the loss.

 

What other place could better contain the memory of what the island has been in our recent history: landing place, anchor, dinghy and tomb. Life and death are interlinked in Vincenzo Latina’s design idea and the quarry is asked to contain both: to lend a voice to the memory of one of the largest and most desperate migrations of our times while, at the same time, doing justice to the island’s tourist vocation, with a space for concerts and theatre performances.

The project opts for the path of silence, listening but not speaking. Just a few rarefied signs, “laconic” ones in the architect’s words, guarantee access, routes and services. They lead us, where the excavation is deepest and the dimension is that of the “buried” architecture of Boullée, to the place designed to offer a space to the memory and prayers of all men but not of a religion. Or they take us south, where the excavation surfaces, making a lesser impact and you can again see the line of water dividing sea and sky, a magnificent backdrop untouched by human hand for performances staged at sunset. [...]

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