The seven follies of Lampedusa_Chiara Dorbolo

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Chiara Dorbolò Graduation project - 08/06/2017 Academie van Bouwkunst - Amsterdam Mentor: Holger Gladys Committee members: Laura Alvarez, Bruno Doedens

the seven follies of lampedusa

a journey to lampedusa In October 2015, I spent three weeks on the island of Lampedusa to gain first-hand experience of the spatial and political consequences of immigration. A large number of migrants reached the island’s shores over the past few years: the information collected during my visit challenged my opinion of this phenomenon.


ampedusa was recently the focus of several scandals regarding the inflow of African migrants, their poor living conditions, and their detention without legal basis. The opinions I collected from locals during the time I spent on the island seem to reflect completely different realities. On my first day, I was approached by a middleaged local who offered to help me figuring out where I was on my map. Taking for granted that I was there on holiday, he told me that he was very happy to see tourists in October since “media coverage about the island paints the wrong picture; they let people believe that there are lots of migrants on the streets, but it is not like that! Yes, maybe some boats will arrive around Christmas, but we did not see migrants for the whole summer.” I knew this was not true: the reports from the Italian Coast Guard are available online. I had read that a new group of migrants arrived to Lampedusa only a few days earlier. Was he lying? Maybe not. It can be that he did not actually see any migrant for the whole summer. Francesca, an activist from the social and political organization Askavusa, told me

that by the end of the 90’s Lampedusans were actually meeting the migrants who arrived from Africa. It could not be otherwise: they were landing wherever they could and wandering around looking for help. Now the migrants are mostly invisible: they are usually brought to the island by the Coast Guard during nighttime, disembarked on the military pier, and almost immediately transferred to the First Aid Reception Center (CPSA). Nevertheless, the phenomenon of migration continues to mark the identity of the island.

hiStory of a “stepping stone” “Because of the position of the island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the history of Lampedusa is linked to the history of the populations that in this sea have lived, traded, and fought.” Antonino Taranto, “Breve storia di Lampedusa”

12th Century BC. Phoenician colonies use the island as a base for their trades with Carthage.

1254 AD. The French king Louis IX stops in Lampedusa on his way back from the Seventh Crusade.

1810 AD. Gatt allows English colonists to settle on the island.

5th Century BC. Lampedusa becomes a Greek colony.

1551 AD. Part of the fleet of the Kingdom of Naples shipwrecks near Lampedusa. The survivors find shelter on the island.

1843 AD. The contract between Gatt and the Tomasi family is revoked, and the Bourbon king of Sicily sends his own colonists to the island.

16th Century AD. Several battles occur near Lampedusa, which is often used a safe place for trading, and as a refuge during the Mediterranean storms to refill water and wood supplies.

1860 AD. After Garibaldi conquers Sicily, Lampedusa becomes part of thesoon-to-be Kingdom of Italy.

2nd Century BC. Romans use the island as a base for their expeditions to northern Africa. 5th Century AD. Like other islands in the Mediterranean, Lampedusa is sacked by the Vandals and the population is deported. 6th Century AD. Together with Sicily and northern Africa, Lampedusa is annexed to the Byzantine Empire. Christians from northern Africa flee to the island to escape persecution by the Muslims. 7th Century AD. Muslim raiders exterminate the population. Lampedusa becomes a refuge for pirates. 9th Century AD. Saracens use Lampedusa as a base to conquer Sicily. 11th Century AD. Italian city-states on the Tyrrhenian Sea join forces and attack the Saracens in northern Africa, conquering the island. 12th Century AD. The Normans conquer Sicily, Malta, Lampedusa, Pantelleria, and part of the Berber Coast.

1667 AD. The head of the Tomasi family earns the title of Prince of Lampedusa by order of the King of Spain, Naples, and Sicily. 1712 AD. A French priest moves to the Island and becomes a hermit. 1764 AD. Around forty French colonists move to Lampedusa with the aid of the French Embassy in Malta. 1783 AD. A plague arrives from Libya and kills the population. 1800 AD. Salvatore Gatt establishes a Maltese colony on the island under a contract (enphiteusis) with the Tomasi family

Historical picture of the Castle and the Seven Palaces of Lampedusa (Archivio Storico Lampedusa)

Historical map of Lampedusa (Archivio Storico di Lampedusa)

Map of Lampedusa and Linosa Thomas Ashby, 1902-1912 Thomas Ashby was the first archeologist to visit the island of Lampedusa and to find evidence of prehistoric settlements.


he narratives about immigration dominate the social and political debate of European countries. Furthermore, they profoundly affect the perception that inhabitants and visitors of Lampedusa have of the island. Yet Lampedusa is more than just the door to Europe: the island’s identity is a mosaic of stories, among which immigration from northern Africa is a most recent addition. Given that Lampedusa is such a small island and so far away from the mainland, movement plays a vital role for the island’s inhabitants. People need to move in order to study, work, and receive medical care. Unlike other places in the world, the centrality of movement for the inhabitants of Lampedusa was not a consequence of globalization. Throughout the centuries, the island was used as a stepping stone in the Mediterranean Sea, offering safe harbor to passing ships during stormy weather. Mariners of different backgrounds took advantage of this shelter: locals even tell the story of a hermit living in a votive cave who would officiate rites of worship for both Christian and Muslim sailors. The major cultural developments on the island occurred because of the several, different colonizations. In particular, the urban settlement started with the Seven Palaces built by the Bourbon kings of Sicily. Until the 20th century, sea was the defining element of life on the island. The local economy

revolved around fishing, and trading only occurred via the sea. However, the construction of a local airport, the recent increase in tourism, and the birth of the “immigration industry”, the sea was stripped of this role and ceased to be the defining element of local life. No longer a border and a gateway between Lampedusa and the world, no longer a source of income for fishermen and their families, the sea assumed a largely negative connotation. It started to be associated with the death of migrants, physical isolation, and touristic exploitation. These recent transformations affected the political system and the social composition of the population. The locals were joined by visitors, migrants, workers in the immigration industry, and volunteers. Today, they rely almost exclusively on the income from seasonal tourism. These social categories have different perceptions of life on the island, different motives for being there, and different lengths for their stay. The absence of public spaces not subject to any institutional power limits their opportunities for interaction and exchange. The lack of variety in cultural and recreational activities increases the risk that the island eventually transforms into a prison for the migrants, a hopeless place for the residents, and a static backdrop for tourists.


“Over centuries, states have created technologies that block or control migrations. The earliest rulers built defensive walls to keep other people out. Later governments have created policed borders that require official passports [...] Today, virtually all of the earth’s land have been claimed by one or more of the world’s nearly two hundred national governments.” Michael H. Fisher, “A World History”


ur current notion of borders is relatively novel. Before the two World Wars, borders were (and were perceived as) much more fluid and subject to change, hence they were temporary and questionable. The passport, today considered a necessity to regulate the movement of people, was only introduced by the military after the First World War as a temporary measure. It was never removed thereafter. Borders have become so dominant in our way of perceiving the world that we tend to forget they are artificial and arbitrary. In other words, they are based on imaginary lines, which often do not correspond to a perceptible discontinuity. Sometimes, borders arise from the unfolding

of social and political processes; sometimes, they are the result of forceful and abrupt decisions. This is the case of the border that currently exists between India and Bangladesh: “Cyril John Radcliffe dragged his pen across a map of India, a place he’d never seen, and cleaved two countries from one” (Marcello Di Cintio, “Walls”). But even when they are the manifestation of natural or ethnic boundaries, borders remain artificial and they only survive if they are sufficiently enforced. The current configuration of borders, which is different from that of the past and presumably from that of the future, is only one of the infinitely many possible configurations that chance, history, or people like Cyril John

Radcliffe could have produced. Nevertheless, these lines acquired so much importance over the centuries that they are seldom questioned. A geography professor from the University of Amsterdam once told me that students are incapable of drawing a map without political borders. The increasing tendency to enforce borders through the construction of a physical wall shows how the notion of border can be (ab)used to underpin a government’s decision to restrict freedom of movement for certain categories of people based on their place of birth. In August 2016, I visited an international wall for the first time, namely the wall between Mexico


and the United States. As silly as it may seem, this wall made me think of the “barricade” my classmates and I used to build with books to separate our space on the desk when we were angry at each other. Clearly, a “wall” made of books was not going to stop anyone from crossing over: its purpose was more to be a theatrical, public display of our feelings, a physical manifestation of the fight itself. The wall between the US and Mexico seemed no different: “raw steel bars make for good theatre and look impressive on television newscast, but they are easily defeated” (Marcello Di Cintio, “Walls”). ISRAEL - EGYPT









et not every border materializes through a physical wall. Lampedusa is an extremely well-known example of a border that does not require a wall to become visible. The island’s unique characteristics created the perfect conditions for a “spectacularization” of the border without the necessity of an artificial obstacle.

role of a detention center. This led to the “spectacularization” of Lampedusa as an instrument of political debate during the refugee crisis, i.e., a stage whence to convey either the threat of invasion or the urgency of humanitarian aid.


Interestingly, this cannot be explained away by the island’s geographical position. The work of researchers who examined the social dynamics of the island (e.g. Paolo Cuttitta, “Borderizing the Island: Setting and Narratives for Lampedusa Border Play”) suggests that the high degree of “borderness” of Lampedusa is not solely a result of its liminality or isolation. Other islands with similar conditions (such as Pantelleria, another Sicilian island in the proximity of Lampedusa) did not develop a similar relation with the border. To some extent, Lampedusa was deliberately turned into a border place. Yearly data on the arrival of migrants to Lampedusa, Sicily, and the rest of Italy, suggests that the so-called emergencies were not a consequence of a greater number of total arrivals, but of the fact that a greater number of migrants were being intentionally diverted to Lampedusa. An analysis of the history between Italy and its crossMediterranean neighbors, particularly Tunisia and Libya, reveals that migrant flows were often manipulated to influence political choices and international relations. “Emergencies” were thus created to support border-related narratives. What we are currently witnessing is not an unprecedented inflow of people, but an unprecedented way of exploiting and manipulating immigration routes. The arbitrary line that cuts the Mediterranean Sea in two, separating the waters that belong to Africa from those that belong to Europe, burdens the island with a controversial role in the eyes of the European public: the

An analysis of the urban landscape of the island reveals that the increasingly burdensome presence of the border already left its mark on the territory. Many areas are cut off from public access because they are restricted for military purposes or simply affected by urban decay. The areas where migrants are hosted are often hidden or fenced off, unless there are political reasons to display them. In this case, the way they are presented is accurately crafted for the purposes of the media. At a spatial level, the process of “borderization” of the island can be summarized using three specific places that represent the physical manifestation of the narratives about the border. The first one is the CPSA (Centro di Primo Soccorso e Accoglienza, literally First Aid and Reception Center), the only detention center on a minor island in Italy. The presence of the center is, in fact, what allows the diversion to Lampedusa of a great number of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. It is therefore the first step in turning the island into a grand theatre for the border. The location of the CPSA is hidden and practically impossible to reach because of military blocks. This is a deliberate choice to create as big a distance as possible between the reality of people living and working on Lampedusa and the reality of migrants confined on it. The isolated location of the center has a double effect on the narrative surrounding the island. On the one hand, it tends to escalate frustration and resentment among the people locked in, as they are alienated from any semblance of normal life. This frequently results in riots and violence, especially in overcrowded periods. On the other hand, the isolated position creates a perfect set to tell


a story that cannot be contested by possible witnesses. The second place that constitutes a physical manifestation of the narratives is Molo Favaloro. This is the military pier in the harbor of Lampedusa where the migrants are usually disembarked after being rescued at sea. Interdicted from public access yet perfectly visible from the other side of the bay, the pier is where the boats of the Coast Guard and other branches of the military are docked. The wellknown footage of soldiers managing long lines of migrants wrapped in thermal blankets conveys the message that the military is necessary to keep the threat of invasion under control. It should not come as a surprise that many people from Lampedusa criticized Fuocoammare, the Italian independent film about the island that won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2016. In the opening scene of the movie, one of the many radar installations on the island is presented as a system to localize and rescue migrants in the sea, but the locals are well aware that the presence of radars on the island has nothing to do with immigration. The third and last place of interest in the Lampedusa border play is the Porta d’Europa, a symbolic door realized by Italian sculptor Mimmo Palladino in 2008. The artwork represents a portal open towards Africa, in memory of all those who lost their lives in their attempt to reach the Italian shore. A door is the most obvious way to make an invisible wall physically manifest. Why would anyone need a door if there were no wall? Still, there is a great deal of irony to using an open door to commemorate the people who died because the door of Europe is closed. This monument to the most human and tragic aspects of immigration is fundamental to enact the final key aspect of the narrative: the humanitarian discourse.


the folly “Since the mid-Seventeenth century, the folly has been employed as a detour into delirium: a critical medium oscillating between aesthetic autonomy and social-political potential. As an architectural entity, the folly can be understood as a rupture, a strategic site questioning the constraint of norms.” Nikolaus Hirsch, “Gwangju Folly II“


n my search for a specific architectural tool to challenge the narratives around the “borderized” Lampedusa, I was drawn to the typology of the folly. The intellectual roots of this typology are found in Erasmus’ 1511 essay “In Praise of Folly”, and it implies a suspension from utilitarian purposes. Precisely because there is no specific program, there is no shared definition of what constitutes an architectural folly. The typical example of the modern folly is the garden of Stowe House, England. This was built in the 18th century by William Kent and

James Gibbs with the purpose of expressing the political view of the house’s owner, Richard Temple. Taking a very critical stance towards the politicians of his time, Temple transformed the gardens into a landscaped manifesto. Some of the follies represent virtues he believed the politicians were lacking, while others exemplify the qualities he wished his fellow citizens aspired to. The names and the aesthetics of the follies make the whole garden as readable as a book, thus conveying a specific set of values and beliefs.


The follies presented in Ronald Rael’s “Borderwall as Architecture” (2017) exemplify the power of architecture as a critical tool to challenge the political state of affairs. The book is “a protest against the wall—a protest that employs the tools of the discipline of architecture manifested as a series of designs that challenge the intrinsic architectural element of a wall charged by its political context”. At a lecture delivered by Ronald Rael in Berkeley (September 2016), someone asked him how far we can go, as architects, in making political statements. “Luckily, professional boundaries are extremely blurred nowadays”, he answered, “and, as architects, we are agents of change”.

a line


e live in an intricate net of imaginary lines. The way we interpret and perceive the world and its phenomena are highly influenced by the lines we decide to take into consideration. In my attempt to challenge the narrative that linked the identity of Lampedusa to the current line of the border, I decided to draw a new line. I selected one from the set of all possible lines that pass through the island: consistently with my research, I believe this line represents the identity of Lampedusa better than the the border, because it symbolizes the island’s role as a stepping stone in the Mediterranean.

The line I drew connects Tripoli, the main point of departure for the migrants that eventually reach Lampedusa, to Amsterdam, our place in the world right now. The line started merely as an inspiration and a key to interpret the phenomenon of migration from a different perspective. Later, it became the main gesture of the design. Instead of being only the symbol of a new narrative, it became its physical manifestation. This transformation resembles the process that turns the imaginary line of a border into a real line, which becomes tangible through social construction.

the seven follies of lampedusa “La prua della barca taglia in due il mare ma il mare si riunisce e rimane sempre uguale e tra un greco, un normanno, e un bizantino io son rimasto comunque siciliano Son siciliano, nord-africano un po’ norvegese, ma comunque siciliano” “The ship of the boat cuts the sea in half but the sea reunites and stays the same and amongst a Greek, a Norman, and a Byzantine I stayed anyway Sicilian I’m Sicilian, North-African, a bit Norwegian, but in any case Sicilian” Lucio Dalla, “Siciliano”


orders turn from imaginary lines into actual barriers, even in the absence of a real wall, through the social practices and policies that revolve around them. Similarly, my line becomes real through the construction of seven follies that celebrate the physical and metaphysical nexus between the different cultures of the Mediterranean. The seven follies can be interpreted as a journey through the peculiarities of the island, all of which important, interconnected, and part of an ancient story that can be told from many different perspectives. The journey through the follies is not predetermined: there is neither a beginning nor an end. It can be joined anywhere. The architectural language of the seven follies is inspired by the informal architecture of the Mediterranean region. The simple but powerful

forms, to which all peoples who live around the Mediterranean can relate, become the physical proof of the cultural interconnection. The historical role of Lampedusa as a stepping stone is revived and emphasized, in opposition to the contemporary narrative of the border island. Stripped from any functionality, the follies are a place to feel and meditate, a place to (re)experience private emotions and discover their relation to the bigger picture. Each folly addresses a specific issue connected to immigration and borders, and each of them creates an emotional experience that describes the dangerous journey across the sea. In doing so, it serves as a reminder that every human being is on a journey. The seven follies carry the visitors and the inhabitants of Lampedusa into landscapes off the beaten path. They also provide new public spaces, devoid of

institutional power and superimposed programs. In 1843, the Bourbon kings of Sicily built seven palaces on Lampedusa, overlooking the bay that serves as a natural harbor. These seven palaces became the center of urban development on the island. May the seven follies usher in a new period of social and human development, where the role of Lampedusa as a stepping stone in the Mediterranean is not abused, but cherished.



“Folly viewing is an outdoor activity. The folly should not be contemplated through glass. Never approach a folly by an easy route and try not to get too near. If you have to be near, see the details but never touch it. Do not try to determine the actual size, it does not exist. Never make comparisons. Under no circumstances try to draw or photograph one.” Cedric Price, cited in “Gwangju Folly II“

commons B

ecause the ultimate goal of the project is to change people’s perception of immigration by showing the naturalness of migration and movement, the architectural strategy of the follies is based on commons. The commons are the resources that human beings share on this planet. The nature is a common. Compatibly, the follies walk the visitors through the wild and beautiful landscape of Lampedusa, encouraging a different kind of tourism: responsible, curious, and off the beaten path. In the silence of the island, the wind, the sea, and the rock cease to be a backdrop and become cornerstones of our relation with the world, fostering awareness for nature as a common good. Common is the earth we walk on, hence the follies are made of rammed earth, a technique that compresses ground soil, the most widely used material on the planet. Common is the language of informal architecture. The follies all refer to vernacular typologies that can be found across the Mediterranean. Morteammare is a tholos, or a beehive dome. La Torre is a watchtower. Terra Promessa is a hortus conclusus where the inner walls take the shape of an amphitheater. Dentro is a hypogeus inverted pyramid. Fuori is a step pyramid. Isole is a set of two quffah, or small round boats. La Porta is a spontaneous settlement based on the typology of the courtyard. Commons are the follies which take a critical stand against the present situation. They allow the visitors to look at the island from a different perspective, encouraging them to question the narrative broadcasted by the media and form their own opinion. Morteammare questions the silence surrounding the death in the Mediterranean Sea. La Torre criticizes the militarization of the island, which does not benefit the locals nor the migrants. Terra Promessa presents the tragic paradox of escaping one hell only to find another. Dentro and Fuori consider the role of Lampedusa in relation to the border, ambiguously and conveniently shifting between the inside and the outside. Isole remind us that no man in an island, especially not the one living on an island. La Porta criticizes the Door of Europe, a symbolic open door in memory to those who die at sea, crashing onto a door that is still closed. Common are the emotions encountered during the human journey. The follies allow the visitors to (re)live a range of feelings, meditate on their experiences, and exorcise their demons. From fear to courage, from safety to uncertainty, from delusion to trust, from calm to anxiety, from alienation to involvement, the simple shapes of the follies are designed to trigger a very personal emotional response. Finally, commons are the public spaces not subject to institutional power. The follies do not belong to anyone: they are not there to support institutional work and they are devoid of fixed programs. They are synchronic public spaces, where everything can happen because nothing is supposed to.

morteammare “Facilis descensus Averno; noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis; sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras, hoc opus, hic labor est” “The gates of hell are open night and day; Smooth the descent, and easy is the way: But to return, and view the cheerful skies, In this the task and mighty labor lies” Virgil, “Aeneid”, Book VI


long staircase cut in the falesia, the suggestive high cliff on the north side of the island, brings the visitor down to the bottom of the sea, where a small room with light coming from the top and through the water symbolizes the end of the journey. Morteammare is a metaphorical descent into the world of death. Inspired by the title of the movie set in Lampedusa Fuocoammare (literally “fire at sea”), the name of this folly is a reminder of what really happens at sea. The countless deaths off the shores of Lampedusa cannot be shrugged off as a consequence of the island’s central position in the Mediterranean Sea. Instead, they are the consequence of specific policy choices at a national and international level, which trigger the economic and political abuse of borders. Morteammare is a memorial to those who died at sea, but also an attempt to exorcize the most human fear of all: the fear

of the end. Moreover, the folly is a critique of the deafening silence that surrounds those who die in their attempt to reach the shores of Lampedusa. This includes not only the countless bodies swallowed by the sea, but also those in unmarked graves in the local cemetery. Morteammare is a scream against the silent immobility with which the authorities become accomplices.




la torre

Lampedusa, 28/10/ 2015 I have never been on a watchtower. It occurred to me for the first time when I was taking a picture of the lighthouse on the east side of the island, and then again as the bus drove me by the transmission towers near Casa Teresa. The lighthouse made me think about the Panopticon, its tower as a symbol of power and inescapable control. I thought about what it would be like to sit up there. I will never know, as the lighthouse is inaccessible. One can only look at it from the outside. This is at least something, considering that the only other lighthouse in Lampedusa is completely out of sight. The area where it is located, on the western tip of the island, is fenced off as military ground. I bet the view from up there is nothing short of stunning. I am fascinated by the idea of being on the highest point on an island. There is something spellbinding about the possibility of seeing the full shape of the land below you. Having access to a complete overview. Being able to focus on particular aspects and their interrelations while never losing sight of the whole. At the moment, Lampedusa can only be seen from above when flying over it on a plane. But not everyone reaches Lampedusa by plane. If I had access to a watchtower, the first thing I would do would be to go all the way up and look at the shape of the island. I would turn around and look in every direction, squinting to try and see the land beyond the sea. Italy and Tunisia, but also Lybia, Spain, Greece‌ maybe even Turkey? I would close my eyes and pretend to hear their voices. Then I would head down again, stopping by every window to look at the different landscapes on the island, recording exactly where they are relative to one another, and where I am relative to each of them. The sea, the falesia, the desert, the forest, and the urban area. I would try to associate each landscape with one of the many elements that contribute to the identity of the island. Tourism to the south-east, where the airport and the harbor are located, and also on the east side, where there is that ugly village. Immigration on the west side of the bay, where the military pier is falling apart and the patrol keeps an eye on the docked boats. Also in the valley at the center of the island, where the detention center lies comfortably out of sight. Religion over there, to the southwest, where there was once the cave of a hermit who would celebrate Christian and Muslim rites. And then the turtles, the fishermen, the dammusi...



terra promessa “In the imagination of a refugee, any place on the other side of the Wall, wherever it is, must be beautiful.” Marcello Di Cintio, “Walls”


high, circular wall stands in the middle of a dusty expanse, where the landscape of Lampedusa resembles a rocky desert. Towering trees are visible inside the wall, suggesting the presence of a garden or an oasis in the desert; a hortus conclusus, sheltered from the dangers of the world. Two symmetric openings in the circular wall connect the outside and the inside. These openings are at different heights, as the folly lies on a slope. Inside, a large and shallow crater dug into the earth and lightly covered by a canopy of maritime pines encloses a pool of sand. Lampedusa served as a detention island for many centuries, and it is easy to understand why. The sea acts as a natural barrier and it allows the government to detain immigrants without the costly deployment of guards, fences, and surveillance systems. This is all the more convenient if these systems cannot be legally deployed, as is the case of Lampedusa, because the immigrants cannot be formally detained before they have a chance to ask for international protection or they receive an expulsion decree. In a place like Lampedusa, the government can rely on natural barriers to keep the immigrants confined. Terra Promessa

(“promised land”) invites a reflection on the barrier that encircles Lampedusa by recreating a similar barrier on the island. The visitor enters the folly, attracted by the promise of an oasis, but finds something different than expected. There is no garden. The initial delusion for the broken promise gives way to a growing awareness of the qualities of this space: calm, shaded from the sun, and shielded from the wind. The inside face of the wall becomes part of the space in itself, descending in large steps to form an amphitheater. By suggesting the possibility for spontaneous gathering, this shape induces the visitor’s imagination to switch from the comfort of seclusion to the eagerness of being together. From the prospect of isolation to the one of possible integration.




In the sand of the desert an inverse pyramid lies buried, which guards the truth about the human species. The truth is buried in the desert sand, so that no one can tell about it without sounding like a madman, his mind burnt by the loneliness and the sun. A madman wrapped in blue cloth, like those nomads in the desert. A nomad will find it. Nomadic chant Lampedusa, 23/10/2015 Alberto drove me to the CPSA today. We could not access it, nor could we reach the gate, because the only street that goes into the valley is blocked by the military. We drove to a higher ground on the south side, from where I could look down on the detention center and take some pictures. The location of this center, hidden in a valley and covered by vegetation, is most definitely a deliberate choice. You will never find it unless you actually look for it, and if




you do find it, you receive a clear message: do not enter, do not look, mind your own business. I walked alone to the edge of the hill to take pictures, while Alberto smoked a cigarette by the car. Had the police seen me, they could have asked to see my documents. They could have taken my camera as well. The fence is clearly there to keep us out. Alberto and I on the outside, and those guys on the inside. Or is it the other way around? I wonder if they also feel this confusion. We normally define a barrier through the opposition of “in” and “out,” but in this case, it is very hard to tell. If these people are not granted the chance to request asylum, they will be deported. This means that they are now on the outside, waiting at the door. They might see me outside the fence and think that I am inside. If they were given the chance to request asylum however, it would mean that they are already in, having just crossed the threshold. I can see why this island makes the perfect location for such a place. There is much more to it than mere geography. While they are locked in here, these people are caught in a paradox, being inside and outside at the same time. Scared and relieved, chained and free, still in Africa but already in Europe. Dentro e Fuori.




isole “So when they have arrived at Babylon in their voyage and have disposed of their cargo, they sell by auction the ribs of the boat and all the straw, but they pack the hides upon their asses and drive them off to Armenia: for up the stream of the river it is not possible by any means to sail, owing to the swiftness of the current; and for this reason they make their boats not of timber but of hides. Then when they have come back to the land of the Armenians, driving their asses with them, they make other boats in the same manner.” Herodotus, “Historiae”,Book I


o be isolated means to be disconnected from the rest of the world, just like an island is detached from the mainland. Sometimes, being isolated also means being independent and autonomous, so that the rest of the world is not only far away, but also unnecessary. The history of Mediterranean islands suggests something different: to be an island can also mean being a bridge, a stepping stone, and a fundamental link between two opposite shores. Thus an island can be a meeting point for different cultures and different realities. This folly consists of two small rounded boats anchored to two opposite shores within the harbor of Lampedusa. A system of ropes ensures that, when they are at their minimum or maximum distance from the shores, the boats are on the line traced by the project. When they meet in the middle of the bay, they can be

used as stepping stones to cross the harbor in a way that is impossible by walking because of interruptions on the seafront. The meeting point coincides with the tip of Molo Favaloro, the military harbor used to disembark migrants and currently inaccessible to the public. Isole transforms the solitary experience of using a rowboat to cross the water into a collective endeavor. To reach the other side, one needs someone else to bring the other boat to the meeting point. The design suggests that meeting halfway is only possible if the two parties make an effort to reach out to one another.




Lampedusa, 11/10/2015 I had a dream tonight. I was walking in the alleys of my town, back home. It was early morning and I was hurrying somewhere. I was completely alone and the town looked abandoned. The streets felt familiar, but in a distant and vague way, and I could not recognize anything in particular. The colors, the noises, and the sparkle I always associated with the town were gone.

la porta

Very soon, I was lost. I started to look at the buildings I was passing by and suddenly I realized that they had no doors, only inner courtyards opening on the street. After a while, the fear of being alone overcame the embarrassment of trespassing private property, and I decided to enter a building to ask for help. As I drew close enough to look inside one of the courtyards, I stopped, mesmerized. I was looking at a lush garden, a small pocket of colors, scents, and life trapped within grey walls. I could see it now! That is where all the life had gone! I too was supposed to be there! I was alive, after all. At this point, I was not worried anymore. I only felt I had to get in. Yet the joy and the enthusiasm soon gave way to a new kind of panic. The opening, tall and deep, which resembled a door at first sight, was in fact no wider than a slit. There was no way I could ever get through. Wishing it had been only an isolated case of bad design, I started to run frantically from building to building, but to my dismay I found that none of the openings was big enough for me to pass. What was going on? Why was I stuck outside? And outside of what, exactly? I did not even know what was going in there, but the harder it seemed to get in, the more I wanted to. This is the point where, in real life, I would have started crying. But I am not a whiner in my own dreams, so I kept walking around. I do not know how much time I spent wandering like this, but just when it looked like that the grey depression of the streets had taken hold of me and would soon let me disappear in the quiet background, I spotted a door. This was not like the other openings: it was a real door, with a large frame, and it was unmistakably open. I started to run towards it, but I tripped over a stone while I was about to cross the threshold and join the life inside. And while I was ungracefully falling into a bunch of myrtle, I was hoping that the fall would not be too hard but I was sure I would be picking prickles from my body for a week. When I finally hit the ground, I awoke in my own bed, with the awkward feeling of having come back to life just when I was supposed to die.








ost of the follies are realized in rammed earth, which can be stabilized with concrete, strengthened with gravel, and protected from erosion with horizontal layers. This creates a feeling of continuity between the earth (the landscape) and the folly (the architecture). The earth will be excavated locally, so that the material will have the red color of the ground. The materials will be tested on-site, to verify that the soil has the appropriate richness and the right amount of clay. Sequential tests can be made to achieve the correct mixture. The follies do not have roofs or other elements protecting the facades, so a richer mixture helps protecting them from the (scarce) precipitations. The availability of stone and gravel material is evident by the liberal use of dry stone walls across the island. Stone has been used extensively to alter the landscape of Lampedusa; for example, to define private property, to create terraced fields, to mark sacred areas, or merely to protect a road. Learning from this resilient use of resources, the design employs a material that can be dismantled and reused with minimal

waste, eventually returning to the earth. Gravel is used to strengthen the mixture, and larger stones are used to create erosion checks on the facades. Beautiful, irregular horizontal lines are often seen in the ground of Lampedusa, especially when looking at its coasts from the sea. This stratification is the result of change in the composition and the texture of sedimentary rocks, and of pauses between the depositions of strata. The building techniques used for the project are inspired by this process. The rammed earth is obtained by pressing layers of excavated soil into a wooden framework. A similar effect can be obtained with concrete by pouring multiple layers of mixture into the frame. This way, erosion becomes part of the calculated evolution of the earth architecture, which will slowly fade and return to nature.




For the support I received while I was working on this project, I would like to thank Holger Gladys, Laura Alvarez, and Bruno Doedens. Thank you for pushing me beyond my comfort zone, for giving me precious feedback time and again, and above all, for trusting me even when I doubted myself. For making my weeks in Lampedusa fascinating and thought-provoking, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Alberto Mallardo and the team of Mediterranean Hope, Francesca Del Volgo and Askavusa, Antonino Taranto of the Archivio Storico Lampedusa, Moez, Paola La Rosa, and Don Mimmo Zambito. In addition, I would like to thank Ronald Rael (UC Berkeley) and Paolo Cuttitta (VU Amsterdam) for their helpful comments and discussions about my project. On a personal note, I would like to thank my family for always supporting me during my years at the Academy. I would have never made it without their love and help. In addition, there are people I would like to thank for the patience they showed to me during the past one and a half year: Michele, whose steady judgement and analytical mindset were helpful on so many occasions; Annamaria, my sister of Sicilian adventures; Cip, the kindred spirit of all my intellectual turmoils; Martina, Greta and Gaia, who provided a safe place to vent my frustrations; Valerio, my most valuable and down-to-earth counterpart; Roberta, Roxana, and Stefano, whom I could always count on for a bed, a toothbrush, and a large dose of emotional support.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Virgil. Aeneid, Book VI. Campesi, Giuseppe. The Arab Spring and the Crisis of the European Border Regime: Manufacturing Emergency in the Lampedusa Crisis. Florence: European U Institute, 2011. Collier, Paul. Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century. London: Penguin, 2014. Cuttitta, Paolo. “Lampedusa tra Produzione e Rappresentazione del Confine.” REMHU: Revista Interdisciplinar Da Mobilidade Humana 23.44 (2015): 31-45. Di Cintio, Marcello. Walls: Travels along the Barricades. London: Union, 2014. Dines, Nick, Nicola Montagna, and Vincenzo Ruggiero. “Thinking Lampedusa: Border Construction, the Spectacle of Bare Life and the Productivity of Migrants.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 38.3 (2014): 430-45. Fisher, Michael Herbert. Migration: A World History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2015. Fragapane, Giovanni. Lampedusa: Dalla Preistoria al 1878. Palermo: Sellerio, 1993. Herodotus. Histories, Book I. Hirsch, Nikolaus, Philipp Misselwitz, Eui Young Chun, Jeong Hye Kim, Michelle Lim, and April Elizabeth Lamm. Gwangju Folly II. Gwangju: Gwangju Biennale Foundation, 2013. Kapfinger, Otto, and Marko Sauer. Martin Rauch: Refined Earth: Construction & Design with Rammed Earth. Munich: Detail - Institut für Internationale Architektur-Dokumentation GmbH & KG, 2015. Munari, Bruno, and Rob Shaeffer. Bruno Munari: Square, Circle, Triangle. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2015. Nicolini, Giusi, and Marta Bellingreri. Lampedusa: Conversazioni su Isole, Politica, Migranti. Torino: Edizioni Gruppo Abele, 2013. Orsini, Giacomo. “Lampedusa: From a Fishing Island in the Middle of the Mediterranean to a Tourist Destination in the Middle of Europe’s External Border.” Italian Studies 70.4 (2015): 521-36. Pallasmaa, Juhani, and Peter Zumthor. Sfeer Bouwen / Building Atmosphere. Rotterdam: NAI, 2013. Rael, Ronald, and Teddy Cruz. Borderwall as Architecture. Oakland, CA: U of California, 2017. Rael, Ronald. Earth Architecture. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural, 2009. Rossi, Ivanna. Lampedusa: Guida per un Turismo Umano e Responsabile. Milano: Altra Economia, 2014. Rudofsky, Bernard. Architecture without Architects: A Short Introd. to Non-pedigreed Architecture. London: Acad. Ed., 1981. Soyinka, Wole, and Alessandra Di Maio. Wole Soyinka & Migrazioni: La Notte dei Poeti Afro-italiana. Wole Soyinka & Migrations: An Afro-Italian Night of the Poets. Roma: 66Thand2nd, 2016. Taranto, Antonino. Breve storia di Lampedusa. Lampedusa: Archivio Storico Lampedusa. Università IUAV di Venezia. Piano Strategico per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile delle Isole Pelagie. Progetto Pilota per Isole Minori. 2006.

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