What usually happens after a catastrophe, no matter how big it is, is that when the news become old – and this happens really quickly – and the media stop talking about it, the perception of the people is like that everything almost never happened or just the problem doesn’t exist anymore. Like what happened in the Gulf of Mexico, on 20th of April 2010, with the explosion of the “Deepwater Horizon” oil platform, or what happened to Japan, on the 11th of March 2011, struck three times by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake (the seventh biggest of all time), a tsunami and at the end by a nuclear disaster after an explosion at a power plant.
I visited Abruzzo, central Italy, two years after the terrible earthquake (5,8 Richter scale) that occurred on 6 April 2009. What I found, going there, was destruction. In the earthquake, 308 people died, 1500 were injured and around 65000 became homeless. At 3:32 am the earth trembled, destroying the cultural and historical heritage of the region, damaging between 3000 and 11000 buildings in the medieval city of L’Aquila, along with the buildings of the surrounding villages, such as Onna, Villa Sant’Angelo and San Pio delle Camere.
In 2011 everything was still the same and it seemed that life had stopped on that fateful day. The government didn’t have the money to demolish the damaged houses and probably it was just more busy, dealing with other issue. What comes out talking to the locals is not only the problem of the physical destruction of the houses. The fracture, created by the quake (which lasted 38 seconds), was created within the same community that inhabits this lands. The slow process of depopulation of these small urban realities, started before the catastrophe, has undergone on a rapid growth and this region is witnessing the departure, over the months, of the inhabitants of these houses. There are no more young people, only elderly, that obviously were born and raised here and they still wanna live here.
However, totally in contrast with this attitude of passive acceptance and resignation to the fate, I found an example of strength and determination. In this context a village called EVA (Self build eco-village) was born. A small cluster of houses made by private individuals by donations and in a complete ecological way. “Instead of waiting, we decided to continue to live in our land and our country, and rebuild together for a common future. With the awareness that inhabit a place do not only coincide with being satisfied of any kind of house”, as you can read on the official website: http://www.pescomaggiore.org/progetto-eva/storia
The idea, in addition to this need, is also an attempt to repopulate the town of Pescomaggiore, almost totally uninhabited, and to enable more families to remains living in their own lands. There are several questions that this enterprise is bringing to light, far more profound than it may seem on the surface. By the need to think how to rebuilt and return to repopulate the abandoned spaces, the meaning and the issues of living together in a community emerge.
The people who designed the village were forced to learn how to do things that probably they had never thought of doing before. None of them has ever experienced how to build a house, but when for reasons unforeseen – and what is more unpredictable than an earthquake – you get to lose everything (this includes the house, the objects accumulated over a lifetime and unfortunately relatives and people close to you) there are not many choices: you can resign yourself to your destiny, waiting to be helped and accepting any kind of offer, or you can start a new process of reconstruction. Thinking how and where you want to live the rest of life and creating your own future by yourself.