Friday, August 29, 2014

Apennine Urbanism (2)

Rome, August 29, 2014

Walking the narrow streets of Castelvecchio Calvisio--the small town on the Apennine Mountains of Abruzzo--one is immediately struck by the proliferation of stone stairs rhythmically projecting out from the fa├žade of the buildings. They reveal a distinctive fabric of shops and warehouses at ground level and housing on top. The stairs run parallel to the street, cantilevering from the outer stone walls. The fabric is mostly two stories high, but extremely dense, with many portions of the private upper level arching over the public passageways. As far as I can tell, each stair gives access to an individual dwelling, strengthening the use of the street and creating a matrix akin to what Team 10 architects such as Alison and Peter Smithson or Candilis, Josic, Woods liked to call carpet housing or mat buildings (yes, only just a number of centuries before the Golden Lane project or the Berlin Free University.)

Even more surprising is the curious configuration of the stairs, narrow at the bottom and wider at the top, as if they had been shaved just above human height. The purpose of this ground level reduction is to allow passage, particularly along the main street at the center of the village, where the cuts seem to literally trace the outline of a loaded donkey.

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