I take advantage of a moment of pause to write a concise update on the developments of our new story, started as a consequence of the series of earthquakes that hit Central Italy from the end of August, and that is developing while earth still hasn’t decided to calm down.
As many of you know almost two years ago I moved to Umbria, I bought a medieval convent and spent 18 months working ceaseless to restore it and turn it into a well equipped place where my many friend from all over the world could come to spend creative time developing their work in the peace and beauty of the Umbrian mountains.
The restoration was completed in August, shortly before the first of the three powerful earthquakes that dramatically changed the life of these valleys.
In the last few months, with local friends, we had set up a cultural association with the intent of running activities, courses, seminars, concerts and residencies in the Castle of Postignano, a few miles from my home.
In another village, half way between Postignano and my home, Piergiorgio, a friend from Rome, refined musician, producer and instigator of great spirit, had opened a recording studio that was beginning to work well.
The earthquake has changed our plans, but we’ll get even better results out of the situation, even though it will take time and the help of our extended community of friends.
At the moment we are camped in a small village of temporary wood cabins, where the Council administration granted us the use of an ex- pre-fab church. Thanks to the help and donations collected by enterprising friends in a few days the little church has been turned in a poly-functional art centre full of toys, books dvd, equipment to show films, most of the music gear that the fire brigade helped us recover from my music studio and Piergiorgio’s recording studio.
Children and teenagers living in the village (around 80 of them) now have a gathering place where they can socialise, play, study and learn. Thanks to the participation of friends we already had theatre and music shows, and a music school, in the able hands of Alessandra, Piergiorgio’s partner, good musician and singer, has started operating.
The reconstruction of our homes will take years, in some more serious cases, like mine, as much as ten years, we are thus thinking of alternative life solutions as we can’t put our lives on hold for so long waiting for external factors.
One of the things we are considering is the construction of a group of straw-bale homes where to move, not simply as a living solution for ourselves but to also offer an example of how today’s knowledge, technology and common sense allow imagining living spaces that are healthy, ecological, sustainable, self-sufficient and safe, even in seismic areas.
We are currently hearing about building stronger homes, with more concrete, stiffer. We think this is insane to say the least. After having seen mountains move, woods shake, field wave like sea waves, houses crumble, rivers change course, the idea of building something stronger than nature sounds not simply idiotic but criminal.
Our old historic villages are splendid, but today it seems essential, especially in areas like this, and there are many in Italy, that we radically re-think the way to conceive human inhabitation and its relationship to nature.
Better buildings are possible, it’s cheaper, faster, safer and healthier. It has a lower impact on the environment and preserve energy being nearly self-sufficient. Not taking advantage of these opportunities seems stupid and unjustifiable beyond comprehension. Depending by location we can think of wood, earth, straw-bale homes and more. The options are many, companies and professionals with the required knowledge exist. It is a chance to create new opportunities, new jobs and it’s not a new-age utopia, just plain pragmatism and practicality.
We need a shift in mentality which is necessarily going to be slow, but we must start somewhere, and this earthquake offer a unique opportunity to build a living example that is real and functional, and that can be seen and touched, to make it undeniable.
We are working, with the help of experts, to a project, in view to applying for finances to the EU. We have identified some suitable sites and we are examining costs and feasibility. We will need to raise money to match the EU funding, but we are confident of finding what we need when the time comes.
The essential concept is that even a disaster like an earthquake can be the engine for positive change, not simply to solve the immediate survival problems of a group of people, but to also offer ideas and opportunities on a wider scale.
More updates soon.