Gibellina Vecchia, Italy

Giulia Vallone: Senior Architect, Cork City Council

With every return home to Sicily, there are places I visit that never cease to replenish my creative energy. Grande Cretto is an extraordinary memorial built on the urban footprint, of one of the towns destroyed by an earthquake in 1968, that took 400 lives and made over 100,000 people homeless. One of the largest art pieces in the world, the Cretto, by celebrated artist Alberto Burri was completed in 2015.

To be there, to walk through its crevasses and over its form, while absorbing the landscape, and contemplating its history is a unique experience. Yet it is a bittersweet paradox. The Cretto is where so many components of urbanism combine – art, archaeology, landscape, community, architecture, anthropology, psychology, all brought together to form a man-made expressive response, drawing on the seismic power of the earth itself and the depths of a human tragedy.

Yet it is neither valued nor understood by local people For many, it erases the memory of their living community, with an overpowering spirit of mourning and abstract commemoration, while they were re-housed elsewhere.

As an advocate for community participation in my urban design work in Ireland, I wonder if this is also a monument to the lost outcomes of community ownership and pride, through the imposition of an overly confident cultural imperialism. I imagine how these cracks were once streets and squares made between buildings where people lived their lives. These frozen memories, cast in concrete, cast in time, question or inspire.