Butterfly wings for the House of Peace by Cucinella for the refugees of Scanzano Jonico

11 Jul 2019

4 min

By Mariagrazia Barletta

Everyone, even those who come from far away, has the right to live in a peaceful environment where they can realize their dreams

Betty Williams

The architectural project donated by the architect Cuicnella to the City of Peace for Children Foundation and carried out by Italian entrepreneurs in Basilicata, is increasingly relevant given the Italian political situation. If the moral depth of a Nobel Peace Prize winner meets the activism of a Hollywood star, intertwining with Italian generosity, the most sensitive architectural design and the support of administrations, the effect can only be disruptive. This is what happens in Scanzano Jonico (Matera), where the refugees will live in the houses designed by Mario Cucinella.

The first prototype of a completely recyclable eco-sustainable house, with a low cost and high quality of life, aims to welcome refugee families with their children and promote their integration, giving them the right to look to the future with hope. An initiative with a high social content, as well as a model that can be replicated to give a dignified response to the now structural problem of receiving refugees. The architectural project was donated by Mario Cucinella, who explains that it refers to the building tradition of the South and, although without any nostalgic approach, is in tune with the roots of rural culture, which has always used the available resources, even the simplest, according to an idea of reuse and optimization of the material and that no space has ever left to the concept of waste. “A place to cultivate peace,” says Cucinella.

It is a project that is part of the initiatives of the City of Peace for Children Foundation that fights for the reception, protection and integration of people who suffer persecution or discrimination and for the integration of refugees, also creating job opportunities for them. The core of the project and president of the foundation is Betty Williams, an Irish activist who in 1976 won the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting for a non-violent solution to the struggles between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. The first group of residences is just a first step in a refugee reception initiative and has also met with the support of actress and human rights activist Sharon Stone.

Integration and acceptance for a model that goes beyond architecture.

The first nucleus is composed of three housing modules organized around a patio, surmounted by a shading roof made of local bamboo canes, whose shape is inspired by butterfly wings. The building also has a load-bearing wooden structure covered with straw panels, while the raw earth is used as plaster. So the project resumes, without any nostalgic vein but revisiting them in a modern key, the local building traditions such as the processing of hemp and broom, linked, says Cucinella, also to the textile world. “They used broom to make the peasants’ jackets, there was a tradition, and then the waste was used to produce insulators or panels or mixed with raw earth to create panels of filling,” says the architect.

Despite the link with tradition, “no idea of nostalgia, which is a word that has a matrix of sadness,” pervades the project, says the architect. It is a question of recovering ancient knowledge in an ecological and modern vision of the project. “It’s nice – Cucinella tells us – to use traditional materials, but what changes is the perception of those materials and the contemporary way in which they are used. You can use raw earth and make a very contemporary building: it is not so much the material, but the way you use it that transforms an ancient material into a modern one”. It is not a question of building poor houses for the poor, but “refugees have the same rights and the same needs as us”, underlines Cucinella. So the project focuses on sustainability, quality and comfort of living, making the most of natural resources, such as: sun, air and wind. […]

A project, therefore, that goes beyond architecture to bind itself to high aspirations and the possibility of creating opportunities for those fleeing persecution and war. Finally, there is a need to adapt to different cultures and lifestyles, because the families who will live in Scanzano may have different origins. The new homes, therefore, can only focus on flexibility. “With our project we realize that hardware part that is fundamental to build and we leave instead a great flexibility within this space so that then, from time to time, in a very light way, we can build a space more suited to different needs,” says Mario Cucinella. […]

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