Envisaging L'Aquila
edited by Alessandro Coppola

Envisaging L’Aquila. Strategies, spatialities and sociabilities of a recovering city



edited by Alessandro Coppola, Cora Fontana & Valentina Gingardi

ISBN 978-88-908130-8-5, pp. 208, € 24

L’Aquila, a city of about 70,000 inhabitants located in central Italy, was hit by a devastating earthquake on April 6th, 2009. The disaster killed 309 people, left 50,000 homeless and shut down entire areas of its sprawling urban system.

The public debate and policy interventions that followed the disaster raised the question of what kind of city should be rebuilt. Which new visions for the city could be put forward?

Envisaging L’Aquila brings together the results of a large and articulated research project carried out at the Gran Sasso Science Institute to document the reconstruction process.

The book provides a broad overview of the emerging visions and spatial strategies unfolding at the local level, documenting the everyday life public spaces, civil society movements, and the relaunch of the knowledge economy in the local territorial system.

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The Editors

Alessandro Coppola, PhD, is an urban planner who works and teaches at the Gran Sasso Science Institute in L’Aquila. His research and publications have focused on neighbourhoods, shrinking cities, urban informality and community organizations.

Cora Fontana, PhD, is an architect and planner with interest in urban spatial transformations in post-disaster contexts and urban informality.

Valentina Gingardi, PhD, is a planner and architect interested in urban transformation processes, urban planning and local governance.

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Table of Contents


1. Engaging with the potential and actual futures in a post-disaster city (PDF Preview)
Alessandro Coppola, Cora Fontana & Valentina Gingardi 

State of Crisis

2.1. An inertial reconstruction. The challenges and failures of governance and planning 
Georg Josef Frisch

  • The earthquake damageLike before or better than before?
  • Emergency planning: from tents to houses
  • Plans without urban planning: placing the local democracy under a commissioner
  • The return to normality: an old city made up of new houses
  • Conclusions: rebuilding social capital and institutions to rebuild a city
  • References

2.2. Facts and figures of the reconstruction process 
Francesco Chiodelli 

  • Introduction: the critical importance of accuracy in describing the real situation
  • The reconstruction of private property
  • The reconstruction of public structures
  • From data to facts: the progress of reconstruction


3.1. The Imagined City. Strategic Spatial Projects as a Rhetoric?
Cora Fontana

  • Introduction
  • The strategic spatial plan of L’Aquila
  • The model and the vision of the city
  • The strategic guidelines
  • Strategic Projects
  • The case of the Campo di Fossa-Sant’Andrea area
  • The case of Piazza d’Armi
  • References

3.2. Works in progress for a Knowledge City
Grazia Di Giovanni and Valeria Raimondi 

  • Introduction
  • L’Aquila as a ‘Knowledge-driven City’
  • Advanced education and research before and after the earthquake
  • L’Aquila as a ‘polycentric’ Knowledge City
  • Conclusions
  • References


4.1. Walkability in the dispersed city
Joanne Ahern & Valentina Gingardi

  • Introduction
  • Background to the study of walkability
  • Walkability in post-earthquake L’Aquila
  • The case studies
  • The Coppito area
  • The strategic axis of via XX settembre-viale Corrado IV
  • Conclusions
  • References

4.2. Public spaces and the city 
Joanne Ahern & Valentina Gingardi

  • Introduction
  • Public spaces, risk and disasters
  • The troubled public spaces of post-earthquake L’Aquila 
  • Research strategy, methodology and case study
  • Case Study 1: L’Aquilone shopping mall
  • 1. Location and Description
  • 2. Functions and Uses
  • 3. Post-Earthquake Relevance
  • Case Study 2: Piazza Chiarino and Piazza Regina Margherita
  • 1. Location and Description
  • 2. Functions and Uses
  • 3. Post-EarthQuake Relevance
  • Case Study 3: Piazza D’Armi
  • 1. Location and Description
  • 2. Functions and Uses
  • Conclusions: the shifting spatialities and temporalities of post-crisis public spaces 
  • References

4.3. ICTs and public transport in the dispersed city
Francesco Gallo, Ludovico Iovino, Enzo Falco, Ivano Malavolta, Adam Radzimski & Stefano Ruberto

  • Introduction 
  • A city of cars. Current state of public transport, modal share data, plans and projects of the city of L’Aquila.
  • Geo-referencing, General transit Feed Specifications and Bus on Air: experimenting with soft investments in mobility policy 
  • Georeferencing
  • General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) editor and data
  • Bus on Air
  • Conclusions: promoting soft-investments for a more sustainable city
  • References


5.1. Cultural events in L’Aquila as temporary platforms of urban revitalisation 
Giorgos Koukoufikis, Cecilia Pasquinelli & David Gogishvil

  • Cultural events in the post-disaster city
  •   Mapping urban events in L’Aquila
  •   The role of cultural events in L’Aquila
  •   Conclusions: the spatial role of events and the open questions of their future development

5.2. Shifting involvements. NGOs in the post-quake society
Gabriella Punziano, Alessandro Coppola, Matteo Del Fabbro, Paola Proietti & Chiara Vitrano

  • Introduction: the strategic role of community resilience
  • Resilience and civil society in post-earthquake L’Aquila
  • The organization and distribution of the third sector in L’Aquila: a functionally segmented, spatially deconcentrated and resilient third sector
  • A deeper look into the human, motivational and social capital of organized civil society in L’Aquila
  • Human Capital, social and motivational capital
  • Open conclusions: a research agenda on civic engagement in L’Aquila


6. Crisis and transitions. L’Aquila and the (lost?) window of opportunity of its reconstruction
Alessandro Coppola

  • The territorial legacies and The exploded time and territorial legacies of a post-disaster city
  • The governance of the reconstruction between faulty beginnings, cognitive mobilizations, and limited reforms
  • The contested, undecided and inflationary spatialities of the reconstruction
  • Conclusions: incremental actions to keep the window of opportunity open

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