Suspended City: L'Aquila After the Earthquake of 2009

Photographs by Michele Nastasi

On April 6, 2009, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the medieval city of L’Aquila in central Italy. Three hundred people lost their lives and 70,000 were left homeless by the catastrophe, and eighty percent of the historic center of the city was destroyed or damaged. Government response in the months that followed focused on new residential construction to house the thousands of displaced residents. The historic center was cleared of debris and stabilized but remained a “zona rossa”, uninhabited and closed to public access.

L’Aquila had experienced many destructive earthquakes in its nearly 700-year history, and in each instance reconstruction followed the city’s original thirteenth-century plan. The most destructive event, in 1703, resulted in a new fabric of baroque monuments, with few fundamental changes to the medieval urban form. Following the 2009 earthquake, however, rebuilding was stalled by a deep public divide over how the city should be reconstructed and ultimately used.

Milan photographer Michele Nastasi began working in L’Aquila soon after the earthquake. His photographs record a cityscape of prosthesis: splints, casts, and stays shore-up and stabilize centuries-old structures. These surgical interventions in the fabric have been technologically successful even if the patient itself – L’Aquila – still shows no sign of life. Nearly four years after the earthquake, L’Aquila remains caught in a planning impasse, and it appears increasingly unlikely that former residents will be able to resume their lives in the suspended city.

Curated by Maddalena D'Alfanso, Michele Nastasi, and Gary Van Zante

Related Programs; Organized by Gary Van Zante

Science on Trial: Rebuilding Credibility in the Face of Natural Disaster. The Case of L’Aquila After the Earthquake of 2009
March 20, 2013, 6-9 pm
“Talk Back 360,” MIT Museum

Rebuilding L’Aquila After the Earthquake of 2009
March 21, 2013, 6-9 pm
Bush Room, Building 10-105