#2 Field Trip – Earth Houses in Abruzzo

For the weekend between the weeks 3 and 4, the organizing team proposed a field trip to Abruzzo, one of Italy’s regions that still hosts an important heritage of traditional raw earth houses. Main destination of the study trip was the town of Casalincontrada near Chieti, a small town that is home to more than 120 old earth houses. As the visitors could witness, some of them are in a bad shape and many are definitely lost but at the same time Casalincontrada is also acting as a laboratory where a group of architects, builders and other interested citizens are proposing innovative ways of intervening in these historical architectures with the aim of reintroducing this heritage in today’s life and economy.

CED Terra is the documentation centre on Earth Architecture that has been founded in the early 1990’s from the collaboration of a local association and the municipality. It hosts a thematic library which is among the most complete in Europe on constructive and cultural issues. The BIØN-travelers could also appreciate some of the educational activities the Centre promotes with schools and universities as well as admire part of the photo collection with earth architecture from all the world.

Local architect Gianfranco Conti is motor and mentor of this movement. He welcomed the BIØN-group in his educational laboratory Destinazione Terra. The space is situated within the B&B complex of Borgocapo, an old earth-house that Conti refurbished together with his wife Stefania Giardinelli from 2005 to 2008. Some of the workshop-participants had the luck to spend the night in this interesting accommodation and experience directly what it means to live an earth-house.

After a quick introduction on some peculiarities of the local earth architecture which included the manipulation of small samples of local earth, Gianfranco lead the group to La Casa di Teresa. In 2008 the municipality of Casalincontrada decided to buy one of the old houses with the intention of refurbishing it and making it accessible as a presentation object as well as for social and cultural activities. The choice fell on a simple rural house from the early 20th century named after its last owner. In a careful design-and-build process that took almost one decade a team headed by Stefania Giardinelli dedicated an infinite number of hours to refurbish the house built with the typical massone-technique (cob loafs used like bricks) completely.

An afternoon at an Adriatic beach near Ortona and a couple of nice meals in local restaurants rounded the field trip off.

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