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Architecture for Heritage 2020 Edition

Design of an International School of Design among the ruins of Rocca dei Conti Guidi

Design of an International School of Design among the ruins of Rocca dei Conti Guidi

The workshop, conducted in collaboration with the Italian Government Real Estate Agency and the Municipality of Modigliana, and tutored by SANAA, gave the students the opportunity to work on the Rocca dei Conti Guidi, a symbolic architecture of a medieval village that lies on the promontory between the Tramazzo and Ibola rivers. Due to a very strong production chain in the field of furniture that is locally present, the Municipality would like the fortress repurposing to be oriented towards the establishment of an international school of architecture and design: here, protected by a medieval architecture, in the heart of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, a campus of excellence will welcome young talents guided by the brightest stars of architecture and product design. Modigliana is picturesque and characterized by some very fascinating views (e.g. the famous Ponte della Signora) and is the ideal background for design reflections that combine memory with a contemporary intervention. In order to get to know the site from close, students will be granted the opportunity to spend three days of stay and lessons in Modigliana.


The fortress is a majestic architecture of a remote time, whose construction probably dates back between 830 and 864, that is, before Charles the Bald was forced to issue the edict that blocked the too-prolific activity of Norman military architecture. Around the year 900, the manor house will pass under the protection of the Guidi Counts, who will be its owners for 400 years, during which they hosted, among others, high-representatives of the court of the Holy Roman Empire, like Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (the great-grandfather of Frederick II of Swabia) in 1166. In the 14th century, the fortress became a property of the Florence district and during that period some operations occurred which brought the Rocca to have its current appearance. The building then underwent sieges and looting, but definitely it was the earthquake in 1661 that destroyed most of the crenelated walls and the cover of the central tower, triggering a progressive and inexorable process of abandonment. In 1918, the great tower collapsed, creating the most recent event of ruin of the fortress while giving the building a strong feature of charm and monumentality. Sectioned from top to foot, the great central tower offers a very rare view: it, shows its interior and its external covering at the same time, almost in an illustrated representation of a “vertical cross-section”, which clearly and simultaneously shows the construction techniques and the articulation of the rooms interiors, in a fascinating contrast between ruin and monumentality, between power and fragility.

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