Redesigning the border

The first week of July 2018 a design-build workshop took place in Belmonte Calabro to explore migratory phenomena in the Mediterranean area. Italy that aimed at responding to one of the greatest European challenges in a small town that, abandoned by its local residents, is becoming home to a new wave of migrants who travel across the Mediterranean to Italy. Promoted by the cultural association Le Seppie and made in collaboration with Orizzontale and London Metropolitan University, it contributed to redesigning the Italian border between migration and abandonment.

An interview with Rita Adamo, one of the co-founder of Le Seppie:

Photo: Silvia Gin and Zeshan Mazhar

How has the workshop become an attempt at the collective rewriting of space?
We chose the Municipal Library of Belmonte Calabro as the object of our investigation. We turned it from a forgotten space into a Wonder Living Room, an exhibition space created to display sentimental and historical objects. A place of connection between one migration and another. We aimed to deliver to new and old inhabitants a greater awareness of the territory and its cultural heritage, designing a device that, by celebrating cultural differences, actually encourages exchanges between different communities.

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Who were the guests in this year’s edition?
The workshop was made in collaboration with London Metropolitan University and with the architects at Orizzontale, together with refugees from the neighboring villages of Amantea, San Pietro d’Amantea and Longobardi and the inhabitants of Belmonte.

What was your intention in redesigning the city library?
Our intention to redesign the city’s library is based on the objective of stimulating conversation and dialogue between the local inhabitants, the perceptions of recent migrants and refugees in Calabria and other visitors such as the group of international participants of Crossings 2018. The ambition is to imagine a new cultural identity for Belmonte that could contribute to a more active use of the municipal library and the repopulation of the village by more diverse demographies. Located beneath the municipal library, the chosen space is currently underused, despite its excellent location and the many possibilities that its large opening on the city’s main square offers. By opening this library/museum room onto the square, we hope to expand the possibilities of using this central part of the city, allowing it to host more specific activities such as cooking and serving food, screenings, music, debates and so on.

What added value does this workshop bring to volunteers, students and migrants?
Involving participants from the local Italian context, refugees and international participants, our common goal is to challenge the decline of those places. The program offers a very rich experience that includes individual growth, social and cultural awareness, with an exposure to the arts and crafts as well. This experience creates a very different kind of bond with the village, where both visitors and locals feel committed to the village’s situation, along with the incentive that implies to return to see the evolution, take part in its development, or launch new initiatives!