Rome, Italy

Photographer: Alessandro Guida
Text: Viviana Rubbo

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Rome, Italy. In the southwest outskirts, on the edge of the city, an impressively ambitious social housing complex saw the light in 1982. 960 meters long and nine stories high, it houses approximately “8,500 neighbors”, distributed in 1,200 apartments. It is Corviale. The view of the concrete mass is surrealistic. A timeless work, never finished, a giant wounded by a primordial agony, concrete that the pitfalls of time and the lack of maintenance corrode. A city within a city that stands on a hill and dominates the surrounding Roman countryside dotted with groves. Its history is the history of Italy, from the 70s to this day: waste, delays, abuse, obtuse bureaucracy and missed opportunities. Those were the years of the housing boom, and in Rome the demand for housing was pressing. Works began in 1975 and close abruptly in 1982 when the company went bankrupt. The first flats were handed over in the same year, and immediately tens of families illegally occupied different units, especially on the fourth floor which was supposed to host, in the original design, services and business.

In the last decade, many associations and collectives, Rome City Council itself and the ATER (the territorial agency for public housing) have built and are tenaciously implementing a patient work of weaving social networks that allowed the activation of an urban regeneration process through participatory and inclusive design.

Radio Impegno to fight illegality, the first experiment of social soccer, the Association Corviale Domani and Mitreo cultural center are born. Then there are the inhabitants. Many of those who have lived there for over thirty years now think that the heart of the problem is the unfinished condition of project itself.

In 2009, after years of stagnation, ATER has launched a first call for the renewal, with change of use, of the fourth floor in part squatted and in the summer 2015 launched “Riqualificare Corviale” a design competition to reconfirm the effort to increase the living quality of the social housing complex. Corviale is a witness of the limit of the Italian housing policies, is the failure of a project, and is the result of a lack of response to the primary right to a decent home.

Corviale is the limit beyond which is impossible to go. But the limit should be transformed into a border, an element of transition generating opportunities. A place where special relations can be established, inspired by unusual situations where creative forces and needs mingle and produce new answers. And Corviale will find them.