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Piazza D’Armi


Architecture, Urban Design


# theaters, #parks


International design competition "Piazza d’Armi urban park"


Ilias Fragkakis, Paola Branciaroli, Michelle d'Amico , Francesco Girasole


Comune dell’Aquila


L'Aquila, Italy


The design approach used in the development of the urban area of  “Piazza d’Armi”,  has been conditioned by the disastrous seismic event of 2009 in the city of L’Aquila. The area of Piazza d’Armi, strategically located near the motorway exit, as well as ringed along the main roads that lead to the historic center of the city, represents the ideal space to redefine a place that belongs figuratively and functionally to the urban structure of the city.

The main element of the design strategy aimed at guaranteeing, even after a calamitous event, the efficiency of the entire system in an emergency, in the socio-economic recovery, and in collective memory conservation. Managing the organizational complexity of a system capable of responding effectively to ordinary and emergency conditions raises the issue of re-programming the collective space in a meaningful way.

Configuring collective spaces that integrate the characteristics of efficiency and quality with those of safety, improve the overall behavior of the system in ordinary and emergency situations.

After a deep analysis of the urban structure and its organization in everyday and hazardous situations, the design hypothesis identifies the urban space of Piazza d’Armi as the nerve center of  a network.  This area can guarantee the functioning of the urban structure in all conditions. We ensure that these are not, as often happens in emergency plans, abandoned areas that cannot be used, but complex multifunctional spaces, compatible with daily activities, with which the population can become familiar and re-discover a renewed sense of belonging. 

These new community places are not intended as single isolated episodes but part of a network of places and paths on territorial scale capable,  to provide public services and also host events on a regional or extra-regional scale and boost tourism by integrating traditional itineraries with new circuits. 


Gordon. Phases of the reconstruction

Gordon diagram in EMA “Emergency Management Agency” has been directly translated to real “morphology”, a hierarchical network of infrastructured lots, in which each lot represents a municipality in the province of L’Aquila. Some of the municipality’s characteristics and peculiarities that have to do with the culture, the local landscape materials, and characterizing elements become the theme of each lot, as well as an instrument for promoting individual local cultures. These lots are designed in a “zero” configuration, a degree that can be implemented by the respective municipalities: this “adoption” mechanism could guarantee an increase in the quality of the park thanks to the sharing of management / maintenance with the municipality of L’aquila.



Legend narrates that 100 Abruzzo “castles” gathered to found the city of L’Aquila. Each “castle” had to found a square, a church, and a fountain in the city but, at the last moment, a castle thought better of it and pulled back. The other 99 “castles”, however, decided to found the city anyway.

After April 6, 2009, the city of L’Aquila, and the entire province, must be re-founded: the strategic project for Piazza D’Armi offers a great opportunity.

This space, in fact, could become a symbol of post-disaster reconstruction and recovery and is a candidate to be identified as the central place of life in L’Aquila, starting precisely from the importance that itself had during the emergency. This familiarity, in fact, becomes an important element that encourages the social reintegration of citizens, the resumption of normal daily activities, and facilitates their sense of safety.

Just as L’Aquila was founded by 99 castles, in the same way Piazza d’Armi will be redeveloped by 108 municipalities with the addition of spaces dedicated to Australia, which volunteered to contribute to the implementation of the urban intervention. 

Park views
Terrain sections
Erviromental solutions

The fulcrum of the entire composition is represented by the theater which is built under a triangular roof, and consists of the great hall, the stage machine (device designed for the production of theatrical effects, such as rapid scene changes, lighting, sound effects, and illusions), the stage, the dressing rooms, the public services, and a covered market square. A large part of the tip of the triangle is designed as a warehouse serving the theater, the park, and the civil protection for setting up in emergency conditions.

The theater has been chosen to be partially underground, witch limits the volumetric impact, guarantees greater acoustic insulation, does not take away space from the park, and creating a sort of “belvedere” through its roof garden. The additional services required to be annexed to the theater (bar, bookshop, literary café, restaurant, etc.) are positioned on the roof, offering great panoramic view at the landscape. The theater is designed to be able to create a stage with a dual front: internal (theater), external (outdoor events), using the same scenic machine and the open space in front of the theater.

Structurally, the roof is designed to have an independent seismic behavior: it rests directly on the walls against the ground, and, not burdening the underlying structures, guarantees considerable safety in a seismic event. The theater is, in fact, designed to be one of the safest buildings within the emergency plan. The volumes below the large roof are, also “isolated” from the ground, creating an overall “safe” underground tunnel that can be used in the event of a disaster as a gathering space (safe covered public space).


The public parking designed for 400 cars, taking advantage of the natural slope, is completely underground for the first part and uncovered on the side towards the square and towards the theater. The parking lot has no walls, but a green facade consisting of expanded metal on which grow climb plants capable of filtering the air.

Administration office

The building designed to offer social and management services is built on the roof of the parking. The offices are designed with a double skin bioclimatic facade, for maximum indoor thermal comfort.

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