What is the Mediterranean? It is a thousand things together. It is not a landscape, but it is countless landscapes. It is not a sea, but it is a succession of seas. It is not a civilization, but it is a series of civilizations stacked one on the other.
All of this because the Mediterranean is an ancient crossroads, which, for millennia, everything has flowed into, multiplying and enriching its history.
To understand this richness of the Mediterranean, we can consider the types of plants present today in the area. Except for olive trees, vines and wheat (which are autochthons), the other varieties all come from different parts of the world. For example, oranges, lemons and tangerines originally came from Arabic countries, aloe and prickly pears came from America, eucalyptus from Australia and so on, although all are now considered an integral part of the Mediterranean landscape.
Could we also apply this type of mapping to the people who live in the Mediterranean? There are humans living on the coast, ones working on the land and living in the internal areas, and the newcomers that arrived with the invasions.
In the natural landscape like in the human one, the Mediterranean is a system in which everything merges and recomposes into one unique unit.
The Mediterranean started to ‘live’ when the sea stopped being an obstacle and became a connection, as realistically a big civilization cannot survive and develop without an open circulation of people able to freely move around.
In the beginning of the second millennium, thanks to the new advanced techniques in the fabrication of boats, the people in the Mediterranean were able to go further than their immediate surroundings, and this allowed them to meet new cultures and start an exchange of goods, ideas, tastes, skills and techniques.
In this way a cosmopolitan culture was born which enriched the various populations of the Mediterranean.
Nowadays it seems that this very bright moment of our history is forgotten, nations behave in a more insular way and try to restrict the circulation of people around the world. As a reaction to this period of crisis, fear has driven through many people, driving the behaviour to become scared of the new or different to what they are accustomed with.
It is a sort of paradox that this closed mentality has resurged during this era: the era of the internet through which everything and everyone can be easily connected.
The root of the fear, at least most of it, comes from the difficult economic situation that many Mediterranean areas are facing.
However, could it be possible to create an economy of exchanging experiences, an economy of exchanging relationships, an economy of bartering ideas, stories and narratives? Could it be possible to give creative, social and economic value to a network based on people sharing their skills and visions, creating a multidisciplinary experience and professions?
Of course, it could be possible. But it is feasible to think that the relationships between people and the consequent relationship with the added value of their respective ideas, can be transformed into a fruitful investment to generate visions, which are very precious for all those who work and design as “experience directors”. A revolution of imagination and spaces, which involves different and unexpected interlocutors.
Within this vision and cultural context, “La Rivoluzione delle Seppie”, an active group of young international professionals operating with a transdisciplinary approach, started its cultural reactivation project in 2016, in a small village, Belmonte Calabro, on the Mediterrenean coast of Calabria (south of Italy).
The main aim is to rethink architecture through the responsible use of resources: small towns and inland areas that should no longer be considered marginal places but places of the ‘possible’.
The focus is on a provocative approach in complex contexts and on sharing knowledge in the form of ideas, designs, models and experiences.
The main purpose is to experiment a new pedagogy for all creative fields, developing formal and informal learning projects, promoting crossings and comparisons between people, including artists and academics, of different backgrounds, also thanks to a residency program, including the local community and migrants present in the area.
Through these actions, the initial working group grows exponentially, thus creating a “temporary community” of young professionals, academics, students and migrants who constantly return to Belmonte Calabro to participate in the development of the project. The interest in returning developed the need to have a place where the new community could feel at home.
Thus, in July 2019, the group started to reactivate a public building, a former nunnery, now known as “Casa di Belmondo”, a hybrid multifunctional space used by La Rivoluzione delle Seppie while they inhabit Belmonte Calabro.
With minimal architectural interventions, based on the construction of wooden and travertine floors, as well as the creation of furniture, the first floor of the Casa has been transformed into a factory of ideas, where the protagonists collaborate and share, not only ideas about Belmonte, Calabria or the society in which they live, but also on their dreams and abilities.
It is an overwhelming process in which people of different cultures and backgrounds have inspired each other and created an energy, to be defined as magical, which is difficult to fully represent through images and text.
The main aim is to look for a “home ground” between the memories of migrants who find a home in some views of Belmonte, the desire to build a new house with “superior” qualities, the desire to look at the same place but with different eyes.
Not only Belmonte, but also Belmondo.
A physical place (la Casa di BelMondo in Belmonte) and non-physical (virtual world – BelMondo) for the production, processing and transmission of ideas, processes, events, laboratories, seminars in which to conduct experiments on the relationship between man, nature, art and technology.
In this context, La Rivoluzione delle Seppie’s educational project aims at a long-term plan to describe the historic centre of the village as “living architecture”; a set of places that can accommodate the unexpected and offer usable hybrid spaces, to allow communities to appropriate it on the basis of collective needs and emerging social needs.
In this way, Belmonte Calabro became an unprecedented space of wonders, a new Mediterranean contemporary crossroad.