Learning from Ascoli Piceno- A City Cast in One Mould

Monolithic building shells are very popular currently. After years of 'anything goes‘, more and more architects are relying on a limited number of materials and surfaces, to convey atmosphere and power to their buildings. Archaic simplicity and concentration on the essentials are the architectural interpretation of ‘simplify your life‘. The discussion can be extended to urban development: How many different materials can a town handle? When does lively diversity become disoriented chaos? Numerous attempts to impart quarters with an own identity by using uniform materials for their creation were carried out in the 20th century: the EUR quarter in Rome of the 30s, the exposed concrete capital Chandigarh of the 50s and the terracotta façades of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin of the 90s. While these examples are characterised by a restriction to a limited period of time, there is a town in Central Italy that presents its entire history of 2000 years by means of a single material: Ascoli Piceno, built in travertine. Like a carpet, the porous, lime-based natural stone has covered bridges, towers, theatres, churches and palaces of various styles and epochs, since Roman times. The word ‘carpet’ is not strictly appropriate however, because buildings in Ascoli Piceno were built out of solid stone until the 20th century.
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