Case Study


The 1980 Irpinia earthquake, which struck on November 23, 1980, was a devastating seismic event that occurred in southern Italy, specifically affecting the Irpinia region situated within the Campania and Basilicata regions. With a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale, this earthquake had far-reaching and tragic consequences. The case study of Irpinia straddles both the ‘Mitigation/Adaptation’ stage and the ‘Preparedness’ stage of the Hazard Management Cycle, but the REPLACE project will interrogate whether Irpinia has fully gone through both the ‘Response’ and ‘Recovery’ stages of the cycle for all the stakeholders of the community and evaluate where 3D Technologies can be optimised to make these processes more impactful.

Senerchia, Mozilla Hubs. Credits: The Virtual Experience Company and Studio Miràl

Senerchia, 3D virtual reality experience. Credit: ThinkSee3D

The earthquake led to a staggering loss of life, causing the deaths of approximately 2,483 individuals. In addition to the fatalities, thousands of people were injured, and tens of thousands were left without homes due to the widespread destruction caused by the seismic forces.

The process of rebuilding was also problematic in Irpinia, with accusations of bribery and fund mismanagement, which resulted in a much-reduced recovery spend for the communities affected by the earthquake. The aftermath of the earthquake prompted substantial changes in Italy’s approach to building codes and disaster preparedness strategies. The 1980 Irpinia earthquake holds significance as one of Italy’s most lethal seismic events. It exposed vulnerabilities in the construction practices of the region and highlighted deficiencies in emergency response systems. Consequently, the disaster spurred advancements in seismic research and policies to better prepare for and mitigate the impacts of future earthquakes. 


In Senerchia after the earthquake, the centre of town was moved, and the remains of the old town are still visible as ruins on the edge of the new town.
In the summer of 2023, REPLACE teamed up with BRACI for an exhibition entitled “Radici ed Ali: Storie, Oggetti e Persone raccontano Senerchia”/ “Roots and Wings: Stories, Objects and People tell the story of Senerchia”. The result was series of films that uncover the community’s deep connection to their place, and the memories and stories they have from it.


The town of Conza has an interesting instance of community led heritage activism, in the shape of an old water tower. The tower represented a sort of emancipation for the towns’ women when it was built in the 1950s, by bringing water into their homes and stopping the need for collecting water gathered from outside. The tower was visible from far away and indicated a return to home when people returned to the town.
Whilst much of the town was destroyed by the Earthquake in 1980, the water tower was relatively undamaged. Nevertheless, as part of the clean-up operation the tower was pulled down, against the wishes of the local community. At a similar time, a diorama of the town in the local museum lost its model of the water tower, lending to the local legend that the civic authority was determined to remove the water tower from the map altogether.

Irpinia today

These places are not only those of reconstruction, but also those of non-reconstruction, of ruins, as in the case of Senerchia relocated beside the old town. Post-earthquake generations, born in the immediate pre- or post-earthquake period, have experienced wounded spaces as uncanny places to explore. They do not hold memories on when they were ‘authentically’ intact (i.e., before the earthquake). Reconstructing such spaces means to destroy the post-earthquake’s generations memories of those places. REPLACE want to avoid a solution that heals one generation yet wounds another other. Creating a collective and inclusive research initiative, encompassing the perspectives of the young (post-) and elderly generation (the pre-earthquake), who tend to lean towards a nostalgic viewpoint and are prominently featured in the media’s earthquake narrative, constitutes a significant endeavour. REPLACE’s efforts aim to acknowledge the diverse range of connections people have to their surroundings, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of the many facets of place and trauma/recovery.

Senerchia, 3D model of a cow bell. Credit: The Virtual Experience Company

Senerchia, Mozilla Hubs. Credits: The Virtual Experience Company and Studio Miràl

Senerchia, 3D virtual reality experience. Credit: ThinkSee3D