Case Study

L’Aquila Earthquake

In L’Aquila, at least 308 people died as a result of the 2009 earthquake, with many more injured and many thousands displaced. As a result of an inquiry into responses to data leading up to the event, 7 people were imprisoned for inadequately forecasting the probability of a seismic event, however these convictions were later overturned. L’Aquila is deemed to be in the ‘Recovery’ phase of the hazard management cycle, focusing on clean up and rebuilding. After the quake, many people remained in temporary accommodation, whilst inquiries began into the quality of building standards. What made the buildings in the region so affected by the impact of the earthquake in a region where earthquakes are common, and quake resistant building standards should be widely followed?

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L’Aquila, 360-degree video

L’Aquila, 360-degree video

L’Aquila stands as a prime example of rapid reconstruction, having transformed into the largest construction site in Europe for an extended period.

To achieve this feat, the focus on social reconstruction took a back seat which subsequently led to recurrent social movements and grassroots mobilization efforts, such as the ‘movimento delle cariole’ (wheelbarrow movement), where groups gathered to remove debris as a form of critique against the authorities’ stagnation. During periods of building works where scaffolding was present in the town, the  scaffolding of the L’Aquila worksite was transformed into a large open-air art gallery. This project was carried out in partnership with the American non-profit ArtBridge that empowered local artists to transform and reclaim prominent urban spaces. Another instance was the ‘dei mazzi di chiavi’ (bunch of keys) protest, where thousands of individuals hung keys from their homes in the city centre as a symbolic action of dissent.

In stark contrast to the visually flawless rebuilt city, a noteworthy aspect is that while private structures have been restored, public edifices such as schools, universities, government agencies, remain untouched—retaining their appearances from the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, being left exactly as they were when shored up and secured. This situation is attributed to a combination of insufficient funds and a deliberate political decision that prioritized shifting public services elsewhere over establishing a comprehensive network of amenities and facilities to cater to the concentrated presence of major public facilities near the historic centre. These two sides of the road clearly show within a single image the reality of reopened shops in the city centre and the condition of the public building whose services were relocated to the periphery.

L’Aquila, 360-degree video

L’Aquila, 3D model of the Fountain of 99 Spouts. Credit: ThinkSee3D