I am standing in the European countryside, surrounded by lush orchards, the smell of citrus blossoms, rolling green hills…and about 20 acres of concrete. This arrangement of massive cement structures around me is actually a memorial, built in the late 20th century after a devastating earthquake rocked this region in the 1960s, reducing the town that once stood here to rubble. These huge cement bases are laid out to form a footprint of the original town, and travelers who come to awe at this huge outdoor sculpture can walk the labyrinth, remembering the victims and listening to the silence of a ghost town.
The artist who created this work was a native of the country, and he defined the project as “archaeology of the future,” something that would be just as much a testament to the survivors and the generations to come, as to the memory of the victims of the quake. To build the individual structures, the artist gathered the rubble from the ruins, which included various household items like clothes, toys, and wine bottles, compacted it, then covered it all with white cement. Each resulting structure stands at 1.6 meters tall, forming a sort of stunted, sloping cityscape. The paths between the squat buildings are quite wide, and much of the cement around me is run deep with cracks; I can only imagine the lively town that once stood here.
The survivors of the quake rebuilt a new town about 18km away, and named it after the old one, which was originally settled in the 14th century. The new town is well known for its collection of commissioned public art pieces that are scattered throughout the streets. The artist who built the memorial on the ruins was in fact initially commissioned to create a piece to add to the collection in the new town, but was apparently so moved when he saw the ruins firsthand, he decided to build this memorial instead.
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