WT 2020/21 | ritrova.riesi

  View over the City of Riesi Copyright: © Chiara Erhardt and Luca Steinert

ritrova.riesi | Impulses and Action Strategies for the City of Riesi

Master's Thesis by Chiara Erhardt and Luca Steinert

Riesi is a small town in inland Sicily and belongs to the province of Caltanissetta. For a long time, the town was known for its sulfur mining industry, which brought relative prosperity to the town until the 1960s. Today, Riesi is one of the places in Europe experiencing a high level of emigration and facing vacancies. Thus, from about 20,400 inhabitants in 1930, about 10,000 inhabitants still remain in the town in 2020. The economic pillars of the town and the surrounding area lie primarily in agricultural businesses, in addition to services.

In this project, the focus is on the process: After two years of dealing with Riesi, a targeted research question was formulated in 2020. What contribution can architecture offer as a component for possible action strategies for a shrinking city? It became clear that architectural designs in dealing with abandoned buildings must be embedded in an overall strategy in order to have an effect "beyond themselves".

During the course of industrialization, as the major cities of Europe developed into important industrial centers, growth was considered the universal pattern of urban development. Today, this thesis still shapes the discussion of Western urban development, which always assumes unrestricted growth, although smaller cities have been shrinking in peripheral areas at least since the transition from Fordism to post-Fordism.

Since conventional, growth-oriented concepts for shrinking cities cannot be effective because the basic prerequisite – economic growth – is not met, an alternative approach was chosen.

Centro Culturale Canale and Cineteatro Italia
The design is concerned with the reactivation and expansion of the abandoned 1920s cinema into a cultural center for the city and the development of the surrounding Canale neighborhood. As a prelude to the design landscape, a new building joins the spine of the city at the top of the adjacent staircase. A round tower, which is prominently adjacent to the new building, stands out prominently from the surrounding buildings and serves as a landmark for the site.

It is meant to embody the city's spaces of similarity and bring to life the place that has become a non-place today. As a mediator between the landscape and the city, it strengthens its backbone and recovers for the city a central public space.

Palazzo Cappadona and the Cortile degli Archi
The design treats the site of the original Palazzo Cappadona in the center of Riesi. Of the original form, only the northern wing remains, while the southern and western parts of the building have been rebuilt and partially collapsed. The design provides for the connection of these three parts. The aim of the intervention is to make the historical value of Palazzo Cappadona visible again and, through an addition, to turn an element of the city center into an interactive space and strengthen urban publicity. Due to the proximity to Piazza Garibaldi, it is possible to benefit from this existing impulse and strengthen its radiance for the center.

The German language version of the online publication of the master's thesis is now available on RWTH Publications.



Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Anke Naujokat (Examination)
Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Anne-Julchen Bernhardt (Co-Examination)
Dipl.-Ing. Architektin Verena Hake