STC 2019 is the first edition of the International Conference on Small Towns, which will take place on September 19th-20th 2019 in Salerno (Italy), University of Salerno, Campus of Fisciano.
The title of this edition is “SMALL TOWNS… FROM PROBLEM TO RESOURCE. Sustainable strategies for the valorization of building, landscape and cultural heritage in inland areas”.
The conference, organized by the Architectural Engineering Division - Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Salerno and supported by UNI IN STRADA, aims to share and discuss key topics related to the valorization of small towns in inland areas from the point of view of different scientific disciplines.
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The definition of smaller towns is generally attributed to villages, farmhouses as well as the inhabited centres of small Municipalities that historically are founded and develop around a church or a castle/noble palace, or by the simple aggregation of modest settlements with a typically rural nature.
Small towns ‐ distributed as many islands around castles, noble palaces or simply farms in the countryside ‐, that have characteristics of remarkable value under the historical‐architectural, naturalistic and landscape aspects. The houses are mostly simple and essential, linked to the farming world, along with other rich and lavish ones realized in order to give prestige to a noble family or a rich landowner. There are religious buildings (the church is always present), such as convents, chapels, votive niches or some proto‐industrial artifacts (like mills, ironworks, fulling‐mills, oil‐mills, etc.). What is particularly striking is the strong relationship between the building tissue and the surrounding environment: the path, the creek, the wash house, the well, the tree‐lined avenue, the boundary walls, the historic gardens, etc... all elements that have a close relationship with the building artifacts and underline the clearest and most evident meaning of the genius loci.
In these settlements, it is possible to find the authentic features of the past civilization that connote an identity that is not only linked to buildings, or more generally to artefacts, but also to the most ancient signs of the material and immaterial culture.
While the small towns located on the coasts are positively affected by tourism, with all the benefits that follow, inland, there is a problem of progressive depopulation due to various causes, including the lack of job prospects for young people, the lack of infrastructures, the logistic decentralization from the cities, the gradual abandonment of agricultural and handicraft activities. Added to this there are other factors, such as the recent economic recession, the work crisis, the changing needs of contemporary society, which have led, in the last years, to a further migratory phenomenon to the metropolises or foreign Countries. However, the smaller towns represent, as underlined, an inestimable component in the historical‐architectural, artistic and cultural panorama (unique and irreproducible evidence), as well as the historical memory and identity of entire territories.
It is necessary to intervene before the deterioration takes the upper hand, where the landscape has not been affected by irreversible transformations, where the ancient system of settlements, the structure of the cultivations, the organization of the rural routes, the original relationship between built and territory are preserved. Activating investments, organizing tourism use, creating jobs and services are probably the basic actions for the regeneration of the existing tissue, for housing resettlement and economic‐social development. It is necessary, however, to make sure that growth and development are brought back to the criteria of sustainability: the inevitable process of change, in line with current needs and consistent with the future needs, must have, among its prerequisites, the preservation of environmental values and the protection of the cultural heritage, of the landscape, of the architecture, of the archeology, as well as of the characteristics of the territory.
Scholars must propose methods and strategies to stop these depopulation and degradation phenomena that are not only the prerogative of the Italian territory, but are widespread in many other European and global realities: a constantly evolving problem that requires urgent consideration and effective interventions. In recent years, the development of small towns is becoming of great interest. These realities represent a problem, but they could become a decisive resource to face the challenges of the future, such as the rapid change of the quantity and quality of work, local and global migratory phenomena, climate change, the rational use of environmental goods, etc.