From More
Supplement to the “Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno”
Of 1 July 1993

Lawrence of Arabia now comes from Matera

Forty, his revolutionary projects to make Sahara liveable have made him one of the most prestigious UN designers. A great new adventure awaits him: the legendary Petra in Jordan

By Gianluigi De Vito

The view of the Sassi is like postcards. And with the light of summer, the shadow game charms for hours. Pietro Laureano dominates the Barisano from his studio-bunker colored by beautiful Middle Eastern carpets. The rocky civilization is in front of it, majestic. The gaze is directed to those rock and tuff walls that have written the prehistory. And the story. But the mind is a thousand miles.

The Algerian palm trees of Timimoun, Shibam, New York, Yemen’s sands, its magical gardens of Bir el Azab, the sixteenth-century Pozzo dei Scapoli overlooking Sana’a’s hinterland, the embroidered rocks of Petra, Utero “Jordan of so many civilizations, and remarkably resembling the cave grottoes. What jokes does history. Matera like Petra. Matera like the green sand island islands. It’s late afternoon, tea time. He, Laureate, Lawrence of Arabia of the Two thousand, pours it three times into the small cup. How do Tuareg do. The first tea must be as strong and bitter as life, and it is for the guests. The second, for all, is sweet and aromatic like love. The third, poured before going away, is as light as death.

Lucan of Tricarico but grew up in Matera, the Desert Lords, graduates from you, calling them “brothers”. When in ’78, after graduating in
Architecture in Florence, has landed in Algeria, called by the Algerian territorial planning province to draft the new plan of the city’s oasis of Bèchar, redesigned the dreams of his life: no terraced houses, no palaces, no skyscrapers. But recovery of oases, restoration of old slopes, restoration of those long water tunnels that have made the desert green. And yes, because the adventure of the forty-year-old Indiana Jones in Matera begins right in the Sahara. He did not imagine his passion would be that he would love to reveal the secrets. Since then, he has lived in maps, books, excursions, excavations. He learned Arabic and lived with camels as with horses. He has been dealing with history, geology, and anthropology. And now he is one of UNESCO’s most prestigious urban planners for desertified areas, Islamic civilization and ecosystems. A field-earned label – for three
Years teaching at the Ecole polytechnique of architecture and urbanism at the University of Algiers – and scrutinizing between forgotten libraries of God, between historical memories as far as a continent, between dinners and banquets at the court of Hussein.

Day and night looking for another because: palm trees, labyrinths of raw earth houses, dunes, caves are really part of the kingdom of nothingness, of a desolate, empty land? Or is there another origin, another story, different from what has been known so far? In the end, the desert revealed to him the secret that would bring it to newspapers in the half-world: just a joke of nature, enough with the idea
Romantic setting of the idyllic pond surrounded by palm trees as it was a miracle. No, the oasis is not the fruit of Allah’s grace but the product
Man’s wisdom: it is the result of his ability to create a livable situation in the most hostile environment in the world. Here are the oases: the gigantic network terminals
Subterranean waterways, miles of galleries, often dug in rivers or lakes and exploited by desert populations to collect and store water from
Condensation produced by the strong day and night excursion. And there, in the Sahara, the oases are as old as the Neolithic man. The more the environment became inert, the more man digging. Hence the idea of ​​building an oasis.

When Laurean put this theory on the table of the Mammas of the culture, he dragged on their anger. In the end everyone gave credit to Indiana Jones who came from the Sassi. To the devil the legends, in the attic the theories of geographers of the century. The oracle is of the millennial poet Amadi: “Truth is hidden under the sands,” he wrote, “because whoever discovers it will be believed a madman with a sun burned mind.” Today, the desert Bible is Sahara, an unknown garden that Laureano published in 1988 for the Types of Joints. A journey told and documented with symbols, myths, technologies and cultures, and that will end up giving more than a few ideas to the screenwriters of The Tea in the Desert of Bertolucci, drawn from the beautiful novel by Paul Boweles. If Boweles inspires for the adventurous dimension in which the protagonists are projected. Laureates is inspired by the places he speaks. The first film set in the desert that “reveals” the desert comes out. But it is not the cinematic fortune to raise quotes from the UNESCO urbanist named Tunis in Damascus to restore neighborhoods, oases, gardens, caves, in the name of a rewrite story, a civilization to resuscitate, to subtract the logic Of wild cement: Tipasa in Algeria, Sana’a in Yemen, Massawa in Eritrea, Petra in Jordan, Timimoun in the Sahara.
Projects for the Third Millennium, funded by international cooperation, but above all set on respect for cultures, on the enhancement of local specificities and resources. And so, I rediscover the old tunnels redeemed by channeling water into a lake, ready to be exploited for the dough needed to erect, with raw earth, fenced garden and orchard houses.

Projects based on two key concepts: the symbiosis and the alliance alliance. The second tea, the one for the guests, aromatic and sweet as love, is about to end. After the last sip a bit of ‘philosophy’ to understand the Earth oasis. Graduates make a reason: so far, it has been taught that the evolution of mankind has occurred through the
Competition and struggle. Favoring the most
Combative, the selection process would have resulted in the evolutionary process of homo sapiens. Thesis based on theories and sciences of the nineteenth century and the great speculative systems of Darwin, Freud and Marx. Their thinking, aiding the idea that the spring of biological, psychological, or economic development is conflict, has contributed to the dominant conception of our century: the legitimization of humanity over all other species and man over other men; The right to
Plundering planetary resources; there
The belief that welfare is possible only in the unlimited growth and economic growth generated by the competition itself.

But this vision, now that biology has shown that organisms survive through the dysmenorrheal processes and alliance, is completely overturned. Complex species have evolved not destroying each other but combining their respective characters. Species do not evolve but coevolve. Communities have learned to combine resources and hunger for good use, to equip themselves for the long term. And oases are the proof of all this. At the dawn of the third millennium, then, when the whole planetary ecology is threatened by unbalanced development, the guiding conception to help the “Earth oasis” is that of intemational cooperation based on symbiosis and the alliance. Words? Sara. And the time of the third tea, that before going away, light as death. Indiana Jones pays him with the hope of returning quickly to the sandy, four-wheeled “hut” that has led him around the world in search of lost civilizations.


Now Petra will look after the “pink city”

Called by Hussein’s Jordan. The yellow of the fossil river
And the mystery of the sunset of a civilization
By Pasquale Dona

Called at Hussein’s court, how will Peter Laureano take care of Petra’s malevolence, the “pink city”? The city was founded by the Edomites, but to make it florid in the Hellenistic era, the Nabateans thought about it. Semitic people from the desert that settled between the 6th and 4th centuries BC in the area indicated by the Bible under the name of Sela. Despite the harsh climate conditions, an efficient irrigation plan and the control of large commercial traffic, especially silk and incense, provided a lasting prosperity. The easiest access to Petra is to the east, through the Siq, a 4 km long canal, high at some points up to 80 meters, at the end of which opens a large valley embellished by gigantic monuments largely excavated in the rock . The first impact is the breathtaking ones. The visitor’s eye loses between houses and palaces, theaters, stables, caravans, water lilies and tombs from rosy rock facades. It is a unique archaeological site, mythical with a thousand legends. But the attention of researchers has increased further after the deaths of 24 tourists. It seemed difficult to understand the causes of their drowning in a desert area. Then, it was discovered that the place of tragedy was a fossil river. The rare occasions that it rains, every five years on average, impressive water masses descending from the mountains at dizzying speeds gather within a few minutes slipping on the smooth walls of the gorges of access to the city. In this case he won the death, but for the Nabateans the water resource represented life. It was touched by Pietro Laureano to unveil the “yellow”. The architect will now have to work out, inter alia, a study to defend the monuments whose sandstone surfaces are threatened by a constant abrasive process. Shipment was ‘sponsored’
Unesco. “Investigations,” Laureano explains, “have left the place of disgrace. Once at a certain point, the river seems to disappear. But I found the first traces of a network that collects the water upstream and then distributes it downstream. ” The Nabatians had diverted the courses
Of the rivers with a riverbed system, and they squatted the floodplains, which had to follow a cyclical course, into underground canals. So valuable water resources were accumulated and catastrophic floods avoided.

Petra was a green city, first of all defense from its terraces and gardens. The causes of decay, for the scholar, are not
Are attributable to bloody wars and even to climatic upheavals. Alessandro failed to conquer her, and the Romans simply controlled her administratively. The climate of the area is also the same for a few thousand years. In the sunset of Petra prevailed economic reasons, linked to the diminished demand of incense and silk, and the fact that the caravans followed other tracks, increasingly attending less what had been one of the greatest emporiums in the ancient world. Similar fates were touched on other centers that based their survival on man-made ecosystems. To support artificial habitats, a large amount of resources was needed. Without diminishing the economic interests, every effort to make life in the desert acceptable was useless and impossible. For a time, Petra entered the orbit of Byzantines and Crusaders, but it was no longer the same. The last inhabitants, with a strong propensity to nomadism, soon abandoned. After the depopulation, the water system also began to crumble. “It was a real eco-catastrophe that explains many mysteries,” comments Laureano. At the same time, the corrosive action of the wind rose because the vegetation disappeared. Decreased the ability of plants to create humus, there was nothing to hold back the sand of the desert. “

Sassi among the 350 jewels of the world

The Laureano bet: put them in the UNESCO protected list of monuments. Starting point, a “museum of man and rock cultures”

And Matera? What does Matera have with discourses on the desert and on the evolution of life? Thing
There are the Sassi with the oases, with the lions of Petra in the heart of Jordan. What are they … they do. Graduates put us in for a moment
Explain it and invite you to look at the slide slides taken with the help of the companion, Astier, a gentle, gentle and lively Eritrea. The primordial origin and charm of this city excavated in the tufa and built on the degrading slopes of two large riverbed – says as the first plan runs – come from water condensation and water collecting systems similar to those made by the Sahari Neolithic, terraced,

They ride on the track to Petra. In the other photos above and in that great, spectacular squares of the city carved in stone. In the trile little photos on the other side, the Sassi of Matera and a restoration phase

From the canals and wells dating back to the Bronze Age, the large tanks and the massive underground excavation works. Thus, by applying to Sassi the same method of archaeological and environmental analysis used for archaic habitat systems in the Mediterranean, Africa and
Of the Middle Ages, it emerges that at Matera’s origins there is a seminomade, agropastoral civilization capable of condensing the necessary water in large underground tanks, of storing snow and ice in order to make real cold stores, constructing terraces And hanging gardens for the cultivation of medicinal herbs and herbs. To pull short, from the cave to the built house, from the pastoral enclosure to the tuff quarry to the urban neighborhood, Matera provides an explanation for the evolution of the architectural and urban types of our entire history.

From here, what Laureano calls a bet: insert the Sassi into UNESCO’s heritage. And to win this bet, he who has unlocked doors and ears with Unesco is giving all the energy to the bottom. The road is long. Much has been done: April 24, the six are sent
Icomos (the International Council of Monuments and Sites, an Unesco body) who came to Matera’s “mission of control” have already given the first sign up. A few days ago Icomos approved. But the last word will only take place at the end of the World Heritage Year, when Colombia’s UNESCO World Summit will meet.

Everyone thinks that the big hit will be put to the mark. Of course, for a city-periphery that points to the relocation card for tourism, it’s not too small to be included among 350 UNESCO World Heritage jewels. In Italy, in the “list of privileged” there are only the historic center of Rome, San Gimignano (Siena), the rock patterns of Val Camonica and Leonardo’s “Last Supper”, kept in Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The finish line is on the horizon. Getting to you is not impossible unless Paris (UNESCO headquarters) is certain that Matera deserves. But does it really deserve a city that since it has been one hundred billion for the valorisation of ancient quarters has done little more than opening yards, organizing river conventions and creating snooping offices?

Convincing Paris means having clear ideas and showing that a rock has been launched in the swamp of inertia. The stone is there. And to throw it, I have to say it, was Laureano, proposing a restructuring of the Sassi, which created a “Museum of Man and Rock Cultures”: a structure, to be understood, that creates, for example, an International Center for Architecture Rock and water. A kind of archive-multimedia lab on civilizations, restoration techniques, projects
Environmental enhancement, international rocky sites (from Cappadocia to the valleys of southern Arabia, to the Chinese plateaus). That is, to give Matera an international image. That is why it will take months and, above all, many interchange events that will enable the acquisition of material. In this directive it is proposed to twin – in July – the town of Sassi and Petra. But, once again, you pay for the delays of a political and cultural class that has said yes to all the proposals without rolling up the sleeves. Twinning
Risk of jumping. And Laureano now thinks of a Committee. But for him, Lawrence d’Arabia of Tricarico, the greatest joy remains to see Matera beat the Unesco flag.