The History of Agrigento workshop

  • Where

    In the Valle dei Templi of Agrigento

    With the construction of three coverings in the Valle dei Templi of Agrigento, the management of the Park Agency is carrying out an experimental action which can produce innovation in the context of archaeology.

  • AxA

    Three pavilions for covering archeological excavations

    “Architecture x Archeology” is a co-joint workshop held at the Parco Archeologico Valle dei Templi di Agrigento, together with Tokyo University, Politecnico di Milano, and Giardini in Campo, University of Palermo, with the aim to design and build three pavilions for covering and safeguarding archeological excavations, and for protecting archeologists from atmospherical agents such as sun and rain.
    The workshop offered an up to date study about shelter structures for archeological sites. It aimed at producing modular and flexible structure adjustable to different scenarios and needs.

  • Timing

    45 days+7 days

    The workshop was divided in to two parts: the first preliminary part -45 days- took place at each respective university of the players involved. The second phase -7 days- took place on site. The first preliminary part introduced issues relating to the complexity of designing within archeological sites, applications of computational design, structural stability, and practical solutions for quick physical materialization within limited time and budget. The second part explored culture and nature of Akragas (old name for Agrigento) which served as a pretext for further exploring design for archeological sites.

  • Teams

    8 people * 1,000EUR

    Three teams, each comprised of 6 to 10 members, ultimately produced three full-scale shelters to test out their ideas, methodologies, proposals, and materials. Despite differences in use of software (Rhinoceros, Grasshopper, BIM, Autocad), principal material (wood, bamboo, stones, micro-perforated polycarbonate), fabrication method (CNC routing, manual sawing), and budget (from 1,000 EUR to 6,000 EUR, including all costs) it was possible to make comparisons and analysis during the process and later in three distinct outcomes.

  • Site

    A Unesco World Heritage

    Covering an area of nearly 1300 hectares, the park preserves an extraordinary monumental and natural heritage that includes the ruins of ancient greek city of Akragas and its surrounding landscape. Listed in 1997 as a Unesco World Heritage, the Valley of Temples is home of one of the largest archeological complex of Mediterranean area, immersed in a outstanding rural landscape punctuated by centuries old olive and almond trees. Agrigento is a major tourist centre due to its extraordinarily rich archaeological legacy.

  • Program


    Due to the complexity of the touristic fruition of Agrigento’s archeological site the workshop focused only on shelter for covering and safeguarding archeological excavations. This theme represents an unsolved issue of many open air archeological sites in Italy. In fact, archeological excavations needs a particular protection against atmospherical events that may bring back the excavations to their original conditions. Moreover, the shelter theme represents a complex theme because induces a substantial modification of the site aspect. In case of construction -besides technical problems such as anchoring the structure to the ground- the site will be inescapably changed by the addition of a new volume on the site. In this sense, the team were asked to see their respective project as a shape that merges and connects to the landscape, and not as an opposing element. The three teams tested different technical and material solutions, all respectful of the historical heritage.
    The experimented solutions were of three types:
    1) Shelter with a light structure easy to move and disassemble.
    2) Shelter with a medium-light structure easy to move and disassemble.
    3) Shelter with a medium-light structure fixed to the ground.

  • Shelter

    Palermo University and Giardini in Campo

    River Reed shelter reflects on the idea that the millenarian culture of Greek temples is strictly related to the immensity of its surrounding landscape. It is thanks to this relationship with the landscape if the ancient culture can transmit its values to future generations despite the fact that the maintenance of current archeological park, it is not a shared value promoted by local politics.

  • Process

    Readymade experimentation

    While the two previous shelters were designed during the preliminary phase, the Giardini in Campo follows in the category of readymade experimentation since it was designed and built during the workshop construction week.

  • Issues

    Integration with the landscape

    The shelter responds to the following issues: it protects from heavy rain, hail, rain-off and erosion; it provides shade during excavations and to the general public. Thanks to use of local materials, it offers a high degree of integration with the landscape, moreover it is reversible and economical.

  • Idea

    The Valley

    The shelter takes inspiration from archetypical shape of the two pitch rural houses in Sicily: the roof height and inclination can be adjusted to different needs.
    The project aims at a bare essentiality. Nevertheless, it solves decisive issues such as the immediate possibility to adjust to uneven ground conditions. Moreover, the team decided to use a camouflage technique thanks to which the shelter almost melts into the landscape. This was partly possible thanks to the use of river reed collected in the Valley itself.

  • River

    Arundo donax

    The river reed (Arundo donax) is a constructive element that characterizes the local construction culture. The reed is inextricably linked to the river Akragas which gave its name to the Greek colony. The reed has been used for centuries for fencing rural plots, as material for simple roofing, and as constructive material in sandwich walls. Very common in this area, the river reed is flexible and can be found at nearly zero costs. In the past 50 years river reed was replaced as a building material by synthetic materials which has resulted in an overpopulation of reed in the majority of Sicilian rivers and it has caused damage to the ecosystem. In order to optimize the structural performances and to minimize the size of the structure, the shelter is made of a 5×5 cm width profile in Corten steel.

  • Corten

    The structure

    The structure has been designed to be packed in flat boxes which are easy to move and it weighs just 103kg for a module of 9 s.qm. The reeds are prepared in advance and are assembled with the Corten structure in a easy way. The structure could be easily disassembled by archeologists themselves.

  • Credits

    Thank you!

    Valle dei Templi Archeological Park: Giuseppe Parello, Carmelo Bennardo, Calogero Liotta, Giuseppe Amico, Michele Bevilacqua, Antonio La Gaipa, Roberto Sciarratta.
    Instructors: Marco Imperadori, Andrea Vanossi (Milan Politecnico), Salvator-John A. Liotta, Yuta Ito (University of Tokyo) Fausta Occhipinti, Nicola Scaramuzzi, Giorgio D’Anna (Associazione Giardini in Campo) Students: Pietro Giamei, Antonella Colistra, Giorgio Ratti, Celeste Simone, Ilenia Di Maria, Viria Parisi, Maria Minardi (AkragaShelter).
    Eugene Kiang, Kaoru Yamaoka, Kosuke Nakakura, Salvatore Vinciguerra, Luisa Lo Faro, Antonio Carmisano, Tommaso D’Angelo, Michele Piccolo, Federico Macedonio, Marina Tedesco (Molecular Shelter).
    Andrea Cona, Gioele Farruggia, Stella Giordano, Marco Geraci, Claudio Moncada, Alessandra Gallo, Cristina Bontempo (Bamboo Shelter).
    Scientific Advisors: Kengo Kuma, Marco Imperadori, Salvator-John A. Liotta, Jun Sato. Organization: Laps Architecture, Paris, Fabienne Louyot; Atelier 2, Milan, Valentina Gallotti. Contractor: DIPARC- Vito e Michele D’Anna
    Supported by: JSB program funded by JIA and AIJ-Architectural Institute of Japan, FARM Cultural Park-Favara.