A study visit to Palermo, Sicily during the first year of the MArch exploring the spectral futures and hauntings of the city and nearby towns. As a continuation of the last post, this post will cover days 3 and 4 of the Palermo Visit. This time exploring the the city's intricacies much further and delving into our particular sites of interest.
During our third day of the study trip, we returned to the streets of the city, spending the morning exploring Catacombe dei Cappuccinni and Zisa Palace. In the afternoon we then began to explore more site specific areas for our own project research and to allow us to begin site investigations on possible sites for our design projects for the year.
Upon our visit to Piazza dei Cappuccini we were able to visit the catacombs, a space which felt surreal and theatrical, the ways in which the dead were positioned and "laid to rest" feeling somewhat staged and jarring and the architecture feeling more designed for the visitor rather than the dead. The space provoked a lot of ideas which act as stimuli and drivers for my design project addressing architecture for the dead. It allowed me to think about how architecture can be made for the dead and how it can improve upon the theatricized idea of death and burial. I would later return to this area for further site investigation.
Returning to the area to begin my site investigations on the context I took note of the ways in which the local area directly around the cemetery and catacombs seemed to be left to ruin and how the high concrete walls seemed to hideaway the cemetery and the dead, whilst in contrast visitors to the cemetery took great care of it, maintaining plots and keeping the space clean.
Slightly further out from the cemetery I found plenty of high density housing, but this too neglected the cemetery, views of the death spaces being hidden my tree lines, the area seemed to keep the dead and the living separate but whilst the cemetery was kept pristine the spaces for the living were littered, covered in graffiti and left to be subject to the wear and tear of the weather.
Our second visit of the day was to the Zisa Palace. On our way to the site I took note of how the city seemed to embrace it's patina, almost seeming as if it was allowing the ghosts of it's history to be told through the worn walls of it's architecture that sat between the slightly more contemporary buildings.
During our visit to Zisa Palace, I found that the internal spaces a beautiful playground that juxtaposed light and shadow as well as new and old. Varying types of fenestration or lack there of, curating the spaces and giving the palace a seemingly labyrinthian nature, one of which you could explore many times and still find something new. Meanwhile the juxtaposition between youth and age of material against the lighting created a textural experience as if you were walking through the building's history, with it allowing you to see the ghosts and skeletons of it's closet.
On Day 03 we also took a short visit to the area of Danisinni, a slightly poorer district of the city, yet so filled with character and colour. The streets were alive with the sounds of neighbors interacting, egg seller's trading their wares from the street to those on their balconies and the various urban farmlands being home to livestock such as chickens and goats.
On our last day we spent our time freely exploring the city one last time, over this time I took the opportunity to photograph the city one more time to see if I can discover any more stories that it whispered. During our casual walk we returned to Ballaro Market to souvenir shop.
Along our walk through the city, I took note of the use of dome's through prominent parts of architecture, most likely taking influence from the city's Islamic era. I also took note of a street with the name of Cagliostro, an infamous Palermitani charlatan who had links with the occult, magic and thievery. The character of this man and his links to the occult acting as inspiration for the narrator of my design project who would discover his own relationship with death through my portfolio's design narrative.
Upon our visit to Ballaro Market, the streets were alive with activity, stall owners advertising their wares and shoppers doing their groceries. There was no corner of the market without a story being told nor conversation being made.
Being early morning, the market was also alive with the activity of sellers restocking their goods, trucks and vans overloaded with wares to deliver the new goods for the day's market goers.
The tight streets of the market were some of the most interesting spaces to photograph, with the stalls framing the interactions between sellers and buyers and the coloured rooftops glowing in the presence of the market lights.
Another place we visited was the piazza in front of the courts of justice (Tribunale di Palermo), this space being one of the more contemporary looking piazzas yet one of the emptiest, many of the city's residence simply using it to pass by and the only people of note in the area were two elderly men having what seemed to be their weekly catch-up and a young boy on a vespa riding vicariously through the empty piazza.
Exploring the streets of the city on the last day of our visit, I noted all the animals that also seemed to find their home in niches of the urban grain, whether wild, stray or owned, the streets told not only the story of it's people but the marks of the animal life that also called this city their home.
Over this study trip, I discovered that Palermo was a city of age, of ghosts and of cautionary tales. The city had both beautiful stories told through the whispers of the older architecture's patina but also told tales of neglect through the ghostly hauntings of empty piazzas and graffiti covered walls.