New challenges and opportunities for the reuse of abandoned religious buildings

The special online edition of the Cersaie 2020 Press Cafés, organised in collaboration with major Italian publishing houses, hosted a meeting coordinated by the editors of Chiesa Oggi, Caterina Parrello and Giuseppe Maria Jonghi Lavarini, with the vicar of the Diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla Mons. Alberto Nicelli and architect Mauro Severi, chairman of the Reggio Città Universitaria Committee.

Within the context of the recent debate surrounding the adaptive reuse of abandoned or underused places of worship, the decision to convert the former Episcopal Seminary of Reggio Emilia into a new university campus provided a fresh opportunity to reflect on the various ways in which the Church’s abandoned cultural and architectural assets can be reused. In particular, revitalising these assets can improve the city’s urban fabric while continuing to spread a religious message and maintaining the original function of the buildings as places of cultural and spiritual growth for young people.

While there are many different approaches to the reuse of abandoned religious buildings, all potential solutions must be capable of incorporating the social and cultural transformations of their various historical periods without losing their fundamental characteristics of recognisability. They must also continue to play a key role at the centre of community life through their beauty, art and sense of history.

The participants spoke at length about the project, which saw the active involvement of the entire community and key institutions, along with private companies who provided their support and financial backing. In November 2020, just 18 months after work began, the first part of the project is due to be completed with the handover of the new spaces for use as classrooms and university laboratories for around 2,000 students. Work continues on the second lot where the university campus will be located.

The theme chosen for this conversation shows that clients, architects and companies can find major work and design opportunities in the adaptive reuse of abandoned religious buildings and that this can also be an important opportunity for the ceramic industry and other companies capable of supporting sustainable and high-quality choices through their research work and technological innovation.

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November 2020