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Landscape and productive community

The Amalfi Coast is an extraordinary example of Mediterranean landscape

Italy Vietri Sul Mare


Vietri sul Mare SA Italy

Elvira Peduto


In 1992, the Amalfi Coast was included by UNESCO in the 'Cultural Landscape' category as "an extraordinary example of Mediterranean landscape with exceptional natural and cultural scenic values resulting from its theatrical topography and historical evolution," and in 1997, it was selected as one of the sites included on the World Heritage List, recognizing the cultural value of the area’s anthropization. Anthropization is nothing more than man's intervention in the natural environment, with the aim of adapting and transforming it, necessarily modifying it. The transformation of the area includes the architecture, from the vernacular structures of anonymous builders of barrel vaults perched on the slopes of the Monti Lattari, to those of the more famous and knowledgeable builders of majolica domes, to the most recent twentieth-century adventure: the Ceramica Artistica Solimene, established by philosopher architect Paolo Soleri. The many studies and writings on his work are well known, but in this context, we are interested in reflecting on the intelligent use of the local product as a factory covering. Leaving aside the technical issues, I would like to focus on the evocative value of the façade. While at the beginning of the twentieth century the chimneys were still the architectural witnesses of the ceramic activity, together with the mills, the clay settling tanks, the change of technologies and fuels and the industrialisation of the processes, the presence of kilns in the residential fabric was reduced and decentralized. In the early 1950s, in Piazza Matteotti, a belvedere and crossroad for the Amalfi coast, the shops’ majolica panels became denser, the stretch of state road bypassing Corso Umberto I was built and at the same time, work began on the port of Salerno. These years, full of ferment, saw the birth of architecture that would in some way become the new gateway "to the land of ceramics." Perhaps this image would have been emphasized by the construction of the overpass that was supposed to be the entrance to the sales area, designed by Soleri but never built. Hence, the image of the city changed, but within the Solimene factory, the architecture found a new way of expressing the principal local activity’s presence, and the community recognizes its evocative power. This presence mutually influenced the citizens' taste and sensitivity towards ceramics in the urban context. For example, two striking examples are the majolica factories along Via De Marinis leading to Cava de’ Tirreni, whose structures are covered respectively with flakes and spikes predominantly in copper green, and much more discreet examples, as seen in the most “intimate community” spots. From the second half of the 1950s to now, majolica is increasingly present in the cityscape. If domes, a few votive plaques and some ecclesiastical pavements existed previously, paving and panellings began to appear along historic routes climbing up the hamlets and shared by fragments of the community: coloured strips of “spaccato vietrese” which help to keep the old, steep flights of stairs clean. Often, it is the tangible result of family or friendship relations that, at little expense, have made it possible to revitalize and maintain small gorges hidden from most people. Since the nineties, the administrations have taken on this task, sensitized not only by the feelings of the local community, but also, and perhaps even more so, by the political debate arising around the protection of traditional national production, which raged with the globalization of the market; a debate, that in the ceramics sector, led to Law 188/90 for the Protection of Artistic and Traditional Ceramics and Quality Ceramics via the institution of the CAT and CQ marks. From then on, in Vietri sul Mare, as well as in other municipalities with ancient ceramic traditions, furnishings in majolica, stoneware, etc. are requested and provided for when planning public works - - but they are also scattered around, taking advantage of small cleaning and maintenance projects; sometimes at the request of citizens, sometimes to celebrate the skill of some local craftsman. Thus, in a back-and-forth volly of suggestions, the landscape changes according to the technical and humanistic directions that the community slowly takes on. Yet, the crux of the problem remains the same and remains unresolved: how can we make the anthropization of this delicate and fragile habitat as low-impact as possible without turning it into a museum or a Disneyland? How can the environment be made more liveable for those who live there and more welcoming for those who visit? How can ceramic production be made structurally compatible with the country dimension in a context of tourism, but also the neighboring metropolitan area? 


Street furniture project and detail, Botteghe F.lli Liguori pottery, Raito, Vietri sul Mare
Solimene factory facade and detail, Vietri sul Mare
Gennaro Gallo fountain, Laboratorio Cassetta, Vietri sul Mare 1981
Street furniture project, Villa Comunale Via Enrico De Marinis - Vietri sul Mare


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