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ADS12: Melee

Francesca Paola Beltrame

Francesca is a spatial practitioner based in Rome, whose work lies on the crossroads of architecture and art. Her practice is research-led and focuses on the potential of addressing governmental policies through design solutions, experimental materials and new techniques that protect ecosystems and communities. Her work is driven particularly by media experimentation and draws inspiration from the biosphere and other disciplines such as moving image, performance and sculpture. In 2019, Francesca graduated with a BSc in Architecture from the University of Bath and worked for one year at Foster+Partners in London before joining the Royal College of Art MA Architecture programme. Prior to that she has collaborated on projects at Husos Arquitectos in Madrid and Aim architecture in Shanghai.


Degree Details

School of Architecture

ADS12: Melee

“First arose Chaos”(1) explores the tension between mystical and rational; a notion embodied by our proximity to volcanic landscapes. What are Sicilians willing to tolerate by living under such a sublime force? By anthropomorphizing the volcano, inhabitants of such areas have developed rituals and traditions which have brought them into complete coexistence with nature. Local testimonies from witnesses of eruptions reveal both their fascination and fear. What sets these individuals apart from other communities is the acceptance of risk and the abandonment of hierarchical relationships with nature. After collecting testimonies from eruption witnesses across time and space, I understood that the key to living under a volcano is to trust its signals. The visual imagery narrates the collision between the home and volcano, imbuing domesticity into apparently inhospitable environments. 

For the 2021 WiP show I chose to present my current research. I have been experimenting with volcanic materials and retracing important trajectories happening around Mount Etna. From religious precessions in Catania, to transhumance trails crossing the volcano. I am interested in engaging with the local traditions and its preservation in time both in terms of inhabitation and production in such a high risk area. 

(1) Hesiod, The Theogony

Archive of architectural elements in Catania that protect from ash clouds, 2021 — (left to right) Prayer niche, overhang, via Teatro Greco, facing West, 26 km from Etna; Window tile overhang, Via della Palma, facing North-East, 25 km from Etna; Terrace door curtain and overhang, Via Santa Barbara, facing East, 22 km from Etna; Terrace door curtain, straw roll, Via Santissima Trinità, facing East, 23 km from Etna;

Volcanic Defence: wood ash, volcanic basalt, cement, ribbon, 2021 — The volcanic defence is a series of wearable sculptures that explore the feeling of threat on the boundary between the body and the landscape. Each shield is inspired by a different material and chemical quality of Mount Etna. (left to right) Pyroxene shield of Bocca Nuova summit crater, 2 kg, 56 x 42 x 6 cm; Lapillus shield of the Southern slope, 1.6 kg, 30 x 51 x 7 cm; Sulphur shield of the south-east craters, 670 g, 54 x 40 x 5 cm; Pomice shield of the lower concentric valleys, 200 g, 35 x 22 x 3cm

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Wander through dangerous landscapes, 2021 — Map of movement, production and inhabitation of the Mount Etna region. Paths: transhumance, processions, Catania to Etna Production: volcanic rock quarries Inhabitation: outline of danger zones from lower to higher risk level Wind Rose: north-western winds influence the location of the ash cloud and its impact on habitants of the region.

Future Fossil, 2021 — Animation of a speculative future fossil from Catania, Sicily. 30 x 18 x 15 cm, Basalt, plastic, clay bust, sediments
Ash rain, 2021 — (Left) Map of ash plume (right) Eruption simulation of Mount Etna. 5.8s

Mapping materiality and danger, 2021 — Model mapping the geolocation of danger zones (blue string) and volcanic materials on Mount Etna: from rocks (red outline); ash plumes trajectory (prevailing winds North-West). 17 X 20 X 2 cm, Wood ash, pomice, basalt, charcoal, string, pins

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