Sicily is one of the world’s richest resources for the study of architectural and urban environments. Since prehistoric times, it was at the crossroads of the civilizations located around the Mediterranean and in Europe. Few other regions contain evidence of Greek, Roman, Christian and Islamic cultures, their urban settlements and such prime examples of architecture from the Greek, Roman, Bizantine-Arab-Norman, and Baroque periods, all coexisting with the contemporary cities that have evolved continuously from them.
Sicily is also unique in that its geographic location as an island off the southern tip of Italy allows it to maintain a very strong cultural, as well as geographic, identity. There are reasons to believe, however, that social and economic conditions in Italy are currently creating development pressures throughout the country. These conditions are combining with new means of transportation access and with the latent development pressures within the region. Together they are likely to create in the near future a period of substantial evolution and change.
The region faces many issues in planning for its future. Important questions must be addressed concerning the value of its historic heritage and the relation of its architectural and urban environments to the evolution and change of Sicilian life. Leaders in local and national government, in public and private institutions, as well as individual citizens, should be made aware of the architectural and urban conditions in the region. They should begin to consider how these resources may enhance and serve as instruments for positive growth and development in the future.
One must conclude from the richness of past civilizations and the potential for accelerated growth and change in the near future that this is a critical time to begin study of these conditions. It is a time of unique opportunities, opportunities that should not be missed.
The Harvard Graduate School of Design is pleased to have been invited to share such an opportunity with its research and teaching abilities, and to participate in the process of learning about Sicily’s remarkable architectural and urbanistic past, to understand its present development dilemmas and potentials, and to contribute ideas for an harmonious and intelligent growth and development.
Harvard University Graduate School of Design