Thursday, June 2, 2011

Giornale Pugliese III: Masseria

Watercolor by Hallie Cohen

Architectural legacies are more often than not caused by existential conditions that are the result of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Puglia, which is known as the heel of Italy, is positioned in such a way that historically made it vulnerable to invasions. For instance, it’s only 150km from Albania. Turks, Berbers, Normans and Lombards have all left their mark, a fact that’s dramatically evidenced as one travels through villages of Puglia, where the presence of olive skinned residents in one village contrasts with the blond-haired, blue-eyed anomalies in another. The advent of masserie, or fortified farmhouses, which dot the countryside of Puglia and which in some cases have been turned into luxury hotels, exemplifies how the locals once dealt with both foreign aggression and a rugged, arid landscape. A masseria was usually built over caves, which provided cover for a standing army as well as storage for the property’s mill products and an area where pressed olives could be turned into oil. Masserie once epitomized what now might be termed sustainability, in that they were elaborate agricultural sites that met the needs of the local populace, even transporting water in from other provinces via aqueducts. Puglia’s forward-looking energy policy, based on the use of solar power, is undoubtedly the result of survival techniques that were passed down from generations of Pugliese who grew up in these masserie.

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