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From Abandoned Prison to Contemporary Art Hot Spot

By Matthew Phenix

Jan 19, 2018

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Built around 1498, the Fortress of Santa Caterina sits 1,030 feet above the village of Favignana.

Courtesy of Young Architects Competitions 

Built around 1498, the Fortress of Santa Caterina sits 1,030 feet above the village of Favignana.

The winner of this architecture contest will lead an artistic rebirth of Sicily’s 500-year-old Fortress of Santa Caterina.

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On the highest point of the rugged island of Favignana in southern Sicily looms the derelict Fortress of Santa Caterina. This former prison, with views of the Mediterranean that no prisoner could possibly deserve, has been abandoned for a century, but the international Young Architects Competitions organization aims to change that. Working with the Italian government and the Municipality of Favignana, the YAC has launched the “Art Prison” competition, for which fresh architecture talent from all over the world will submit plans for this 500-year-old compound’s triumphant second act—as a contemporary art museum.

The goal of the contest is to reimagine Santa Caterina (the fortress and eponymous peak on which it stands) as a sprawling, multipurpose art center in the idiom of the groovy Kröller-Müller Museum in The Netherlands and Japan’s Benesse Art Site Naoshima. According to the competition organizers, designs should include luxury hotel accommodations, a working art atelier, exhibit spaces, and a high-end restaurant where “star chefs will reinterpret local tradition.” And teams are expected to incorporate the entire property into their proposals, including the mile-long switchback footpath that leads to the town below.

Teams can envision alterations to the fortress, but no buildings may be demolished.
All of this will be no small feat. If the pictures don’t make it obvious, this place is rough. And probably haunted. It’s also considered structurally unsound and, as such, unavailable for site visits (although daring tourists have been making the zigzag trek up Santa Caterina for years and most have lived to write about it on TripAdvisor).

Competing teams—at least one member of which must be under the age of 35—will submit their designs to a panel of architectural heavy-hitters, including Daniel Libeskind of Studio Libeskind, Manuel Aires Mateus of Aires Mateus, Felix Perasso of Snøhetta, and João Luís Carrilho da Graça of Carrilho da Graça Arquitectos. And the big winner, to be announced on April 30, will pocket a cash prize of €20,000 (about US$25,000). Registration is open; the entry fee is €75. Pertinent dates, rules, 2-D and 3-D renderings, and a pile of photographs are available here
The “Art Prison” contest will have a winner on April 30. What happens after that is, for now, anyone’s guess.

H/T ArchDaily

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