Cittadellarte hit by the fury of the river, the update by its director Paolo Naldini
We have started quantifying the damages and analysing the state of emergency: as a precaution, the spaces of the woollen mill have been closed to the public for the weekend, but the static test carried out by the technicians is comforting since it didn’t detect immediate risks to the buildings housing the exhibitions and the offices: “At the heart of our laboratory, in search for a harmony between us and the planet, this call confirms that the work we are doing with the rest of the Biellese territory, in the name of the Third Paradise, is urgent and right,” Michelangelo Pistoletto and Paolo Naldini said with reference to the events of Friday night. Here are the updates offered by Cittadellarte’s director.

It was a dramatic weekend for the whole of the Biella area. Incalculable destruction, fallen bridges, houses that have suffered huge damages. Cittadellarte was itself hit by the extreme weather conditions of the night between last Friday and Saturday: an inconceivable amount of rain filled the river Cervo unleashing its destructive force, to the point when it swept away almost half of the lower riverside corner of the structure, that is the Hydro space and the exhibition room behind the reception. This portion of the building was a later addition to the 19th-century main body of the former Trombetta woolen mill, which has remained intact, even if as a precaution the spaces of the former factory have been temporarily closed in view of the static test. All the other areas of the Foundation, from N.O.V.A.civitas to the coworking and Third Paradise spaces, are perfectly usable. The response to the unexpected emergency was quick and effective: given the alert at about 3.00 in the morning, the evacuation was promptly carried out thanks to the intervention of the civil protection services, and to the students of Accademia Unidee, of the Residency Program and of the Master Executive. As mentioned in previous communications, the students were all taken to safety, unharmed.


The Hydro space was instead devastated by the force of the Cervo “Hydro is literally not there anymore – we read on the Facebook page of the association – the river is devouring it bit by bit, in this night of endless rain. Until the flood has subsided we won’t be able to evaluate the damage, but it’s already a lot. We know one thing though: walls crumble to the ground but we remain standing”. Hydro’s staff, despite the dramatic weekend, are already trying to reorient themselves towards a rebirth as a team: “The physical part of Hydro made of bricks and glass and cement is not there anymore,” the staff wrote, “but the other part is still here: the people, the ideas, the emotions, the desire to be together. We are meeting on Monday (today) – in line with the Coronavirus regulations – even just to talk about what happened, to see if we can push our thoughts a bit further towards the future. It’s hard to say what will happen to Hydro, but we’ll try to restart. Join us. For the occasion we are moving to the Arci space at Str. alla Fornace 8/b”.


Local and national media have given ample space to this news. Rai 3’s TGR Piemonte has reported on the extreme weather emergency in the Biellese territory, focusing on Cittadellarte (please click here to see the report). Director Paolo Naldini was interviewed about the matter. “Last Friday night the river Cervo swelled beyond belief rising to the level of the over-a-hundred-years-old structure, to the point when it swept away, with a deafening noise, 1300 square meters and most of the river bank behind me. One of the collapsed spaces housed a work by Max Casacci called “Watermemories”, paradoxically (but at the same time appropriately) dedicated to water. We have therefore lost square meters, we have lost works of art, but we have lost above all years of reconstruction”. Max Casacci himself has expressed his sympathy to Fondazione Pistoletto with a message on his Instagram page: “Besides the Hydro space, part of the building that has been destroyed by the Cervo was home to an installation I created using the noises of that same river. The river has taken its sounds back, reminding us, in case we still needed reminding, that we can’t remain indifferent in the face of the climate emergency”.

Paolo Naldini durante l’intervista al TGR.

Local media have also broadcast news about the extreme weather emergency and about Cittadellarte’s situation. In addition, Newsbiella has published two live feeds on Facebook. The first (see it here) was posted in the night between Friday and Saturday, in full emergency: the video shows Paolo Naldini and Michele Cerruti But, academic coordinator of Accademia Unidee, commenting the events in their immediate aftermath. The second one (see it here) was posted on Saturday, an opportunity for Naldini to give a first update: “Everything is under control, the evacuation was necessary and prompt. We must thank the civil protection services for their commendable work and for staying with us, together with the vice-mayor Giacomo Moscarola. It was a dramatic night: the force of the river was impressive and hearing part of the building collapse was heartbreaking. It’s not by chance that it all happened here, at the core of a laboratory dedicated to searching for a harmony with nature. It’s true that throughout history our rivers have already made their fury known on other occasions, but we can’t not perceive it as a sign. Making peace with the planet is necessary and urgent”.


Naldini goes on to make a reference to the anthropocene, the current geological era, in which the human being is deemed to be the main responsible for territorial, structural and climate change: “Scientists,” he said, “are telling us that the planet is going through a geological era dominated by our footprint, not only in terms of the progress that we have embraced with enthusiasm and that has luckily led us here, but also in terms of the regression and decline we have caused to our planet. It’s a hard lesson we have to learn”.

Paolo Naldini being interviewed by Newsbiella.

Yesterday, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Naldini also issued an official notice: “In this calamity”, they said, “we have felt the warmth of the city, from the mayor to the vice-mayor, who shared a few dramatic hours with us, to the laudable volunteers of the civil protection services and the many friends from associations and businesses that have been contacting us. At this moment, we think of the residents of the Valle Cervo and all the areas we know to have been severely hit. Throughout history, the Biellese rivers have displayed their untameable force on other occasions, but we can’t help but perceive this dramatic event as a sign nature is sending us. At the heart of our laboratory, in search for a harmony between us and the planet, this call confirms that all the work we are doing with the Biellese territory in the name of the Third Paradise is urgent and right”.
The costs of the damage and of the underpinning and roofing of the spaces are now being evaluated. As a precaution the main building was closed to the public for the weekend, but the static test carried out by the technicians is comforting as it confirms that the buildings housing the exhibitions and the offices are not damaged or at risk. Updates will follow.