Concrete Favourite: The Grand Cretto of Gibellina

The land art piece Cretto di Burri, also known as Grande Cretto, is a concrete memorial of monumental proportions.

After the Sicilian town of Gibellina was flattened by the Belice earthquake of 1968, the mayor invited artists, architects and designers to propose a New Gibellina approximately 18 kilometers away. One of these artists was Alberto Burri, who instead of forming conventional proposals decided to memorialize the old city. Burri did this by pouring white concrete over the ruined landscape leaving meandering cracks.

 

 

The concrete slabs measure 10-20 meters on each side and 1.6 meters high spliced with 2-3 meter wide walkways that allow wanderers to experience the lost city in its original layout. Funding depleted in 1989, putting the project on pause after four years. Burri passed in 1995, never finishing the work. For Burri’s 100th anniversary, the Burri Foundation finished the piece, encasing a total of 8 000 sq. meters of land using 120 000 sq. meters of concrete.

As seen from photographs of Cretto di Burri today, it is no longer white and continual exposure to weather has begun a process of creating new ruins. Whether Burri's choice of material was conscious of this or not, its strong messages of memorial will remain. The scale, colour, and labyrinth layout contrasts the hillside creating an incredible visual from afar. One can only imagine being in and among the ruins is at once mesmerizing and disorienting.