Forte Dossaccio

Design: Consolidamento strutturale e recupero del Forte Dossaccio . Werk Dossaccio
Architect: Prof. Arch. Paolo Faccio
Public Administrator : Arch. Sandro Flaim
Design coordinator : Arch. Michela Favero
Building contractor: Impresa Moletta
Location: Paneveggio (Predazzo, Trento)
Time of construction: 2011 – 2014
Client: Provincia Autonoma di Trento
Steel profiles for doors and windows: Palladio SpA, Treviso
Photos: Studio Prof. Arch. Paolo Faccio
The restoration work to Forte Dossaccio falls within a much broader series of projects to recover the sites commemorative of the Great War. The one in question is an Austrian-Hungarian military fort at 1838 meters asl. on Mount Dossaccio near Predazzo, in the province of Trento.

The restoration work to Forte Dossaccio falls within a much broader series of projects to recover the sites commemorative of the Great War. The one in question is an Austrian-Hungarian military fort at 1838 meters asl. on Mount Dossaccio near Predazzo, in the province of Trento. The fort was the defence against the incursions from the east, and part of the so-called “Panevaggio  sottosbarramento” (sub-defences – ed.), which in turn was part of those of Passo Rolle, in the vast Austrian fortifications along the Italian border.

The evocative strength and human and historic testimony were the driving force even when it was first built, and continued throughout the hard war years of plunder and abandon, and were still stubbornly present in later periods when it was restored to new life. For example consider the site phases: a site of this nature at such a height requires scrupulous organization for the material supplies, and a very precise logistics study of the time needed to physical manage the site.

A civil society is one that conserves its memories and passes them on, and these two themes give form to the project – first – and the site after. The project architect, Prof. Paolo Faccio, emphasises the fact that there is always the risk, in trying to draft the project and then organize a site of such complexity, of giving our future generations a mock-up that has had all its distinctive nature removed, and which is endowed with uses and meanings that are often out of place and have nothing to do with the real nature of the buildings and location. The research for sustainability in its transformation, both as the construction and context, is a guideline for both method and concept. It is a mediation and on-going negotiation process between requests for defence and conservation, and the promotional needs to ensure an effective social and economic management of the protected assets, i.e. the fort and its accessories.

An example of this is the difficulty in following a logic that wants a fort at such a high level, historically built using technological components designed for military use – Spartan and minimalist materials – to be converted into a museum with the interiors regulated by sophisticated heat-hygrothermal and lighting systems, with routes that are totally accessible and safe for the visitors, visitors who might come here in large numbers in vehicles with no form of control over their number and potentially damaging for the natural resources. This is definitely not the logic that should characterize the adventure of restoring the fort, and the project began with that awareness in the forefront.

Forte Dossaccio was already technically old and out of date when it was built in military terms, but nevertheless it englobes a precise moment in the important transition in building methods. It is one of the last examples of a construction using traditional materials, like wood and bricks. The first new materials were beginning to appear at that time, like concrete and steel, and relatively new building methods as well. Therefore experimental building in method but obsolete for military function, and in fact the fort was soon abandoned, emptied and despoiled of whatever could be used as building materials, until it was reduced to a ruin and taken over by the surrounding nature.

What possible use could it have? Here a series of images help: the view from the wall, with breathtaking routes for visitors, with the apertures over the distant horizons, the bridge overlooking the site which was traditionally an observation point against the enemy spies, the entrances obtained through the gaps.

Inside, the fort is similar to a Piranesian machine: a large vaulted ceiling double-height room, where the strong lights alternated with the virtually totally dark spaces create a great scenic machine. The unique nature of Forte Dossaccio can be found here: << (…) skeleton of a war machine, a carcass that has become vital and immortal from its corruption, its progressive changing and naturalization. A fort where the memories of the Great War are relived in mental itineraries, not so much from the various finds, but the sequences of ritual spaces like the sentinels’ walk, the passage of the officer to the troops’ dormitories, the handover to the cell and the journey of the munitions to the shooting point.

The recovery project entails illustrating and giving tangible form to the itineraries of our memory, with a series of routes that grant access and new views inside the fort. The entrance should be along a panoramic bridge and a walkway on the wall. The use of reinforced landfills and supporting stone and concrete walls has enabled strengthening the unstable conditions of the various supports for the new walkways and structures, defending the identifying function as the true essence of a greater part of the elements in the fort.

One of the themes in the project was to integrate the large missing parts, especially the gun holes, which were seriously damaged with a lot of the original metal parts removed. The project guideline was not to pursue a formal reconstruction, nor one focused on the original materials. Rather the project had to satisfy more profound requests: << (…) the large carcass had acquired all the charm of the old abandoned fort, empty, the only main material was stone. (…). Steel, concrete and wood are the chosen materials, all with a single declination to integrate and characterize the work .

All the metal structural elements, the steel frames, the metal cladding sheets (of the same size as the large blocks of stone in the previous walls, and clear reference to the technological memory found in the large metal shields that protected parts of the wall facing the enemy front), all have a uniform burnished surface treatment. The question of integration is also seen inside the fort: the structure of the new vertical links, using pressure-bent micro-perforated sheet with an open structure, so that the original stairs can still be seen. The considerations regarding the confines must now be made, those contacts between the original and the new structures. The relationship between old and new is given by shifting the two floors, studying the paint to obtain chromatic uniformity in order to clearly identify the new but without ever losing the overall vision of unity.

Marina Cescon
Acciaio Arte Architettura 61