Cava del Sole

Cava del Sole

The monumental entrance to the city

Cava del Sole was the iconic location of Matera 2019: it hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the major events of the European Capital of Culture year. At Cava del Sole, in only nine months between the launch of the call for tenders (April 2018) and the inauguration of the space (January 2019), one of the city’s most important cultural infrastructures was built in record time, to seat up to 6000 people between outdoor and indoor spaces. In 2019, Cava del Sole held as many as 20 events from the official programme of Matera 2019, including shows, concerts, lectures and festivals, for a total of 31,524 admissions. In addition, 8 more events (shows, concerts, lectures e festivals) not included in the official programme of Matera 2019 were also held there.

Matera was built from the Cava del Sole: it was here that as early as 1700, the blocks of limestone tuff used to build the city were quarried. Its position along Via Appia makes it a landscape that cannot be missed by anyone travelling to Matera. Nevertheless, the quarries are commonly perceived as being something “other” than the city, hard to reach and with few visitors, even though they are only 2.5 km from the city centre. The work on Cava del Sole in preparation for Matera 2019 concentrated specifically on resolving this contradiction, between a root location and residual space, thereby restoring the strong historical identity of the Cava, intrinsically bound to the city.

Inside the Parco delle Cave, Cava del Sole is the only publicly owned quarry. The other privately owned quarries serve various functions: one is still active and used to quarry tuff, whereas Cava Paradiso, owned by sculptor Antonio Paradiso, hosts the “La Palomba” sculpture garden, and was also a protagonist of Matera 2019 as the venue for the exhibitions of the I-DEA pillar project.

Spotlighting Matera’s quarries was one of the key elements in the European Capital of Culture bid-book, which explicitly included characterizing the city as a place where history meets contemporary art. The work of the Fondazione Matera-Basilicata 2019 on the Cava del Sole facilitated the functional regeneration of an area covering more than 13,500 square metres. Cava del Sole was not only structured to become an outdoor arena, it was also outfitted with an enclosed multipurpose greenhouse space, the Serra del Sole, and a “village” featuring a series of services such as a ticket office, bar, restaurant and bicycle rental.

The spaces of Cava del Sole

“Cava del Sole is a place beloved by all citizens, but it is first and foremost a sort of cathedral celebrating work. […] That is where our understanding should begin: this is not a residual space, it is a place to work, to toil. […] The entrance portal [to the city] are the quarries. That is true both conceptually, as a place from to borrow to build the city, and physically”.
Tonio Acito, architect

The design process for Cava del Sole in view of Matera 2019 began in September 2016, with the first workshop held by the Open Design School dedicated specifically to the Cava. Fifteen professionals, including designers, architects, graphic designers, artists, artisans and engineers, participated in the workshop, and worked to develop a concept for the re-functionalization and visual identity of Cava del Sole.

This workshop, which conducted interviews with the inhabitants of Matera, revealed that most of the citizens of Matera had never been to Cava del Sole. This prompted the challenge to change the perception of the quarries as a different space and to “expand the city” by re-imagining the quarries, and Cava del Sole in particular, as an integral part of the city experience. In this perspective, an exhibition was organized at the end of the workshop, with a cycle of ethnographic walking tours open to the citizens, called “Attraverso la città: la Via del Sole” so that people could directly experience how close and easy to get to the Quarries were from the city centre of Matera. Furthermore, the Piccianello district, dating back to the 1950s, the closest to the Quarry, was involved in various regional initiatives and activities, from the workshop to build interactive installations to theatre performances in the neighbourhood church, to concerts, etc.

Based on this experience, in 2017 the Fondazione coordinated an inter-institutional panel with Mibact and the City of Matera, which made it possible to begin defining the procedural process and the design development of the renovation projects. The institutions converged in their awareness of how important the title of European Capital of Culture would be for Italy internationally, thereby making it possible for achieve such an ambitious goal in just 9 months. In April 2018, two calls for tender were launched (respectively assigned in May and July), one for the preliminary works (utility grids and public works), which began in July 2018, and one for the construction and management, with works beginning in September 2018. Despite the complexity of the project, construction ended in time for the opening ceremony on January 19th 2019, in record time for a public project of this size.

public funding from the Ministry for the Artistic and Cultural Heritage and Tourism

Both the multipurpose greenhouse and the structures built for Cava del Sole can all be dismantled, so that the quarry can be returned to its original condition, and were designed to fit harmonically into the context of the Cava. The backdrop on the Greenhouse stage is a large glass window looking out onto the space around it, and above the metal finish of its outside structure there are incisions reminiscent of the marks left on the surface of the rock by the quarrying equipment. The walls of the Cava were left untouched and no cement was poured. We also chose not to build the parking area that was initially part of the project, in order to permanently impact the surrounding landscape as little as possible and to reinforce the concept that Cava del Sole is part of the city and you can get there on foot or by bus.

Cava del Sole is reconnected to the city

The investment in Cava del Sole as one of the locations of Matera 2019 made it possible to “expand the city”, restoring the indivisible bond between Matera and its quarries. In particular, the Cava was connected to the centre of Matera in 2019 with a shuttle service and new pedestrian paths.

shuttle buses were activated

The Cava was restored to the city as an ample and versatile multi-purpose space, that can be adapted to host not only large concerts, but more intimate events as well, lectures, festivals and shows, as was demonstrated in 2019. The visualisation below shows how the events of Matera 2019 held at the Cava del Sole varied in format and more significantly in audience size.

31,524 admissions for the 20 events of Matera 2019 at Cava del Sole

The role of Cava del Sole did not end in 2019: the current concession for the quarry will continue through 2022. In 2020, the structure of the Cava proved essential to the possibility of holding major cultural events in Matera, in full compliance with the regulations to contain the COVID-19 epidemic. The vastity of the outdoor open space allowed two events, one show and one concert, to be organized for audiences of over 700 people each.

Open data corner

At the centre of this platform, the data, now published in an open format. The Matera 2019 datasets are thus transformed into a digital commons that can inform, inspire and support new information and design practices for the local, national or international communities.

Below, you can download both the raw data related to the theme of this section and the aggregated data used for each of the above visualizations. You can also find more data in the site’s Open Data Center, which contains all the data available in the platform, or in our GitHub repo.

Detailed data on every single event in the official and unofficial program of Matera 2019.
4.09 MB
Detailed data on the number of accesses, free and with Passport, to the events of each project.
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Detailed data on the number of buses activated, and their total capacity, for each event hosted at Cava del Sole.
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Aggregated data for the first display on the time sequence of events held at Cava del Sole in 2019. Contains the events of the official and unofficial program of Matera 2019. Does not contain the cancelled events.
3.73 kB
Aggregate data for the second view on the size of the different areas of Cava del Sole.
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Matera Open Data