GEN's Torri Superiore
by Michael Cockram
Perched like a fortress in the foothills of the Liguria maritime alps, the tiny Italian hamlet of Torri Superiore may seem an unlikely flagship in the search for sustainable solutions in architecture, landscape, and lifestyle. But a closer look into this labyrinth of stone dwellings reveals a community working hard to find workable solutions to what many see as a looming global energy famine.
Torri Superiore houses a community dedicated to exploring sustainable alternatives to the energy-intensive habits of contemporary society, like the other sites of the growing Global Ecovillage Network. In the case of Torri, the solutions lie in the traditional culture of the region mixed with a few current design strategies.
The name Torri Superiore means the "upper towers." The settlement probably began in the 1200s and peaked in population in the 1800s. The middle ages were tumultuous times in coastal Italy, especially for villages too remote and humble to fall under the protection of the regional powers of Genoa or Nice.
A period of relative peace and health of the 19th century brought on a surge of population in which vast tracks of the hillsides were terraced for olive and lemon orchards. Eventually the larger and more accessible farms to the south shouldered the small producers out of the market. As in much of rural Italy, many of the buildings and fields were abandoned when people moved to the cities.
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Torri Superiore, a complex of 160 rooms, is now home to educational facilities, a guest house, and 14 members of a nonprofit ecovillage.
Photo: Lucilla Borio and Massimo Candela
Vaulted circulation paths snake through the lower levels of Torri.
Photo: Michael Cockram
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