The sky rooms - Architecture/Design/Art
By Costantino Paolicchi
Photos by Andrea Bartolucci

A photographic exploration that aims the lens on the aesthetic and metaphysical sides of the marble quarries present in the Apuan Alps. Far from denying fundamental environmental protection, Bartolucci – through his images – exalts the beauty of these landscapes, suggesting new paths in the perspective of a proper and harmonious relationship between productive activities and the land.

Le stanze del cielo (The sky rooms) is a publication that proposes, through the photographic research of Andrea Bartolucci, a tour on and within the Apuan Alps dedicated to the environments and landscapes of the marble quarries that, having been subjected for more than two thousand years to the work of men, have marked the mountain range with an exclusive character, arousing – yesterday as today – the admiration of visitors, travelers, artists and entrepreneurs from all around the world.
Andrea Bartolucci conducted his work over a lengthy period of time, visiting both operational and long-abandoned mining sites in the mountains of Carrara and Versilia, identifying aspects of relevant scenic, environmental, cultural, and anthropological interest. His photographs – the result of the consolidation of solid technical training combined with exemplary artistic and human sensitivity, and an assiduous frequentation of the Apuan Alps – interpret the light, colours, architecture and geometries produced in the mountains by centuries of human labour.
Generally speaking, in dealing with the compositional themes that marble quarries suggest, authors since the second half of the nineteenth century have been strongly influenced by human presence, situations related to quarrying techniques, and the different phases of the production cycle, paying particular attention to the characters that animate this “micro-universe”: quarrymen, technicians (“tecchiaioli”), wire saw operators, squarers and sledge drivers (“lizzatori”). Thus, the photographs emerge as living testimonies to quarry work and the technological changes that have profoundly transformed the Apuan environments and landscapes since, at least, the early twentieth century.
Conversely, Andrea Bartolucci deliberately omitted the human presence: his photographs tell of the great silence in the mountains when the quarries are idle, either because they are abandoned or because they are temporarily closed, for example, on public holidays. It is then that without the noises – often deafening – of block-cutting machines, mechanical shovels, cranes and trucks, the quarry reveals an absolutely exceptional, almost metaphysical dimension, where it is possible to grasp the signs and stratifications of work in the cuts produced in the mound by the helical wire (and today by diamond chain block cutters), in the vertical walls that draw marble geometries, in the incredible architecture that delimits the “sky rooms”, places capable of communicating profound emotions, of soliciting creative reflections and tensions, and of generating moments of elevated spirituality.
In the silence of “his” quarries, Bartolucci’s lens works a wonder of transfiguration, revealing how environments born of toil and sorrow, where men still put their lives at risk to earn their bread, become cathedrals of pure beauty built by their removal, until they penetrate into the heart of the mountain where everyone can identify his or her personal sanctum sanctorum and draw unknown energies from the light reflected on those mirror walls, of a blinding white that dilates the space.
Bartolucci has succeeded so much in re-establishing dialogue between the pristine nature of the Apuan Alps and the quarries that are progressively transforming them. Bartolucci claims, without taking sides, the meanings and values that the quarries, despite everything, bring to the Apuan chain as an additional and in many ways exclusive heritage in terms of history, culture and landscape. Quarries have been a primary component of the culture and tradition of the marble towns for over two thousand years: I paesi della pietra piegata (The countries of folded stone)2.
After all, the Apuan Alps are far better known in the world for their marble quarries than for their naturalistic peculiarities. A fine exhibition set up in the evocative surroundings of the Arkad Foundation in Seravezza, in which Bartolucci participated, entitled Cava (Quarry) had as its subtitle La cava di marmo bianco come un’opera d’arte scolpita nella natura (The white marble quarry as a work of art carved in nature). As its theme, this exhibition had the marble quarry viewed as just such a work of art “… to be admired and protected, with an aim of appreciating and enhancing the unquestionable artistic beauty and charm that has always emanated from the marble mountains.”
This does not mean ignoring the importance of environmental protection in the perspective of a correct and harmonious relationship between productive activities and the territory, but it is intended to indicate new possibilities for the enhancement and development of the Apuan Alps in the reconsideration of quarries inclusive of an aesthetic point of view.

Marmo 11, pag 6

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