“Why build at any cost? Will a pour of concrete bury us? " With the documentary "The Age of Cement" Legambiente Lombardia listens and reports the voices of a territory in which in the last 15 years it has been built at a rate of 117 thousand square meters a day. The director Mario Petitto, together with Carlotta Marrucci, Elena Maggioni and Hulda Federica Orrù, toured Lombardy meeting those who resist and those who are threatened by new concrete and those who risk losing their homes to make way for a highway.
1) Talk about land consumption in Lombardy: why this region?
In Lombardy, from 1997 to today, construction has been carried out at a rate of 117 thousand square meters per day, which translated means that it is as if we had built 7 other cities of the size of Brescia in recent years. In a region with a great agricultural vocation, over 43 thousand hectares of agricultural land have disappeared in the last 8 years, as if we had cemented the entire Ticino Park 21 times. And there are many dangers on the horizon because Lombardy is likely to see over 600 kilometers of asphalt arrive between Brebemi, Pedemontana, Tem and many other highways, which in some cases have already opened construction sites.
2) When and how did you get the idea of making the documentary? Who collaborated?
The theme of the land consumption is still a topic for industry experts: urban planners, environmentalists and researchers, or for those who suffer the effects and organize themselves to counter the phenomenon. With "The age of concrete”I wanted to tell the problem through the voices of those who live and suffer from soil consumption every day: between those who resist and those who are threatened by new concrete and those who risk losing their homes to make way for a new highway. The willingness to tell us stories of land use was extraordinary. People wanted to tell us their idea about the consequences of too much concrete.
Legambiente Lombardia decided to produce my film but it was possible to make the documentary only thanks to the contribution of the Cariplo Foundation together with which the association is carrying out the "Good Soil in the Municipality" project. But I couldn't have made the documentary without the professionalism of Carlotta Marrucci, Elena Maggioni and Hulda Federica Orrù. With Carlotta we spent many nights for post-production and with Elena, camera in hand, we crossed Lombardy far and wide in search of stories and interviews.
3) How long did it take you? What were the stages of the work?
I worked on the documentary for about 9 months. In the first few months I wrote the story I wanted to tell and thought about the interviews. When spring finally came, the filming and travels around the Lombardy territories began. Between August and September, however, we closed ourselves in the editing room and only re-emerged when the documentary was over.
4) Who did you interview and why? What emerges from it?
We have interviewed many people who observe and are indignant about the nefarious land consumption around them, but we also went to Politecnico professors and urban planners to have us explain the causes of the phenomenon and obviously we had the problem told through the experience of Legambiente.
From the documentary, as the title also says, it emerges that in the last 60 years we have lived init was concrete, which together with that of the car dictated the economic rules of our society. What we saw in our journey through Lombardy is that too much has been built, and too often without there being a real need: the thing that struck us most is to see a number of vacant warehouses while a few meters away, at the same time, new ones were being built, or completely uninhabited buildings and offices. Not to mention second homes: there are some mountain villages that have been covered with houses but which are deserted even in the height of the tourist season. In short, the building appetite is always strong, to the detriment of our most beautiful territories.
5) In the documentary you ask yourself: “But who is the new buildings for if they remain unsold? Why build at any cost? ”: What answer did you give yourselves?
To use the words of the documentary: we build not for a real need, nor for a need of the economy, nor for a need for housing, we build and it is built mainly to crystallize revenues: the hard currency of recent years has as a consideration the cubic meter real estate. And to pay the price is always the soil - a non-renewable resource - which in Italy does not enjoy any protection.
6) Tell us some stories that struck you most.
I was struck by all the stories we heard but even more by the passion with which people told us their experiences. Certainly the situation of the farmer is significant and risks being thrown out of his farm, the Zerbone farmhouse, to make way for new homes. We told his story because the farmhouse is located exactly 7 kilometers from the Milan Cathedral, just after the ring road. It is one of the green lungs of Milan and together with the cascina Campazzo it is also the last to produce milk so close to the city. Yet in a while the farmer could be forced to pack his bags to make room for new concrete.
Even the empty skyscrapers on the outskirts of Milan impressed me a lot: in a city with 100,000 empty rooms, people continue to build abundantly. But land consumption also passes through those who are thrown out of their land to make way for a highway or those who do not resign themselves to seeing the shores of our wonderful lakes ruined by useless second homes.
7) If there was a "The concrete age - 2: the return" in 10 years, what do you imagine you can tell?
I hope that the financial crisis of this period can teach us that we cannot invest in brick forever and that soil is not an infinite resource. I hope that in 10 years we can finally talk about the beauty of Lombardy, of a region that has uncontaminated territories and an agricultural production that in Europe envies us.
Here in the future I would like to say that the era of concrete is over and instead the era of beauty has opened for Lombardy.