The territory of the Ossola valley is located in the Lepontine Alps close to Switzerland (Canton Ticino). It embraces a magnificent landscape shaped by human activity across the centuries, setting up on thousands of kilometers of drystone walls. The scarcity of lime, and the restricting rules on the use of wood induced the predominant use of stones until the end of the XIX century: all rural infrastructures, both agro-pastoral buildings and houses, are made in stones.
Some constructions are built close to the limit of the dry-stone walls static capacity (containment walls beyond 6 meters high, towers up to 14 meters high). There are also terraces from the Neolithic Age, which include underground rooms, complex drainage systems, cosmogonic lithological elements that have been used for vineyards since the Late-Roman Empire. Such uniqueness of the Ossolan landscape is, at present, subject to a lively local movement. Several local exchange projects with other European and international partners allowed to acquire competencies and good practices, whose outcomes are monitored at local level.
Concerning the construction and maintenance of terraced landscapes, the first consequence of the social change that involved communities in mid-mountain areas has been the loss of traditional local knowledges. However, in the last years, an abundant documentation, and several courses aimed at recovering work techniques with dry-stone, have been implemented.
Which are the general rules that are presently orienting the artisan constructive techniques with dry-stones? How the inherited knowledge may be communicated and valorised as professional and appreciated expertise? May technology development provide tools to implement traditional construction practices? What is the contribution of scientific research about the overall and comparative resistance and efficiency between dry-stone walls and the reinforced concrete ones? Which are the results of many educational activities about the construction techniques to recover terraced landscapes?
The thematic session Construction and maintenance techniques of dry-stones walls, organized in the Ossola Valley, will collect experiences, studies, restoration projects and ideas on traditional and actual construction techniques, in order to develop a toolset of guidelines for a proper management of terraced systems.