Scampìa is a modern suburb in the north of Naples. The population is about 80,000.
Scampia was built as a bedroom suburb in 1960s. The area was mostly developed in the 1970s and 1980s, with huge, high-rise residential blocks, in particular after the 1980 earthquake with construction of housing for displaced Neapolitans. Huge apartment complexes, wide boulevards and a massive park were built, without commercial districts or entertainment venues. With 50% unemployment, the area has a very high crime rate, with heroin and cocaine sold, and used openly, in the streets.
Large metal gates on some of the walkways and stairs in the blocks of flats have been put there, not by the council, but by the Italian crime syndicate, so they can be locked by drug pushers as they flee the police.
Scampia was the territory of the Di Lauro crime family, which controlled the drug trade, and most other illeagal activities in the area. In 2004 a bloody gang war erupted in the area, the so-called Scampia feud, between the Di Lauro family, and a breakaway fraction, the so-called "secessionists".
The death of an innocent woman, Gelsomina Verde, caused widespread public revulsion and led to a major crackdown by the authorities. She was abducted, brutally beaten in an effort to get her to disclose the whereabouts of a gang member involved in the feud, and finally shot in the neck. Her body was stuffed in a car that was set on fire.
Vele di Scampia
The Vele di Scampia (English: Sails of Scampia) is a large urban housing project built between 1962 and 1975 in the Scampia neighbourhood. It was named for the triangular shaped buildings, reminiscent of a sail, i.e. wide at the base, narrowing as they rise. They are similar to Marina Baie des Anges in Villeneuve-Loubet, France.
Built as a result of Law 167, which was passed in 1962, the Sails of Scampia were designed by Franz Di Salvo. They were part of a project which also included development of the city of Naples to the east, in Ponticelli. They best represent Di Salvo's style of architectural design. Di Salvo first designed low-cost housing in 1945. He worked in collaboration with other architects, to design the District of Cesare Battisti Poggioreale, which represented the paradigm of a "new way of thinking" about social housing.
After years of continuous design experiments, the task of establishing a large apartment complex in Scampia was entrusted to the Cassa del Mezzogiorno. The design followed the housing unit principles articulated by Le Corbusier for the design of public housing. He was influenced by the trestle structures proposed by Kenzō Tange. Di Salvo proposed a plan for the district which was based on two building types: a "tower" and "tent." The tower type provides the dominant impression of sails. The tower type buildings are provided with social centers, play spaces, and other community facilities.
The failure of Le Vele
The Sails of Scampia buildings are in a state of decay, although the two buildings are still occupied by residents.
The idea behind the project was to provide a huge public housing project, where hundreds of families could socialize and create a community. The design included a public transportation rail station, and a large park area between the two buildings. The planners wanted to create a small city model with large parks, playing fields, and other facilities.
However, various causes have led to what is now regarded as a ghetto. Right after the earthquake in 1980, many families in the area were left homeless. Many of these families without shelter started to occupy the apartments illegally. Tolerated and ignored by the government, more people started to occupy the buildings including criminals.
Things were made worse by the total lack of police presence, resulting in drug trafficking, illegal street racing, gangs, and fencing operations. The first police station for the area was established in 1987, exactly fifteen years after people began occupying the apartments. This was a total failure of planning, as the central idea of the development was to create a city within the city, and all cities need policing.
Le Vele in literature
Le Vele Scampia is featured by poet and writer Emanuele Cerullo, a resident of one of the buildings. He describes through poetry the dreams and hopes of Scampia's adolescents, portraying a different view of living in this project than that depicted by the media.
Gerald Seymour's 2009 novel The Collaborator uses this housing project as the setting for its denouement.
Notes and references
- In Naples, a Mob Family Feud, The Washington Post, February 8, 2005
- Mafia vice blights Naples school, BBC News, November 30, 2004
- Weekends turn bloody in Naples mafia war, The Guardian, December 18 2004
- Naples police in huge mafia swoop, BBC News, December 7, 2004
- Gang's Deadly Feud Plagues Naples, Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2005
- 'The blood is running': Mafia wars erupt again, The Independent, December 8, 2004
- Streets of 'Gomorrah', Newsweek magazine issue dated December 22, 2008
- (English) Drug, feuds and blood in the land of the Camorra - SCAMPIA 24 Video-documentary of the newspaper Il Mattino
- (Italian) L'Altra Scampia video documentary on Scampia
- (Italian) Ballarò: droga a Scampia (Secondigliano, Napoli) video report on drug trafficking in Scampia
- Scampia Camorra Napoli Ground Zero video impression