Today Nuova Gibellina - an utopian art-and-garden community and open-air urban gallery in the shape of a butterfly - designed by renowned architects, artists and town planners, remains unfinished and is in part deserted: a "new ruin" of a radical urban environment, described by one Italian commentator as "the cemetery of the avant-garde".  David Williams


The City of Gibellina Nuova was important for Fondazione Manifesto’s selection board for its representation of important themes that identify contemporary Europe: migration, climate change and urban re-development through art production and how these issues impact our cities. Citiziens have become migrants in their own cities and artists gardeners of reconstruction and farmers of gentrification.

The multi-layered and deeply condensed history of the Belìce Valley – being occupied by almost every European civilization and having long-term connections with Northern Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean over the last 2000 years – has left its traces throughout this multi-cultural society at the heart of the Mediterranean area.

Manifesto Gibellina Nuova’s main ambition is to work in a truly interdisciplinary way with local communities in order to rethink the basic architectural, urban, economic, social and cultural structures of the city. Manifesto Gibellina Nuova can investigate how great the role of cultural intervention can be in allowing the Gibellina citizens to take back ownership of their city. Manifesto Gibellina Nuova can act as a grass-root incubator supporting the local communities with cultural and economic interventions: this will help to rethink the city in their socio-economical and cultural structures and will use the existing informal profile of the city to act as a platform for social change and re-development.

Garden   Cities   of   Tomorrow  Ebenezer Howard, 1902

Garden Cities of Tomorrow
Ebenezer Howard, 1902

Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPC  OT)  Walt Disney, 1965

Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT)
Walt Disney, 1965

Manifesto Gibellina Nuova - Dream in Progress will start in building the process for a sustainable theoretical framework and will set out the parameters of the city’s revitalisation process. In this phase, Manifesto Gibellina Nuova would like to activate the communities of Gibellina in the identification of its mission statement and objectives, as well as the challenges, expectations and outcomes of the Dream in Progress.


"Manifesto Gibellina Nuova – Dream in Progress in 2018 will be a fantastic opportunity for the city to reinvigorate its local and international identity and to celebrate Gibellina - after its destruction 50 years ago - for what it really is: a laboratory for the humanities, arts and culture. The city will be able to renew itself and pave a way for its future."

— S. Mattarella

"We are honored to work with the city of Gibellina Nuova for the Dream in Progress. In the current political climate, Gibellina’s history and character make it the ideal laboratory to re-imagine, from a Mediterranean perspective, the liberal values we share, and to address crucial issues for the present and future of the European city."

— TRAUMA Architects

"The exhibition Dream in Progress in Gibellina Nuova is a great challenge to rethink how far cultural interventions can play a role in helping re-shaping one of the most iconic artistic urban utopia in our history as part of a long term transformation process. Manifesto Gibellina Nuova - Dream in Progress will raise questions such as: Who owns the city of Gibellina? and how to claim back the city?"

— H. Lecube



This is Gibellina, a unique sample of a village destroyed and then rebuilt from scratch through the arts; this is the town of the dream, of the hazard and of the concrete utopia.

Map of Gibellina  Gibellina Nuova, 2018

Map of Gibellina
Gibellina Nuova, 2018


"At midnight I woke up and saw over my head a star so beautiful that I thought I had never seen one like it. Its enchanting light seemed a prophecy of good things to come, and my spirit felt utterly refreshed … It was not till daybreak that I discovered what had caused this miracle. There was a crack in the roof and I had woken up just at the very moment when one of the most beautiful stars in the firmament was crossing my private meridian."

— Goethe, Italian Journey, Castelvetrano, April 1787

Gibellina and its en plein air museum come from the creative outlet of arts, from contributions and gifts of artists, architects and men of culture who, together with Gibellina citizens, since the 80s, have been involved in the difficult and eager work of reconstruction of houses and identities, destroyed by the earthquake of 1968. The imposing Star by Consagra, a proper Entrance to the Belìce, introduces the visitor to the chest of treasures of contemporary art which stands for the largest permanent museum in Europe. There are hundreds of works, installations, urban interventions and mosaics. Your visit to Gibellina let you also do a thematic trip through Pietro Consagra’s works and admire his project of “frontal sculpture”, which receives powerful expression by the Star, the Gates of the new cemetery, the inspiring installation called La città di Tebe, the marble Tris, the Gate to the botanic garden, the Meeting which, built in 1979, forecasts the shapes of the Bilbao Museum by Gehry and the Theatre, whose construction has been recently reopened. You can not avoid a stop in the metaphysic Sistema delle Piazze by Purini and Thermes; or in the poetic buildings by Francesco Venezia: two Secret Gardens and, first of all, the Palazzo Di Lorenzo, a masterpiece where the stones coming from an ancient aristocratic palace of old Gibellina have been restored to become the interior area of the architect’s work. 
The ruins of old Gibellina have been ‘plastered’ by Burri in a giant sculpture called the ‘Cretto’, a work of remembrance and resurrection, the greatest work of Land Art after the Pyramids. Burri stayed on the ruins for many days, then he proposed the work which would not let the town disappear forever and would put into effect the dream that maybe it would rise again in the Judgement Day with its victims: this work is the cement veil pitifully covering the ruins of the old town. In the botanical garden there is the ethno-anthropological museum and the artistic installation called Qanat – Le rotte del cielo, by Medhat Shafik, ended in 2004. If you have a walk to the square of the town you will also marvel at the Town Hall by Samonà, the mosaics by Carla Accardi and Consagra, the sculptures by Arnaldo Pomodoro restored in 2004. In the square you can also hear the sounds coming from the Civic Tower by Alessandro Mendini, activated again in the New Year’s night of 2003: it reproduces a sequence of ancient folk songs: the Tower recovers the sound of old Gibellina as the Palazzo Di Lorenzo restores the stones of the old town.
This is Gibellina, a unique sample of a village destroyed and then rebuilt from scratch through the arts; this is the town of the dream, of the hazard and of the concrete utopia.

After the earthquake in 1968 and its destructions, the regeneration slowly started. However, instead of rebuilding in the vicinity of the old town of Gibellina, it was reconstructed about twenty kilometres further downstream. The choice of the site may have followed the logic of the proximity to the highway to Mazara del Vallo, which was under construction at the time. In fact, the land of the new city belonged to the Mafia bosses Ignazio and Nino Salvo affiliated with the Christian Democratic party. The new Gibellina arose on the territory of the municipality of Salemi, in the district of Salinella, following a vote of the city council. For the reconstruction of the town the former mayor of the city Ludovico Corrao had the enlightened idea of “humanising” the territory by calling several world-famous artists. The city immediately became an immense laboratory of experimentation and artistic planning, in which artists and their valuable works renewed the urban space according to an innovative perspective.

On this island, overly burdened by pain, by arrogance, by cynicism and by deception, a clear trace of light was born. It reinvents the future and history through a desire, a hope called culture. In this uneasy and contradictory land of Sicily, the city of Gibellina has now become a highly symbolic place where the principle of beauty is produced; a city that with its museum and with its works of art disseminated in the city has become a happy ‘landing’, a model of cultural and civil rebirth, a project of human “resurrection”.

Gibellina Nuova, a town born of a dream, of a bet, of utopia; a town which has become the precious depository of contemporary art, the laboratory of the languages and signs of contemporary culture, the epicentre of the contemporary, a veritable museum in the open air.

Where history has been destroyed, only art could rebuild the layers of a dispersed memory; only a strong death-defying cultural project could make the earth capable of bearing fruit and producing new flowers.

Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May Gibellina Nuova entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.

It is essential that there should be unity of design and purpose that the town should be planned as a whole, and not left to grow up in a chaotic manner as has been the case with all towns. A town, like a flower, or a tree, or an animal, should, at each stage of its growth, possess unity, symmetry, completeness, and the effect of growth should never be to destroy that unity, but to give it greater purpose, nor to mar that symmetry, but to make it more symmetrical; while the completeness of the early structure should be merged in the yet greater completeness of the later development.

The Third Landscape - an undetermined fragment of the Planetary Garden - designates the sum of the space left over by man to landscape evolution - to nature alone. Included in this category are left behind urban or rural sites, transitional spaces, neglected land, (..) non-cultivatable areas, deserts. Compared to the territories submitted to the control and exploitation by man, the Third Landscape forms a privileged area of receptivity to biological diversity. Cities, farms and forestry holdings, sites devoted to industry, tourism, human activity, areas of control and decision permit diversity and, at times, totally exclude it. The variety of species in a field, cultivated land, or managed forest is  low in comparison to that of a neighbouring “unattended” space. From this point of view, the Third Landscape can be considered as the genetic reservoir of the planet, the space of the future.

If one works well in a potato field, the potatoes will grow. If one works well among people, they will grow - that’s reality. The rest is smoke. It’s important to know that words don’t move mountains. Work, exacting work moves mountains.

Man is only truly alive when he realises he is a creative, artistic being. Even the act of peeling a potato can be a work of art if it is a conscious act.

A total work of art is only possible in the context of the whole of society. Everyone will be a necessary co-creator of a social architecture, and, so long as anyone cannot participate, the ideal form of democracy has not been reached. Whether people are artists, assemblers of machines or nurses, it is a matter of participating in the whole.

Above all – strength like history had to emerge from the comparison of the great civilizations of Segesta, Selinunte, Motia and the ruined world of the poor and the dead. 

A ruin is the future of our cities and the future city is a ruin itself.

The government's emergency and relief efforts were almost as disastrous as the earthquake itself. There were hundreds of casualties, and thousands remained homeless. Monies earmarked for reconstruction and other assistance were hijacked by the Mafia and corrupt politicians. The incident proved the Italian state, as well as local authorities, to be impotent in the face of such catastrophes. Throughout Italy, the name "Belice" became a synonym for corruption in the wake of natural disasters, as in phrases like "this won't become another Belice."
Places like Poggioreale became ghost towns as communities were relocated en masse. Gibellina suffered a different fate. Here, it was decided to demolish what survived of seventeenth century structures and erect a vast, labyrinthine cement work of art to trace the path of streets without leaving any other trace of the town's history. Henceforth, descendants of people from "old" abandoned Gibellina would have nothing but an anonymous concrete edifice to commemorate their deceased kin.

Unmistakably, what the Cretto and Gibellina Nuova have in common is silence: the first is a city forever captured under a shroud of cement, ‘archaeology of archaeology’ as a reminder of the past; the second is a cemetery of houses, squares, monuments and unfinished infrastructure.

The town’s projects have been condemned as representing “the cemetery of the avant-garde”: a failed experiment in the spectacular, monumental and fragmented, and an unwitting and uncanny staging of Robert Smithson´s notion of entropic “ruins in reverse”, further compromised by the scant concern apparently shown for the lived experience of local inhabitants.

I feel like a migrant in my own town.

Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Gibellina, Your Visit to Gibellina — Wikipedia, Gibellina  Tanino Bonifacio — Vito Antonio Bonanno — Ludovico Corrao — Esmond Cardon Walker, Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow — Ebenezer Howard, Garden Cities of Tomorrow — Gilles Clément, The Third Landscape  Danilo Dolci, Strike in Reverse — Joseph Beuys — Alberto Burri — Arata Isozaki — Antonella Gallo — Claudia Sinatra — David Williams — A.G., citizen of Gibellina Nuova