VERNACULAR LANGUAGE WITHIN THE TRADITIONAL BELL TOWERS: BETWEEN STAIRS, LANDINGS AND FLOORS
Keywords: Traditional bell towers, Traditional building techniques, Seismic vulnerability, Conservation, Eastern Sicily
Abstract. The monumental heritage of European historic centres is characterised by special building types that have drawn, more than others, on the vernacular language of the local traditional architecture. The traditional bell towers, even if built by a specific (but not always known) designer, often have some building elements transliterated from the construction tradition of poor and rural buildings. This language can be found in many examples from different historical periods and in faraway areas, such as Italy and Spain. The external monumentality may not correspond to a complex spatial articulation inside the towers. Instead, it is usual to find belfries in which the vertical connections and any horizontal structures are solved by wooden stairs and floors to reach the bell cell. The used materials and building techniques reveal the design simplicity but also the evidence of a lost “know-how”. Due to the nature of the materials, possible damages and lack of maintenance, many of these structures have undergone restoration or transformation works, also whit their replacement for the benefit of most modern construction systems. The research aims to underline the central importance of preventive knowledge of these traditional structures and illustrate some significant cases in Eastern Sicily, a high seismic risk area. These case studies are emblematic for the evidence of several original structures or the extreme effects of the 20th-century interventions. These last works have often compromised the historical and documentary trait of the wooden structures, introducing new vulnerabilities due to the excessive stiffening of the masonry.