An Association Casoni Vecchi turned one of the most magnificent fortress in Pula from devastation to revitalisation by numerous activities and programs for the public. Work with community, especially with young people brings the place constantly on a higher level.
During the Austro-Hungarian empire, Pula was the main naval port and in that time, fifty fortresses were built for its defence. Fort Cassoni Vecchi is a part of the fortification ring of the city of Pula, with an initial 12 circular fortress, built in 1852. The primary purpose of this fortress is to protect the city from possible attacks from the sea. Fortress has 16 casemates, of which only one is not used as a cannon position. Fortresses were designed as self-sufficient community, and in case of siege, tanks systems created more than enough water supply. After the new artillery solutions and restructuring period, Fort Casoni Vecchi loses meaning and turned into barracks without heavy weapons. Today, most of fortresses are abandoned but a small number, like Cassoni Vecchi, is active, since some associations and public institutions take care of them.
Conditions for change of use
The army has largely formed the identity of the Pula City, leaving a legacy in the imposing military infrastructure, unique in European terms. Its strategic importance is the reason why its military heritage is so prominent in the city’s built environment. Today, when in the city there is no more army; Pula has become a city marked by empty urban spaces. All the ex-military buildings from the preceding era are today property of the state, but in this case, some of the fortresses are handed to local public administration. There is still no plan for the utilization of most of them, they remain vacant and abandoned.
Association for revival and protection of “Casoni Vecchi” resulted from the need of revitalization of the eponymous fort. The aim was to create a space appropriate for a variety of social activities, available for various citizens’ initiatives, especially young people. Members of the association are already 15-year dealing with contents related to mentioned space. In this period they managed to revitalize completely neglected space exclusively with volunteer work.
This space is community oriented and became important spot in the neighbourhood. Offering many workshops, library and internet access, DIY activities, events etc.
Transformation started in 1992 as a part of Monte Paradiso collective that organized punk festival in fort and other activities. In 2000. Monte Paradiso collective and festival moved to bigger space in Community centre Rojc, and Cassoni Vecchi was registered as separate NGO and continued to work in fortress. In 2007. they succeed to import electricity. In 2008 they organised first community project – small community library “Monte Paradiso” (which is the other colloquial name of this fort op.a.). Soon internet access was also available and opened new possibilities for working.
Reconstruction process was long and it is still ongoing- mainly because depends on volunteer work and self-financing activities. But this is reason why members and neighbours feel strong connection to the place. Some of conducted activities are: excavation and cleaning of moats, reconstruction of the exterior walls, heating, arranging central courtyard, renovation and conversion of interior spaces, cleaning of drainage system of rainwater, protection, electricity and internet access, renovating of one toilet, DIY doors and windows etc.
The association has 30 rooms with open workshops, which are the base for creating the Fortress of Knowledge. This project has a goal for using more and more space in some innovative and useful form. For now, there is a music incubator – a place for young musicians, for their rehearsals and production, a sports workshop with a gym and a space for martial arts, a reading room, a carpentry and a locksmith workshop where the windows and doors for the fortress are made. It also contains many other ”do it yourself” activities. Through all of this, the association Casoni Vecchi maintains three essential activities – informal education, reuse of secondary raw materials and use of renewable energy sources.
The fort Casoni Vecchi is declared as cultural heritage and is protected by Act of Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Therefore, for any kind of construction Association need permission of City and Conservation Department. Association Cassoni Vecchi has signed contract with City of Pula on a permanent basis as long as they use it and care about maintenance of the fortress. The association does not have stable funding, and neither implements projects (they implemented only small projects worth up to 1,000 euros) because the whole work of the association is based on voluntary work. Management of the place and sustainability of the program is based on voluntary work and self-financing, which brings some advantages but also some of obstacle because of lack of capacity for some bigger interventions and long-term programmes. But in all interviews all members are pointing out that they are really proud with their achievements and volunteers.
This case shows that citizens’ initiatives can be “savers” of cultural heritage and “drivers” of community development developing a space appropriate for a variety of social activities, available for various citizens’ initiatives, especially young people.
|Timeline of current use||From 1992 used as Monte Paradiso festival venue. From 2003 like community centre|
|Previous uses||Military fortress|
|Where is it, address||Rohreggerova ul. 54, 52100, Pula, Croatia|
|Map||Map of Casoni Vecchi|
|Contact||http://casonivecchi.hr/, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Mobile||+385 (0)95 900 7822 Željko Čalić
+385 (0)98 973 7939 Damir Babić