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Competition: Santa Caterina art centre, Italy

An open international contest has been launched to transform the ruined Santa Caterina Fortress into a cultural centre for Favignana, Italy (Deadline: 8 April)

Open to teams featuring at least one member under 35, the competition seeks innovative proposals to convert the Mediterranean island’s former prison into a landmark centre for art production and tourism.

The Art Prison project – backed by Young Architects Competitions, the Municipality of Favignana and the Italian Governmen – aims to create a globally recognised hub for art and culture on the small island off the west coast of Sicily.

Santa Caterina Fortress in Favignana, Italy

Santa Caterina Fortress in Favignana, Italy

Santa Caterina Fortress in Favignana, Italy

According to the brief: ‘This is a competition in collaboration with the Municipality of Favignana aiming at making the most of a remarkable context in order to transform Santa Caterina Fortress into one of the most suggestive centres of contemporary art of the Mediterranean.

‘It will have to be a sublime place of encounter, culture and creative research where artists will have the opportunity to relax and enjoy in an untouched place. The latter will be the perfect context to inspire artists’ imagination and make them express the real essence of their inner self.’

Favignana is a small island of around 4,300 inhabitants located around 18km west of Sicily in the Mediterranean sea. The settlement was formerly a major centre of tuna fishing but is now a popular international tourism destination.

The Santa Caterina Fortress is located in a small mountain range in the centre of the island. The fortress was first constructed as a Saracen watchtower and later rebuilt during a Norman occupation of the island and further modified during the Bourbon domination.

Santa Caterina Fortress in Favignana, Italy

Santa Caterina Fortress in Favignana, Italy

Santa Caterina Fortress in Favignana, Italy

The latest project aims to transform the ruin into a new art space providing quiet reflective spaces for both artists and visitors. Proposals should take account of the dramatic site and its natural setting, promote the social and economic revival of the island, and reflect Favignana’s history.

Concepts must include a 1.5km pedestrian route featuring artworks leading visitors to the site, an affordable hotel space within the fortress, several luxury hotel suites, artist studios, a cultural centre and a restaurant.

Designs may be up to 4m tall and may occupy up to 3,000m² within the fortress but should avoid any demolition of the existing structure. Judges include Daniel Libeskind of Studio Libeskind, Felix Perasso of Snøhetta, and Giuseppe Pagoto from the Municipality of Favignana.

The overall winner, to be announced on 30 April, will receive a €10,000, while a second prize of €2,000 and four gold mentions worth €1,000 each will also be awarded.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 8 April and submissions must be completed by 11 April.


Early registration from 15 January to 11 February: €75 + 22 per cent VAT
Standard registration from 12 February to 11 March: €100 + 22 per cent VAT
Late registration from 12 March to 8 April: €150 + 22 per cent VAT

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with YAC

The competition organiser discusses its ambitions for the project

Why are your holding a contest for a new arts centre inside Favignana’s Santa Caterina fortress?

In the past, the Fortress of Santa Caterina was privately owned by the Florios, an entrepreneurial Italian family who had bought the whole island of Favignana. Today, the fortress is a neglected and abandoned castle overlooking the island from the peak of a hill. It needs restoration in order for the site to be accessible to and enjoyable by the visitors.

Now that the fortress is publicly managed, the Municipality of Favignana has decided to repurpose it and give it back to the community. With the aim of collecting ideas, in collaboration with the Italian government and YAC (Young Architects Competitions), they have launched an ideas competition whose aim is transforming this former prison into an open-air contemporary art museum.

An ideas competition is the best way for designers to develop and show their talent. Our aim is fostering research in the architectural and design fields. Competitors are asked to put their creativity forward and propose fresh projects that respect the architectural and historic features of our competitions’ locations. Moreover, the jurors will evaluate projects coming from all over the world. YAC believes that culture also shapes the architectural approach, therefore it is very enriching to be able to have plenty of completely different visions on the same project.

Santa Caterina Fortress in Favignana, Italy

Santa Caterina Fortress in Favignana, Italy

Santa Caterina Fortress in Favignana, Italy

What is your vision for the new arts centre?

Here, both wealthier and ordinary visitors are drawn by history, art, and nature, while artists might use the castle as a temporary accommodation to search for inspiration. The contest site includes almost 1,000m2 of interior surfaces of the Fortress, 600m2 of panoramic balconies and a 1.5km-long staircase that leads to the fortress, but the competitors also have 3,000m2 at their disposal for new raisings or new volumes.

The brief lists different possible functional proposals for the new vision of the Fortress of Santa Caterina. In the process of designing, YAC suggests reflecting on the relationship between natural and artificial landscape, between ancient and contemporary architecture. Doing so, the designers will create a refined combination of contrasts aiming at creating an innovative project. The proposals can be traditional or high-tech, as long as they relate to and enhance the existing architecture and the surrounding area. YAC requires that all projects be inspired by eco-compatibility and environmental eco-sustainability.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

Students, graduates, architects, and professionals can take part in our competitions and they are all very welcome to bring along their expertise and new visions or practices. After having being judged by world-renowned distinguished architects, in addition to €20,000 in prize money, the winner and the awarded projects will be published on famous Italian and international platforms and magazines and will be showcased at Italian and International architectural exhibitions.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Here at YAC, we are always working on new, exciting, and challenging competitions. The best way to keep up-to-date with all of our activities is to subscribe to our newsletter.