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Million Donkey Hotel by feld72, Prata Sannita, Italy

Ruined and abandoned buildings in a divided village are refurbished to create a large scattered hotel. Photography by Hertha Hurnaus

Nearly three-quarters of Europe’s population now lives in cities and this figure is growing. This means not only the constant growth of cities and suburbs, but the disappearance of familiar cultural and natural landscapes. Migration and its consequences forms the theme of the Million Donkey Hotel, a project by feld72, a collective of Italian, French and Austrian architects based in Vienna.

In August 2005, a group of artists was invited to address questions of identity, territory, social space and landscape in Prata Sannita, a village in the Matese regional park near Naples, by means of art projects involving the participation of the local population. Prata Sannita is divided into a mediaeval borgo, known as the Prata Inferiore, which cascades down a hill from a castle, and a newer part, the Prata Superiore.

During the last century, Prata Inferiore was dramatically impacted by migration, and is now mostly inhabited by the elderly, with many empty buildings, some of which are now in ruins.

‘How could these two clearly separated areas of the village be linked again? How and for whom could be the qualities of the almost sculptural spatial landscape be experienced once again?’ asks feld72 partner Michael Obrist.

The response is to view Prata Sannita as a large, scattered hotel that has rooms available in the abandoned buildings. These are refurbished and brought back into use. At the same time, the Million Donkey Hotel becomes an extension of public space, since in the low-season, the hotel rooms can also be used by the Pratesi locals.

The project was remarkable for its tight, one-month timescale, low budget (10,000 euros) and the imaginative use of only the most basic materials and construction, coupled with the services of 40 volunteers. The initiative is now overseen by a small group of locals, who were involved in its inception, and there seems little doubt that it has given a new impetus to social and civic life.

One of the cave-like rooms, its interior sprayed silver

One of the cave-like rooms, its interior sprayed silver

Architect feld72, Vienna, Austria
Project team Michael Obrist, Anne Catherine Fleith, Mario Painter, Richard Scheich, Peter Zoderer

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