Cianfrusaglia: a collection of salvaged stories

Cianfrusaglia: a collection of salvaged stories
Images of Bianchessi Materiali Antichi, a salvage yard in Offanengo, Italy. Photography by Giuseppe Felice Greppi.
Cianfrusaglia is a catalogue of systems of knowledge around reuse in the Italian peninsula.

Milan, Italy
zattere is a collective practical practice, and a family.
Team members
Caterina Cameli
Tommaso Casotto
Andrea Consonni
Pietro Franceschi
Giuseppe Felice Greppi
Alessandro Ricci
Giulia Rosa
Field of work
Architecture, Ecology, Curating, Research
Project category
Material tracking and reuse
Project submitted

zattere is a collective practice founded in Milan in 2021 and then dispersed throughout Europe. It is a hodgepodge of different thinking heads that share a starting point: the care in considering processes that others declare irrelevant. Up until now zattere’s projects have ranged from self-built structures to exhibitions, performances and research-based adventures.

We understand practice as a combination of theory and action, constantly experimenting at a 1:1 scale and integrating research methodologies around reuse in our making. Through the past years, we have expanded our tools through collaborative methodologies with collectives driven by the necessity to safeguard spaces of free culture in the city. We have taught workshops with Collectif (in)visible, at the architecture school of Paris-Est (Eav&t) and the AA Summer School with (Ab)normal. We are currently teaching at the Politecnico of Milan with Giovanni Piovene, investigating the relationship between sports and cities. Our work has been exhibited in Milan at Alcova, Dropcity and Dopo Space, while we have also brought forward the curation of independent exhibitions such as Sinistra: Leftover Debris from Construction Sites.

zattere’s agenda is constantly in the making. We distance ourselves from the idea of the Promethean architect while continuously testing methodologies that involve shared intellectual ownership.

Cianfrusaglia, in Italian literally means: a disparate set of minute objects of no value.

In parallel to a fast-paced distribution of standardised, calibrated and new materials lies a circulation of salvaged components that silently survives out of the radar. With this material movement lies a disappearing system of knowledge of those who, with patience and care recirculate pieces that are layered with histories of time.

As zattere, we have collected stories and unrecorded expertise through conversations in salvage yards across the northern part of Italy. Beyond the physical act of mapping our intention is also that of revealing the people and anxieties behind the practice of reuse, making the map become a pretext for research.

Through the voices we have heard so far, a fragile territory made of absent funding and lack of governmental support is slowly revealed. The trade happens mainly through an informal network of secondhand resellers and private clients or contractors. Reuse, in the explored sites, prevalently remains relegated to precious materials situated in the framework of restoration. What results is an intrinsic precarity of practice making the selection of materials to be salvaged and stored very measured and restricted to the world of antiques. However, these represent only a small part of the theoretical potential of reuse.

The revealing of the opportunities and constraints of reuse initiates a progressive filling of the void between this network of resellers and the wider system of construction. Cianfrusaglia is a project that proposes to continue mapping systematically this expertise. The collected material will then feed into the curation of a catalogue: interviews, stories, photo essays and an open-access online platform.

By bringing these voices, contexts and material samples outside of hidden territories the aim is that of exhibiting and questioning what more is to be done in order to expand the material cycle of reuse in Italy.