Using the tragic forecast of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' story, the Frankencities Project details the worst-case scenarios of the futures of real-life cities worldwide. This month, we highlight the future of the Italian city of Naples.
This is Franken-Naples; the Naples of the near future.
Here, an unfortunate disaster has hit the city in recent years. Columns of thick deadly smoke have inundated the streets for days, then retreated, then come again, then slowly dissipated. As well as this, enormous inflamed clouds have exploded around Vesuvius sending incandescent balls across the city scape.
The disruption is so severe that Naples citizens must choose from one of three alarming options: a) to ignore the fires and smoke and hope not to be hit by a hot gas cloud, b) to move somewhere else, or c) to start living underground. In Franken-Naples, these options are pursued in roughly equal proportions by the four million citizens.
As far as the third option goes, it should be noted that around 60 percent of Naples is built upon a huge subterranean city. This underground labyrinth comprises acres of caves and caverns and chambers and tunnels and passage-ways and vaults and safe-houses and crypts and catacombs and reservoirs and cisterns and waterways and sewers and subways and bomb-shelters. Naples subsurface rock – a soft sufo made of volcanic ash — has made the city suitable for the construction of this vast ‘subtropolis’; slowly hewn and dug-out and mined over the city’s long history. And every year, archeologists and cavers discover even more chambers.
It is within these subterranean caverns and passage-ways, amongst the decayed or forgotten remains of old Naples, that many citizens of Franken-Naples will escape to avoid the surface chaos. Over the course of a few years, here in the underground, they develop a new troglodyte safety zone. Initially meant to be temporary, it ends up becoming a permanent home for many since it’s the only place for their skin and eyes and lungs to survive the noxious deadly clouds drifting episodically over them.
Let’s be clear, though, the crisis of Franken-Naples is not volcanic. Yes, Vesuvius rumbles gently off in the distance once-in-a-while as it has done for millennia; sending the occasional spray of smoke high into the air. But the disaster wrought upon Franken-Naples is anthropogenic. As the Camorra keep abandoning dangerous waste all around Naples’ countryside, and as the authorities continuously abandon their civic and professional responsibilities, eventually some flammable component of the dump mixes with various toxic and radioactive components, and an ensuing inferno sweeps uncontrolled over the city in repeated episodic onslaughts. In response, Naples’ citizens are continually driven to panic; running (or crawling) into their tunnels and crypts until they fear to ever emerge onto the monstrous alien surface.
More information about Franken-Naples and The Frankencities Project can be found via this Urban Transcripts Journal article.