Measures of Security: Ferdinando Fuga’s Reali Granili and the politics of grain provision in 18th Century Naples.

A Seminar with Fabrizio Ballabio (York University, EPFL) organized by the ‘City/Architecture’ PhD Programme

Wednesday, May 16, 6.30 pm in 33 Bedford Square, First Floor, Back room

In the opening weeks of 1764, the prosperous and densely populated Kingdom of Naples was struck by a widespread and devastating grain dearth which saw in little over a year its population nearly halved and the legitimacy of its government severely put in question. The dearth had been caused by a dramatic shortage of grain provisions in markets across the kingdom and was as much contingent to the relatively poor harvests of 1763, as it resulted from the inability of Naples’ government to tame the consequences of the shortage. Departing from the dearth and from threats it posed to the security of the Bourbon’s rule, this paper explores the shifting politics of grain production, storage and provision which led to the conception and construction of one of Europe’s largest ever building enterprises: architect Ferdinando Fuga’s Reali Granili. Conceived in the late 1780s to gather the entirety of the kingdom’s grain stocking endeavours within a single, 560 meter long, centrally governed structure, the project of the Granili is doubly significant. It is so architecturally for the unforgiving genericity of its internal layout, which was in many ways precursory to 19th and 20th century industrial building types. With its near endless repetition of a single structural bay, it provided a universal module through which the governors of the institution could both measure and administer the commodity in stock. Even more though, it is significant for the material and governmental processes it engendered beyond its built limits. Because of its centralising ambitions, Fuga’s Granili implied a radically novel conceptualisation of the entirety of Naples’ territory as both a frictionless field through which commodities could travel as well as a vast productive landscape providing for the inhabitants of the reign. The paper will discuss the project at either of these two scales questioning the degree to which its ambitions were fulfilled in the years to come.

Image: Antonio Joli, Assalto ai ‘baracconi’ in Largo di Castello (Napoli, 1764-1768)