Ventotene and Gorizia

Opening the Panopticon


  • Sebastiano Fabbrini University IUAV of Venice



This essay sets out to reflect on the prospective transformation of two Italian panoptical buildings that straddle the border between different places and times: the prison of Ventotene and the hospital of Gorizia. Local authorities have recently put forward a proposal to turn the former into a European school and the latter into a European prison. Both of these hermetic, unbending architectures have particular historical significance. Ventotene is the island where Altiero Spinelli was incarcerated by the Fascist regime and wrote the manifesto that paved the way for the process of European integration. Gorizia is the town where Franco Basaglia began his career, elaborating the theory of mental health that led to the closing of all Italian asylums. The proposed Europeanisation of these structures of confinement and isolation, which embody the exercise of disciplinary power in its most extreme form, speaks to the problem of opening the total institutions of modern statehood and repositioning them within the increasingly decentralised, indeterminate order of the European Union.

Author Biography

Sebastiano Fabbrini, University IUAV of Venice

Sebastiano Fabbrini is adjunct professor and Jean Monnet fellow at the University Iuav of Venice. At the Iuav, he started the Iuav’s postdoctoral programme, he created the research projects ‘The Architecture of European Integration’ and ‘Project Ventotene’, which recently evolved into a Jean Monnet module, promoted by the European Commission. During this time, he also became visiting fellow at TU Darmstadt, in the ‘Architectures of Order’ research cluster. His research focuses on the dynamic relationship between architecture and power, addressing the rescaling of statehood in the post-war period and the process of European integration.


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