British exceptionalism

If you ask Maurizio Carta what the mafia looks like, he will take you to the residential areas of the Sicilian capital of Palermo. There, hundreds of desolate, nondescript grey apartment blocks scar the suburbs and a vast part of the historic centre.

It is the result of a building frenzy of the 1960s and 1970s, when Vito Ciancimino, a mobster from the violent Corleonesi clan, ordered the demolition of splendid art nouveau mansions to make space for brutalist tower blocks, covering vast natural and garden areas with tonnes of concrete. It is one of the darkest chapters in the postwar urbanisation of Sicily, and would go down in history as the “sack of Palermo”.

The Sicilian mafia had declared that urban planning in Palermo was to be controlled by Ciancimino, who in 1959 was nominated head of public works by the public administration. “The word ‘sack’ was not randomly chosen to describe that period,” says Carta, professor of urban planning at Palermo University. “Like plundering barbarians, mafiosi devastated the city with cement, disfiguring its parks, landscape and natural beauty.”

Rubble from demolitions and building materials were dumped on the coast, causing the pollution of beaches, many of which remain inaccessible to swimmers today.

The British are indeed different. The Sicilians have an excuse, they were raped by the Mafia. The British architects did the same thing out of conviction, in order to oppress the people instead of profit from them.

8 thoughts on “British exceptionalism”

  1. But also tax, at some point wasn’t it cheaper to demolish the crumbling mansion than pay the tax. National Trust dodginess changed things somewhat.

  2. ‘ The Sicilians have an excuse, they were raped by the Mafia. The British…’

    The British were raped by the new Socialists from Britain’s Democratic Socialist Party aka Labour at National and local level, whose promises of Utopia paid for with fruit from the magic money tree they were stupid enough to believe.

  3. John B–and in what wise were BlueLabour any different? By the 50s they were boasting about how many council houses they were building. Tories always were grandee scum who found socialistic handouts to plebs more to their taste than SME business types who might prosper and supplant Tory grandees and local gobboons.

  4. RichardT, But in case of the italians that government was (is) actually recognised as oppressive thieving bastards tied deep in..

  5. Many city centres in the UK were first landscaped by our German chums, who moan like hell that we did the same to them, although rather more effectively. Dresden anyone?

    Architects and Socialists were our home grown National Socialist British Workers Party …

  6. It’s generally considered that Coventry City Council did far more damage to the city than the Luftwaffe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *