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The dammuso: constructive characters of the traditional stone buildings of the isle of Pantelleria (Sicily)


Pantelleria, a volcanic island between Tunisia and Sicily, is characterized by a highly windy territory constantly hit by the sun. This harsh environment forced the inhabitants to build in an extremely effective way against the natural elements. This paper investigates constructive technologies, local materials, and phases of construction of the traditional rural houses, the dammuso, a Sicilian word meaning “vaulted-building”. It is a traditional passive cooling building characterized by a cubical shape covered by a vaulted-roof. This typology can be found almost everywhere in the isle, both old and pretty new, as the only one permitted. The minimum configuration unit is a cube made of bearing walls and an extrados-shaped vault; a more articulate disposition is realized juxtaposing three-dimensional cells. The different types of stones generate various typologies of masonry; the stone vault - finished by a white lime mortar making an inner comfortable micro-climate – is traditionally constructed by means of a wooden centering light structure; systems of rainwater disposal and internal/external finishing are also investigated. Ultimately, the dammuso, as a typical Mediterranean typology of vernacular house, is particularly interesting as it represents a simple passive cooling system whose principles are still reproduced in a contemporary way in modern buildings intended for a valid and functional energetic control along with making a perfect harmony between natural and built environment.