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Echem’s Crevello Explores Italian Restoration in Naples, Pompeii, Bari and Matera

Written by: Nikki Alvin-Smith

Principal of EChem Consultants Gina Crevello, was pleased to represent the Association for Preservation Technology International (APTi) as President of the Board of Directors during the annual Restoration Week, hosted last year in southern Italy, from the 30th August 2021 to September 4th, 2021.

“It was a wonderful five-day trip full of Italian culture and history where industry colleagues from across the globe came together to immerse themselves in an educational, collaborative environment to share the tools, technologies and expertise in the preservation and restoration of buildings and sites. I wouldn’t have missed it. This was my second trip to Restoration Week and it delivered on so many levels. Exploring world heritage sites and furthering your education is always a treat,” said Crevello-

The insight shared at this event, orchestrated by the organizers Assorestauro (Italian Association for Architectural, Artistic, Urban Restoration) who is also founding APT Europe and promoted together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Italian Trade Agency gave the opportunity to learn about the practices and efforts being deployed to restore and preserve sites and historic structures that include sustainable solutions that offer resiliency to changing conditions  and yet allow tourist interaction.

Crevello joined a group of international delegates from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Croatia, Lebanon and Albania (the official guest of the 2021 edition) represented by the Minister of Culture Elva Margariti.

The tour began with a study on complexity and the restoration of structures in dense urban settings. There were multiple issues going on with the buildings we toured. The Church of San Giovanni in Carbonara housed sculptures and pictures from the 16th Century, including the Crucifixion by Georgio Vasari, and is heralded as one of the most relevant Renaissance churches in the city. It was stunning to see the beauty that the massive restoration project has unveiled.

Similarly at our second stop, the Church of Donnaregina Vecchia built in the 14th Century, the discovery of a fresco hidden between the walls of the original church and an additional church built in the 17th Century showcased a diligence and care in historic preservation that was being painstakingly completed. An entire wall that infringed on the fresco had to be moved.

The immense scale and complexity of the restoration projects such as the blocks long Library and Monumental Complex of the Girolamini, a library no longer open to the public due to its poor condition, was an amazing sight.

This library is considered one of the oldest in Naples and one of the richest in content in south Italy. While it was open for centuries to the public since 1586, it was sadly closed due to its poor management which led to the theft of many antique books and a deteriorated condition which occurred many years ago. The building is magnificent and it was heartwarming to see the reparations being made and it coming back to what was evidently a glorious past.”

Gina Crevello’s expertise in historic preservation is primarily on structures built between 1880 and 1950. The opportunity to visit in person and learn about the tools and technologies being employed to assist in the restoration of buildings from antiquity to the 1940’s, was keenly embraced by Crevello.

The delegation then visited Pompeii where Crevello along with a few other delegates was invited into the archeological dig site that was ongoing at the Insula of the Lovers Chaste, a building made of several houses.

Next came a visit to the Villa Of Diomedes, one of the largest buildings in the entire city of Pompeii. Crevello was impressed at the scale of the daunting task that was being undertaken to restore the structural integrity of the building:

This site certainly yields some challenges for the restoration team. A video presentation showcased the need to stabilize a walkway above the tall structure, to shelter it from the elements meantime and to replace the old walls that once supported the roof and frame of the building is very complex. Seismic regulations must be followed for reconstruction while still maintaining the inherent style and design of the original structure.

The delegation then visited Bari, Italy, for two international conferences: Heritage and Sustainability and a Workshop on Restoration in Apulian Region.

I worked with a group on the theme of sustainability and preservation. We discussed the importance of creating an international approach for historic building use by creating a higher value on the green building scale, i.e. encouraging developers to consider reuse of historic sites/structures which is environmentally sustainable.  Repurposing existing structures is always the greenest choice. The panel was hosted by Green Building Council (GBC) Italia, who shared their building sustainability rating system and who are interested in stimulating a new wave of regeneration of the building market through a mix of historic and green building practices.”

“Sharing its GBC Historic Building® rating system with the international community, expanding its applicability beyond the Italian market: an international version of GBC Historic Building® will be developed to ensure that the classification system becomes technically and readily applicable globally, changing the way the market operates on historic buildings by integrating sustainability and restoration practices.”


Leveraging the green credits alongside historic renovation and restoration is a means to recycle the construction already erected and harness its beauty and craftsmanship as well as its location and practical attributes for daily use.

All the delegates were additionally engaged in the event, by being given time for short individual presentations of their own work experiences between the power point presentations on the ongoing restorative works being completed and later at the trade show, an opportunity to view the tools and technologies available for use in the field.

The conference center at Bari, Feira del Levante, provided a stunning backdrop to the conferences, and the accompanying Trade Show introduced vendors with instruments, tools and new technologies to the trade as well as practitioners versed in specialist services.
The final part of the visit was focused on the archaeological sites and rock churches at the famed hidden Matera. Nominated as a European city of culture in 2019, the site is both a working city and living museum.

The structures of Matera have shown resiliency through the ages and so has its people. Forced evacuations of families from mountain homes and cave housing due to unsanitary conditions notwithstanding, the modern day Matera is a very different picture. You can still visit renovated sheepfolds like the Jazzo Gattini with its staggering view of the Sassi of Matera, but you will also find this world heritage site a living city with hotels and restaurants.

The activity to restore Matera has become a project in making an eco-friendly and sustainable green living society. Amazingly, at the archaeological site asphalt roads with their detrimental environmental affects have been ripped out and replaced with eco-roads. There are no buses polluting the air with their diesel fumes and systems to protect areas from damage due to tourist foot traffic have been enacted.

The topic of protection of heritage and historic sites once restored from the imposition of large numbers of visitors is an interesting topic. While adding value to leverage funds for restoration and preservation by naming a site such as “Rioni Sassi” in Matera a UNESCO World Heritage site, the advent of visitors thereafter can impact the long-term preservation of the very site that we seek to protect.” It provides a double-edged sword and is a topic we shall explore at EChem in a future blog.

In 2009, John Mink wrote as part of his continuing series for CyArk about the Top 5 Endangered Heritage Sites at High Risk from the Hazards Associated with Large-Scale Visitor Traffic.  The issue of enacting a long term solution to protect all historic sites while still showcasing their inherent beauty and societal relevance after diligent restoration is one that requires clever and thoughtful management.

The Rock churches with their buildings carved into the rocks founded in the Middle Ages in Matera, have housed communities of Benedictine, Longobard and Byzantine monks among others. The consequence of moisture from people’s breathing and damage from human foot traffic causes damage to such amazing rock art is certainly something to be addressed ay all enclosed sites of this nature. Resolving these challenges is not easy, but solutions have been presented for many years now,” said Crevello.

Crevello, and the team at her woman-owned company EChem Consultants, based in Poughkeepsie, NY, are no strangers to the international stage and have worked on historic preservation of structures worldwide. As her presidency at APTi indicates, she is fully involved in helping other countries to access expertise to help in their own tasks to preserve their architectural heritage.

I was very pleased to meet with delegates from places like Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, who are keen to open the doors to preserving their own countries’ beautiful heritage. There may not be the workforce or expertise required on hand within their own countries at present to design, build and enact restoration that they would like to complete. Through APTi partnerships, like the one we have with Assorestauro, I am hopeful that if they wish it, we can help them access the resources they need to support their efforts to build a reservoir of knowledge and talent to facilitate their restoration projects,” explained Crevello.

Crevello, whose Presidency of APTi  expired in the fall of 2021, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity provided by the organizers of Restoration Week:

  We were wined and dined throughout the trip. The hospitality that the Italians are renowned for worldwide and their culinary delights were much appreciated. But of course the “raison d’etre,” was the true gift. To be able to completely immerse yourself in restoration, to share passion for the topic with colleagues from across the globe and the opportunity to garner so much knowledge was wonderful. I look forward to sharing what I learned with others as we go forward, and to help build a supportive infrastructure of talent to service the needs of heritage sites across the world.”

About Echem Consultants:

Echem Consultants LLC is a material science consultancy whose primary focus is understanding material durability of the built environment. Through our Life 52® assessment approach [Laboratory, Inspection, Field Services, Engineered Design], we assist Architects, Engineers, and structure owners with long-term durability planning and predictive service life modeling for critical infrastructure 52 weeks a year.  An additional advantage to employment of EChem Consultants is its ownership status as a certified women-owned business (WBE) and disadvantaged business (DBE) enterprise, thus fulfilling minority requirements for local, state, and federal contracts which have M/WBE or DBE set asides. Echem provides niche expertise in complex problem solving for critical infrastructure, landmark buildings, and new construction.

For more information, please contact Echem’s marketing department at 845-215-4370.

About Nikki Alvin-Smith:
British/American Nikki Alvin-Smithi s a seasoned Content Writer with a background in international commerce. Her works have been published worldwide across many genres including construction, investment, international freight forwarding, real estate, travel, the equestrian and pet industry and number in the thousands. Through her media enterprise company Horse in a Kilt Media Inc. Nikki collaborates with a variety of clientele to address their writing and PR needs, from Mom and Pop operators to Fortune 500 companies, from B-list movie/TV celebrities to Olympic athletes. Services include production of creative assets such as ghostwritten books, feature articles, blogs, vlogs, column writing, scriptwriting, speechwriting to copy for Executive Summaries, press releases, event coverage, brand building and marketing strategy. Additionally Nikki Alvin-Smith is an international level Grand Prix dressage competitor, coach and worldwide clinician. Together with her husband Paul, also a Grand Prix dressage rider, she lives in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York and operates an organic hay farm and dressage yard.