Florence Tackles Duomo Defacement With a New Tool: Virtual Graffiti
FLORENCE, Italy — “Do not write on the walls,” reads the message on a Renaissance stone wall in the cathedral on this city's central square.
Unfortunately, the instruction, scrawled in black marker, was the defiant graffiti of a visitor who had decided to mock the plastic sign just above it by saying the same thing.
The official missive, on a wall at the end of a steep staircase leading up to the dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, better known as the Duomo, had clearly failed in its mission.
官方的标牌位于圣母百花大教堂(Santa Maria del Fiore)里，通向穹顶的一列陡峭台阶的尾部，这座教堂常被称作“座堂”(Duomo)。但标牌显然没有达到预期目的。
Elsewhere, tourists through the decades had defaced walls and other parts of the monument with declarations of eternal love, political slogans, spontaneous feelings and frustrations or other, generally inane, musings.
“I hate the stairs,” read one.
“Cate, I want to marry you,” another proclaimed. Or at least that was the stated desire back in November 1999.
Very recently — Feb. 28 to be precise — “Jackie+Denise,” a couple from New Jersey, decided to make sure the world knew they had visited Florence's bell tower, designed by one of the pioneer artists of the Renaissance, Giotto di Bondone. They wrote their names in dark red pencil on the 18th-century bronze bell.
最近，确切地说是2月28日，来自新泽西州的情侣“杰基+德尼斯”(Jackie+Denise)下定决心，要让全世界都知道他们参观了佛罗伦萨的钟楼。这座钟楼是文艺复兴时期的一位先锋艺术家乔托·迪·邦多纳(Giotto di Bondone)设计的。他们两人用红色铅笔在18世纪的铜钟上写下了自己的名字。
For years, officials in Florence have tried to discourage visitors from around the world from using this city's old stone walls as a time capsule for such musings. But the human urge to generate graffiti, it seems, is a powerful instinct, difficult to tame.
So the officials have decided to try a digital solution to their age-old problem, starting with Giotto's bell tower, the Campanile.
Having finally cleaned up all the walls along the 414-step climb to the bell tower earlier this year, officials have placed three tablets there, hoping visitors will leave their marks, virtually, without damaging the monument itself.
Messages will be stored on a website and archived, for eternity, online.
Any other mark will be removed swiftly, a large billboard at the entrance of the bell tower explains in both Italian and English.
“We needed something to act as a deterrent against new graffiti, once all the walls were clean, and we hope that this app will do that,” said Alice Filipponi, the social media strategist at the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, the institution that oversees Florence's Duomo complex.
“所有的墙壁都清理好之后，我们需要某种东西来起到劝阻的作用，让游客不再涂写，希望这个app能做到这一点，”爱丽丝·菲力波尼(Alice Filipponi)说。她是圣母百花大教堂机构(Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore)的社交媒体策略师，佛罗伦萨这所大教堂的建筑由该机构管辖。
“Our goal was to let people leave their testimony without smearing the walls again,” Filipponi said.
It took Beatrice Agostini, the institution architect who manages and maintains the site, three months with a team of nine restoration experts to clean up the walls in the tower using solvent gels and lasers. The task is not one she and her team want to repeat, especially since various parts of the cathedral, where graffiti remains, must still be cleaned.
“We want to tell people that a mark is not only an eyesore, but it's a real damage to the monument,” she said. “Removing the different writings is a problem. On marble, it's almost impossible; a ring stain remains forever.”
She added, “We can't put cameras everywhere, the space is so narrow, so we thought that providing an alternative was our best bet.”
It's a bet the two women seem to be winning in the bell tower. In the first three days of their experiment, there were more than 3,000 visitors, 304 digital messages — and no new graffiti scrawls.
With virtual graffiti, visitors can select the background they want to write on: wood or marble, iron or plaster — like that found in the monument. Then, with their tool of choice, from lipstick to spray paint, they are able to use their fingertips to etch symbols, names and messages.
Users are asked to leave their email addresses, so that once their messages are approved, they can receive notice of publication.
In years to come, the messages may be printed and included in the paper archive of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, whose documents date back to 1296.
“Whether we manage to educate people remains to be seen,” said the institution's president, Franco Lucchesi. “But as of now, our Internet is full of messages, and the walls are not. We can therefore say that it's working.”
Some have confessed to their misdeeds. Lucchesi recalls the “pilgrimages” of a Japanese class coming to apologize for the damage done by students — three years in a row.
“The fact that the monument is so clean also helps,” said Laura Bachmann, a 21-year-old from Germany who was visiting Florence with a friend. “None dares to be the first one to dirty it up.”
To the experts, that cleanness is the main deterrent. “Vandals do it where everyone can see their mark. Unfortunately, I fear it's not a tablet that can prevent recidivism,” Andrea Amato, president of Italy's National Anti-Graffiti Association, said about the effort in Florence. “Cameras don't hamper graffiti; entire walls available for graffiti writers have not impeded them to dirty up elsewhere.”
在专家看来，整洁是主要的劝阻因素。“破坏公物的人会在所有人都能看到的地方胡写乱画。可惜我担心靠一个平板电脑，没办法阻止这种恶习的重燃，”意大利全国反涂鸦协会(National Anti-Graffiti Association)会长安德烈亚·阿马托(Andrea Amato)在评价佛罗伦萨的做法时说。“摄像头也阻止不了涂鸦，哪怕有整面整面的墙壁让涂鸦者胡写乱画，还是避免不了他们弄脏其他地方。”
He added: “But it's important that we don't abandon our monuments to degradation. If we clean them, it's psychologically harder for people to smear them up again.”