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Post-disaster redevelopment and the “knowledge city”: limitations of an urban imaginary in L’Aquila

Giorgos Koukoufikis (Gran Sasso Science Institute, L’Aquila, Italy)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 March 2019

Issue publication date: 31 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the “knowledge city” spatial socio-economic imaginary used in the post-earthquake city of L’Aquila, Italy, to promote its socio-economic redevelopment.


The paper counters primary and secondary data with the expected qualities of a knowledge city. The analysis is supported by the literature review on knowledge-cities and post-disaster redevelopment, local and national documentation review, on-site observations and an inquiry of the case of the Gran Sasso Science Institute, the leading project towards the implementation of the knowledge-city agenda through interviews with key actors and a survey among its researchers.


Post-disaster realities and path-dependency leave little room for a positive path-shaping redevelopment trajectory related to a knowledge-city urban archetype. This vision promotes materialism and intellectualism from local, national and international stakeholders; however, the city lacks specific urban qualities to attract and maintain highly skilled labour and investments, while negative socio-economic trends still continue a decade after the earthquake.

Research limitations/implications

The city’s post-disaster recovery and redevelopment contain certain degrees of inertia. The early stage of it, the lack of certain secondary data, and the focus of the paper on specific indicators limit the opportunity for stronger reasoning.


The analysis reveals that the redevelopment vision of the knowledge city was hastily adopted. The mismatch between reality and expectations highlights the need for post-disaster territories to avoid overestimation of their capabilities and adjusts their redevelopment strategies to local characteristics adopting modest future projections.



Koukoufikis, G. (2019), "Post-disaster redevelopment and the “knowledge city”: limitations of an urban imaginary in L’Aquila", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 474-486.



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