The group takes its name from the deranged anti-hero of Andrei Tarkowski’s 1979 film “Stalker” and was founded in 1990 by a group of architecture students during an occupation of Rome University. Created as a response to the growing number of areas within Rome being neglected as a result of urbanization, privatization and capital-driven development, Stalker shies away from descriptions of themselves as “architectural,” as its members and collaborators have included artists, art historians, theoreticians, an astrophysicist, a geologist and a dentist.
The group has also focused its work on the plight of refugees and other migrants. In 1999, they began the occupation and transformation of Piazza Boario, formerly a slaughterhouse complex, into Campo Boario, their eventual headquarters. Campo Boario has been the site of innumerable projects, installations and workshops.
The site sits beside the Tiber River in Rome, an area that was steadily becoming a dumping ground. Stalker shares the space with transient Kurdish immigrants, who had been squatting there prior to Stalker’s arrival. Together they have subjected the complex to significant rehabilitation and it now serves as the largest Kurdish cultural institution in Rome, becoming a defined waypoint for all Kurdish refugees traveling through Europe.
Stalker is also well-known for their architectural walks and night-walks of Rome. These ‘walks’ are in fact explorations, and deliberate attempts to reconnect a city with its people. For any urban dweller, we become familiar with the parts of a city that are ‘our’ parts – where we live, where we work, where we play. The other parts cease to exist in our daily experience, but nonetheless affect the health of the city as a whole and our common futures. Stalker’s walks, therefore, aim to reconnect people with the areas, sights, sounds and experiences of the city which they had perhaps forgotten, or never knew existed.
We had a chance to unpack these theories with Lorenzo Romito on our podcast, Social Design Insights. Listen to Episode 48 | Nurturing Collective Imagination in Rome here.