In Memoriam: Arch. MARIA LETIZIA (Cina) CONFORTO, Architect, Educator, Author, former Architect Director at the Italian Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (M.I.B.A.C.) and a Role Model

ICOMOS CIF expresses the deepest condolences for the passing of Cina Conforto to her family, friends and colleagues.

Maria Letizia Conforto (1st January 1940 – 15th January 2024 ) at the Crypta Balbi. Photograph by C. Gonzalez-Longo (November 2011)

Maria Letizia Conforto gave a keynote lecture on her very innovative and seminal project of the Crypta Balbi (Rome) at the ICOMOS CIF 2022 Symposium in Florence and suggested us to write a Decalogue for Education in Architectural Conservation as outcome. Her conservation and design intervention at the Crypta Balbi is one of the key international references for interventions in complex archeological and historic sites: students and professionals from all over the world benefit from the visit of this important site and the study of such a masterful intervention.

Maria Letizia was one of the founders of Studio Metamorph in Rome in 1964, in which continued to work after graduating in architecture in 1967 and until 1980. She carried out research, design and architectural projects with many successful outputs such as publications and competition prizes.

She was between 1977 and 1980 Architect Director at the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (M.I.B.A.C.), Soprintendenza di Pisa, carrying out historical research and architectural conservation projects at Lucca, Livorno and Volterra. She carried out specialist studies on historic centers, urban conservation and regeneration, and the development of cities created and designed during the Renaissance. She was selected by UNESCO in 1978 to represent Italy in an international stage on architectural conservation in Paris and in architectural conservation sites in Prague and in Bohemia.

Between 1980 and 2007 she was Architect Director at  the M.I.B.A.C., Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma and principal architect, project architect  and site architect of various prominent historic buildings and sites, such as the Colosseum Valley, the Caracalla Baths, Piazza Vittorio and Crypta Balbi. She also contributed to the definition of the Sector Plan for Archaeological Heritage aimed at the valorisation and safeguarding of the archaeological heritage of Rome (law 92/81). The results from these projects in Rome concerning archaeological research and conservation sites of historic areas promoted both national and international exchanges between public administrations, university institutes, professional firms, engaged in archaeological conservation in large urban contexts, such as the Paris-Rome twinning in 1982, previous to the excavation for the construction of the Grand Louvre. She carried out the project of the preservation and conservation of outdoor marble monuments in Rome between 1982 and 2000). supervised by the Central Institute of Restoration (ICR) and in collaboration with numerous universities. This work allowed for many national and international interdisciplinary exchanges of experiences, extending to large construction sites the criteria of attention and care used in the conservation laboratories. It also addressed the complexities of the relationship between ancient monumental complexes and the modern city, and included a series of international meetings and conferences: Athens, International Meetings for the Restoration of the Acropolis Monuments 1984-2002). Moscow and Leningrad, study meetings of Lazio culture in the Republic of Russia (1987) and Pula, restoration of the Arch of the Sergi for the Archaeological Museum of Istria (1990-1994).

As well as the specific architectural conservation projects in Rome as architect of the M.I.B.A.C., between1983-2012 she had additional assignments proposed by the Ministry concerning scientific collaboration and the exchange of experiences on urban and conservation issues: (1983) Lima (Peru), excavation and enhancement project of the Huaca Cao; (1989-1990) I.C.R. Rome, Program of interventions for the prevention of seismic risk, Advanced Course on the Conservation of stone materials; (1990-93) Archaeological Soprintendenza of Bologna, assignment for the reorganization of the Archaeological Museum of Parma; (1994) Municipality of Livorno, consultancy for the drafting of the new PRG drawn up by Studio Gregotti Associati; (1996-2000) Verona, consultancy for the restoration of the Arena; (2002-2006) Naples, consultancy for the conservation of archaeological structures in the underground construction site of Piazza Nicola Amore; (2011-12) Tivoli, consultancy for the conservation of the Sanctuary of Ercole Vincitore.

Arch. Conforto has been since 1982 teaching, participating in conferences and exhibitions. She has also participated on missions, organized by Research Institutes and University Faculties. Some of her activities concerning architectural conservation education are as follows:

1985-89 • University of Florence, conservation of structures in a state of ruin;

1985-2022 • C.I.Be.C., University of Naples, participation in advanced engineering courses applied to cultural heritage and AISI scientific publications (Italian Association of Engineering History);

1987 • Baghdad, Italian Cultural Institute, Planning the Past (educational exhibition organized by the University of Turin);

1994 • Iasos, Turkey, Italian archaeological mission;

1997 • Berlin, Pergamon Museum, preparatory seminar for the restoration of the Pergamon Altar;

1997-2007 • University of Ferrara, Faculty of Architecture, adjunct professor for the Monument Restoration Laboratory B;

2000 • Brasilia, DOCOMOMO International Conference, Rome, the city of the future in the lesson of history (lecture by invitation);

2001 • University of Roma Tre, assignment for the preparation of the exhibition for the celebrations of Apollodorus at the Archaeological Museum of Damascus;

2002 • Sapienza University of Rome, project for the conservation of the Red Monaster in Sohag (Egypt);

2004 • UNESCO, project for the conservation of the citadel of Hanoi (Vietnam);

2007-2011 • University of Rome Torvergata, Faculty of Engineering, Degree course in Engineering – Architecture, adjunct professor for the Monument Restoration Laboratory;

2010 • UNESCO, conservation project, Historical National Park (Haiti);

2015 • Edinburgh, University of Edimburgh, college of Art, Scottish center of conservation studies, visiting professor in architectural conservations master class