Still fresh from my architectural degree in 1984, I took part in a sand castle competition. The organizers had invited a dozen of the most famous Italian architects to participate. I was included in the group thanks to a number of articles on sand castles that I had written for design magazines, making me the only Italian expert on the subject.
The competition took place on the beaches of Rimini and Riccione on the Adriatic coast and the castles were to be built in two days, during the last week-end of June.
My project simulated an archaeological excavation of the future; we were supposed to be looking for the ruins of a beach resort, possibly destroyed by an atomic catastrophe. I was helped in my field work by a few fellow graduates and students. We unearthed the remnants of a structure presumed to have been a cheap tourist hotel and various artefacts inside and around, including parts of furniture, personal belongings, and the remains of an Alfa Romeo.
I asked the Town Council to lend us two bulldozers for the main excavation, more than a meter deep and covering an area of 800 sq.m. The project area was cordoned off by a sand embankment and canvas wall to keep bathers out and build expectations among the public. We posted a large bogus sign outside the wall, explaining it was a project run by the Archaeological Department of the Italian Ministry of Culture.
Everything we found was carefully unearthed, photographed, measured, catalogued and left in plastic bags on the spot. I had also brought with me two human skulls and when the public, peeking under the canvas wall, thought we were truly discovering human remains, the emotion was at its peak. Someone in the public alerted the press and by 6.00 pm reporters and crews from local and national TV had came to record the event and everybody was convinced that this was a real archaeological find. At that point we had more than six hundred people trying to peek inside the enclosed area.
The official photographer from the sand castle competition, believing we were not part of the event, ignored us.