Posts tagged with "Venice":
It is no secret that English Victorian intellectual John Ruskin (1819-1900) loved Venice, and the maritime city was the subject of one of his most famous written works, The Stones of Venice. He made over 15 trips to Venice, documenting it in writing as well as in painting, watercolor, sketches, and even early daguerreotype photographs from the late 1840s—all of which is on view at the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) in Venice through June 10.
The exhibition, titled John Ruskin: Le pietre di Venezia (John Ruskin: The Stones of Venice), shows a breadth of material that he produced on his many journeys to the city, with a particular focus on his art. The curators call Ruskin "a central figure in the nineteenth-century international art scene, a writer, painter and art critic," and seek to illustrate how strongly he was tied to Venice and its architecture.
The show features sketchbooks, prints, plaster casts, watercolors, and architectural studies from Ruskin, his influences, and his contemporaries. The objects on view further contextualizes Ruskin's within the history of Venice, but also within the history of art itself. By displaying the material in the heart of Venice in a building that is featured prominently in the exhibition, it becomes an immersive history lesson from many angles.
Ruskin was a proto-socialist and a religious man who wrote often of the moral and social aspects of aesthetics and craft. Ruskin had a fondness for the Gothic and Byzantine, as well as the Medieval and “anti-classical” Venice that he felt was being erased in favor of the Renaissance, a trend he tied to the moral and spiritual decay of Venetian society:
“[Venice]… is still left for our beholding in the final period of her decline: a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so weak—so quiet,—so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt, as we watched her faint reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, which was the City, and which the Shadow.
I would endeavour to trace the lines of this image before it be for ever lost, and to record, as far as I may, the warning which seems to me to be uttered by every one of the fast-gaining waves, that beat, like passing bells, against the Stones of Venice."
Most notably is the influence of one of the first modern painters, the English Romantic J. M. W. Turner, who like Ruskin was grappling with the rise of Modernism. For Turner, this was a cutting-edge use of abstraction to create effects in painting—which Ruskin also engaged with following Turner’s lead. Both Ruskin’s landscapes and his analytical paintings are included in the exhibition. A selection of manuscripts and sketchbooks for The Stones of Venice provide a glimpse into his ways of working, as well.Information on tickets to the show and hours of operation can be found here.
- 6a architects(London, UK) Tom Emerson; Stephanie Macdonald; John Ross; Owen Watson
- Alison Brooks Architects(London, UK) Alison Brooks
- Álvaro Siza 2 – Arquitecto, SA(Porto, Portugal) Álvaro Siza Vieira
- Amateur Architecture Studio(Hangzhou, China) Wang Shu; Lu Wenyu
- andramatin(Jakarta, Indonesia) Andra Matin
- Angela Deuber Architect(Chur, Switzerland) Angela Deuber
- architecten de vylder vinck taillieu(Ghent, Belgium) Jan de Vylder; Inge Vinck; Jo Taillieu
- Arrea architecture(Ljubljana, Slovenia) Maruša Zorec
- Assemble(London, UK) Jane Issler Hall; Mathew Leung; Alice Edgerley; Adam Willis; Fran Edgerley; Amica Dall; Giles Smith; James Binning; Paloma Strelitz; Lewis Jones; Joseph Halligan; Louis Schulz; Maria Lisogorskaya; Karim Khelil; Anthony Engi Meacock
- Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner(Haldenstein, Switzerland) Peter Zumthor
- Aurelio Galfetti(Lugano and Bellinzona, Switzerland)
- Barclay & Crousse(Lima, Peru) Sandra Barclay; Jean-Pierre Crousse
- BC architects & studies(Brussels, Belgium) Ken De Cooman; Nicolas Coeckelberghs; Wes Degreef; Laurens Bekemans
- Benedetta Tagliabue - Miralles Tagliabue EMBT(Barcelona, Spain; Shangai, China) Benedetta Tagliabue; Elena Nedelcu; Joan Callís
- BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group(New York, USA; Copenhagen, Denmark; London, UK) Bjarke Ingels; Sheela Maini Søgaard; Finn Nørkjær; Thomas Christoffersen; Kai-Uwe Bergmann; Andreas Klok Pedersen; David Zahle; Jakob Lange; Beat Schenk; Daniel Sundlin; Brian Yang; Jakob Sand
- Burkhalter Sumi Architekten (Zürich, Switzerland) Marianne Burkhalter; Christian Sumi with Marco Pogacnik (Venice, Italy)
- Carla Juaçaba(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
- Caruso St John Architects(London, UK) Adam Caruso; Peter St John
- Case Design(Mumbai, India) Anne Geenen; Samuel Barclay
- Cino Zucchi Architetti(Milan, Italy) Cino Zucchi
- Crimson Architectural Historians(Rotterdam, The Netherlands) Ewout Dorman; Michelle Provoost; Cassandra Wilkins; Wouter Vanstiphout; Simone Rots; Annuska Pronkhorst
- David Chipperfield Architects(London, UK; Berlin, Germany; Milan, Italy; Shanghai, China) David Chipperfield; Alexander Schwarz; Martin Reichert; Christoph Felger; Eva Schad; Harald Müller
- de Blacam and Meagher Architects(Dublin, Ireland; Ibiza, Spain) Shane de Blacam; John Meagher
- Diller Scofidio + Renfro(New York, USA) Elizabeth Diller; Charles Renfro; Ricardo Scofidio; Benjamin Gilmartin
- DnA_Design and Architecture(Beijing, China) Xu Tiantian
- Dorte Mandrup A/S(Copenhagen, Denmark) Dorte Mandrup; Frants Nielsen
- Elemental(Santiago, Chile) Alejandro Aravena; Gonzalo Arteaga; Juan Cerda; Diego Torres; Victor Oddo
- Elizabeth Hatz Architects(Stockholm, Sweden) Elizabeth Hatz
- Estudio Carme Pinós(Barcelona, Spain) Carme Pinós
- Flores & Prats(Barcelona, Spain) Eva Prats; Ricardo Flores
- Francesca Torzo Architetto(Genova, Italy) Francesca Torzo
- Gion A. Caminada(Vrin-Cons, Switzerland)
- GrupoSP(São Paulo, Brazil) Alvaro Puntoni; Joao Sodre
- Gumuchdjian Architects(London, UK) Philip Gumuchdjian
- Hall McKnight(Belfast and London, UK) Alastair Hall; Ian McKnight
- Inês Lobo, Arquitectos(Lisbon, Portugal) Inês Lobo; João Rosário
- Jensen og Skodvin Arkitekter AS(Oslo, Norway) Jan Olav Jensen; Børre Skodvin; Torunn Golberg; Torstein Koch
- John Wardle Architects(Melbourne, Australia) John Wardle, Stefan Mee, Meaghan Dwyer, Bill Krotiris, Jane Williams
- Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA(Tokyo, Japan) Kazuyo Sejima; Ryue Nishizawa
- Kieran Long; Johan Örn; James Taylor-Foster (Stockholm, Sweden) with ArkDes (Stockholm, Sweden)
- Lacaton & Vassal Architects(Paris, France) Anne Lacaton; Jean Philippe Vassal
- Laura Peretti Architects(Rome, Italy) Laura Peretti
- Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo(Vittoria – Ragusa, Italy)
- Marie-José Van Hee architecten(Ghent, Belgium) Marie-José Van Hee
- Marina Tabassum Architects(Dhaka, Bangladesh) Marina Tabassum
- Matharoo Associates(Ahmedabad, India) Gurjit Singh Matharoo
- Michael Maltzan Architecture(Los Angeles, USA) Michael Maltzan
- Niall McLaughlin Architects(London, UK) Niall McLaughlin
- O'Donnell + Tuomey(Dublin, Ireland) John Tuomey; Sheila O'Donnell
- Paredes Pedrosa Arquitectos(Madrid, Spain) Angela Garcia de Paredes; Ignacio G. Pedrosa
- Paulo Mendes da Rocha(São Paulo, Brazil)
- Peter Rich Architects(Johannesburg, South Africa) Peter Rich
- Rafael Moneo, Arquitecto(Madrid, Spain) Rafael Moneo
- Rintala Eggertsson Architects(Oslo and Bodø, Norway) Dagur Eggertsson; Vibeke Jensen; Sami Rintala
- RMA Architects(Mumbai, India; Boston, USA) Rahul Mehrotra; Nondita Correa Mehrotra; Robert Stephens; Payal Patel
- Robert McCarter, Professor of Architecture(St. Louis, Missouri, USA) Robert McCarter
- Room11 Architects(Hobart, Tasmania, Australia) Thomas Bailey; Nathan Crump; Megan Baynes
- Rozana Montiel Estudio de Arquitectura(Mexico City, Mexico) Rozana Montiel
- Salter Collingridge Design(London and Ludlow, UK) Peter Salter; Fenella Collingridge
- Sauerbruch Hutton(Berlin, Germany) Matthias Sauerbruch; Louisa Hutton; Juan Lucas Young
- Skälsö Arkitekter(Visby and Stockholm, Sweden) Joel Phersson; Erik Gardell; Lisa Ekström; Mats Håkansson; Axel Wolgers
- Souto Moura - Arquitectos, S.A.(Porto, Portugal) Eduardo Souto de Moura
- Studio Anna Heringer(Laufen, Germany) Anna Heringer
- Studio Gang(Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, USA) Jeanne Gang
- Studio Odile DECQ(Paris, France) Odile Decq
- Talli Architecture and Design(Helsinki, Finland) Pia Ilonen; Minna Lukander; Martti Lukander
- Tezuka Architects(Tokyo, Japan) Takaharu Tezuka; Yui Tezuka
- Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects(Tokyo, Japan) Toyo Ito
- Vector Architects(Beijing, China) Gong Dong
- VTN Architects(Hochiminh City, Vietnam) Vo Trong Nghia
- Weiss/Manfredi(New York, USA) Marion Weiss; Micheal Manfredi
Oblivion doesn’t simply mean forgetting one’s own history, or developing a morbid addiction to beauty, which is experienced as though it were a lifeless ornament that should console us. It primarily means forgetting something essential: the specific role that a city plays in comparison to others, its uniqueness, and its diversity, virtues that Venice possesses more than any other city in the world.Settis gazes unflinchingly at the towering cruise ships that turn Venice into a fleeting spectacle for paying guests, while literally weakening its ancient foundations. And to make vivid in our imagination a Venice without actual Venetians, he takes us on an unsavory tour of Venetian-style simulacrums around the world, from Las Vegas to Chongqing—even a proposal for a theme-park style replica of Venice within (most ironically of all) Venice itself. A Vitruvian Oath For Settis, Venice is a vivid case study for a process engulfing historic centers everywhere, and he challenges architects everywhere to stop participating in the accelerating commodification of urban life. In particular, he excoriates the way architects and their clients use purely aesthetic arguments to "mask the cynicism of the financial wheeling and dealing and real estate speculation that triggered them in the first place." As an antidote, the classically minded Settis sends his readers back to Vitruvius. Just as doctors take a Hippocratic oath, he argues, architects should take a Vitruvian oath. "No architect," writes Settis, "should ever agree to building anything—whether it’s a bridge, a terrace, or a window—that might contribute to the death of the historic city by destroying its uniqueness." Cri de Coeur At times, Settis can seem like a conservative curmudgeon, with his extravagant rhetoric and appeal to some golden past. Yet he describes the market's familiar creep into the public domain with such vividness, and he so forcefully marks out what is stake (not just Venice but civil society itself), that by the end you can only thank him exactly for his apparent faults. If you stay with him to the last page, you find it is impossible to disagree with his conclusion that, if Venice dies, "the very idea of the city—as an open space where diversity and social life can unfold, as the supreme creation of our civilization, as a commitment to and promise of democracy—will also die with it." If Venice Dies, by Salvatore Settis, translated by André Naffis-Sahely, New Vessel Press, September 2016, paper, 180 pages, $16.95.
Why did the Venetians build their city in such an unlikely place? And how ever did they succeed in doing so? These are the central questions architect and historian Richard Goy poses in his introduction to newly published Dream of Venice Architecture. The first is easy to answer. The first Venetians settled in the lagoon to escape the violent breakdown of the Roman Empire on the mainland, wrote Goy. But how, amid the muddy shoals of a brackish lagoon, did they manage to build such a strange and extravagant city?
It is a question that can inform, inspire—and haunt—an entire architectural career. Architects know exactly how hard it can be to build on terra firma, let alone tidal flats. Yet they instinctively understand that the most compelling built forms tend to coalesce around seemingly impossible challenges.
Dream of Venice Architecture—edited, published, and with a preface by JoAnn Locktov—gathers 35 very short essays in which some of the world’s leading architectural minds, including Tadao Ando, Mario Botta, Jürgen Mayer H., and Witold Rybczynski, attempt to grapple with the strange and miraculous-seeming city. They alternately recount their obsessions with Venice, reflect on the ways it has infused their own practice, and propose ways to infuse it with new life in the 21st century. William Menking, founder and editor-in-chief of The Architect’s Newspaper, is among the contributors.
Each essay is accompanied by a single, exquisite image by Riccardo de Cal, a Venice-trained architect, photographer, and filmmaker. De Cal has managed to capture Venice in surprising and often poignant ways—no easy task in this postcard of a city.
“I wanted to tell the story of a Venice empty and suspended in time, a place where nothing exists except architecture and nature—a place man does not inhabit,” said de Cal. Just to photograph Venice, one begins to understand the challenge of building in a place where, according to de Cal, “Everything is slanting in all three axes.”
A Multi-Dimensional Odyssey
“What can we learn from a city that is over 1,500 years old?” asked Locktov in her preface. A great deal, apparently.
For Hong Kong-based architect Rocco Yim, Venice directly informed his concept design for Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, which he described as a “multidimensional odyssey of public domains rather than set-pieces of iconic architecture.”
For Ando, work on the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana reoriented his entire attitude toward architecture’s scope.
“Though the Japanese culture has developed the habit of repeating ‘scrap and build’ philosophies based upon economic rationality, I believe that architecture should be essentially rooted in society and be immersed in a lapse of time,” wrote Ando. “This is exactly what I learned in Venice.”
For others, Venice has served as a kind of liminal space where the real and imaginary have been forced to meet. New York–based architect Louise Braverman equated the “unanticipated, variegated pleasures” of Venice with the architectural encounter itself.
Carlo Scarpa and a Venice of the Future
What is next for Venice itself? With luck, more than just fetishistic preservation, according to architect Frank Harmon.
“A city that has its own fortune in its crystallization cannot however reject to renew itself,” argued Harmon. “We have to be able to add a digital level of intelligence to the city, an invisible layer, like the foundations of mud.”
In imagining a future for Venice, the essays also return again and again to the work of Venetian-born Carlo Scarpa as a model. Why? Because Scarpa’s projects—including the Olivetti Showroom on Piazza San Marco and the ground floor and gardens of the Palazzo Querini-Stampalia—are utterly contemporary both in form and materials even as they weave themselves harmoniously into an ancient and multifarious city.
Guido Pietropoli, who trained under and worked with Scarpa, praises his mentor’s ability to achieve a “Venetianity that makes no concession to the vernacular.”
And Valeriano Pastor, professor of architecture at the University of Venice, singles out the stone-lined canals that Scarpa places along the perimeters of the palazzo’s ground floor. They graciously accept, then expel again, the high tides that once threatened this flood-prone space.
In the process, Scarpa is “exalting the poetry inherent in the natural phenomenon while befriending its aggressive action,” writes Pastor. “It is a metonymic model—wonderful in itself—of the Venetian Lagoon system.”
NOTE: A portion of the proceeds from Dream of Venice Architecture will help support architectural programming at the Fondazione Querini-Stampalia.
Dream of Venice Architecture Riccardo De Cal and Richard J. Goy, Bella Figura Publications, $26.99
On July 15,1989, Pink Floyd held a concert in Venice in front of more than two hundred thousand people. Framed in the foreground by the city’s famous twin columns—of its patrons, St. Mark the Evangelist and St. Theodore of Amasea—and in the background by Andrea Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore, the band performed from a floating platform in the middle of the Venetian lagoon, while the assembled crowds filled every inch of St. Mark’s Square, the adjoining Piazzetta, and waterfront Riva degli Schiavoni, and even jostled for a front row seat in an ever-growing carpet of boats moored within the lagoon itself. A particularly striking aerial photograph presents the scene a few hours before the band took to the stage, “mechanically repeating,” as Roland Barthes would put it, “what could never be repeated existentially.”
Yet the romantic, almost fantastical nature of this moment is somehow misleading: In spite of the popularity of the concert—a “Night of Wonders,” as certain sections of the press described it—the event provoked an outpouring of opprobrium in Venice’s always tempestuous political quarters. A number of the city’s municipal administrators viewed the concert as an assault against Venice, something akin to a barbarian invasion of urban space. Other voices, such as the local architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri, were equally vitriolic. Lecturing at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV) in 1993, just a year before his death, he spoke of how he despised the concert for being nothing more than a “postmodern masquerade”—the epitome of the frivolous discourse that characterized culture in the 1980s—and for the physical damage it had wrought on the city.
The idea for the performance had originated with Francesco (Fran) Tomasi, the band’s Italian promoter. “For their 1989 tour,” Tomasi recalled, “Pink Floyd were looking to perform in peculiar places. At the time, my office was in Venice and so I had the idea of organizing a free concert to coincide with the Feast of the Redeemer, the Redentore, in which the local population, rather than the tourists, always take an active part. The band immediately loved the idea.”
The Redentore, held annually on the third weekend of July, was initiated in 1578 to celebrate the end of the terrible plague. At sunset Venetians invade St. Mark’s Basin, from where they watch a fireworks display while bobbing up and down in their boats. In the 18th century it was also common to see gondolas and the smaller sandoli carrying musicians who entertained the crowds before the fireworks. It was this aquatic musical accompaniment that Tomasi hoped to recall with his own concert. The sheer scale of the event, however, called for a corresponding increase in the size of the musical boats. In the end, individual vessels were recast as a vast floating stage, 318 feet long by 79 feet wide and 79 feet high.
Preparations for the event, billed as the latest stop in the band’s “Momentary Lapse of Reason” tour, gathered pace. RAI, Italy’s state broadcaster, agreed to a live broadcast of the show. The big day drew closer. In June 1989, after a fiercef debate about the profanity or acceptability of such an event so close to the Redentore festivities, the city council finally granted its approval (in a democratic vote that went against the wishes of the mayor, Antonio Casellati).
Just three days before the event, however, Margherita Asso, Venice’s superintendent for cultural heritage (nicknamed the “Iron Superintendent”), vetoed the concert on the grounds that the amplified sound would damage the mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica, while the whole piazza could very well sink under the weight of so many people. Tomasi had to think fast. He quickly offered to turn down the volume on the thousands of speakers and to move the stage back 98 feet, in an attempt to dampen the ardor of the crowd. Asso remained unconvinced, and it was not until the arrival of the three band members on July 13 that a so-called compromesso all’italiana (Italian-style compromise), involving decibel levels and crowd fencing, was secured and the concert could go ahead.
The show lasted just 90 minutes but lived long in the memory of those who witnessed it. The next day the local paper, Il Gazzettino, carried the headline “Grandi Pink Floyd, Povera Venezia” (“Great Pink Floyd, Poor Venice”), juxtaposing appreciative accounts of the show with images of St. Mark’s Square covered with litter and young people sleeping rough in doorways. No real damage had occurred, but the city woke with a distinct “after-party” look. The political reverberations were more far-reaching, and a few weeks later the local government fell.
Of course, Venice has a long history of political farragoes, just as it does of floating, ephemeral architectures, from Alvise Cornaro’s almost surreal 16th century proposal for a theater and artificial island on the lagoon, or the triumphal arch built near the church of Santa Lucia on the occasion of Napoleon’s visit to the city in 1807—a project famously depicted in a painting by Giuseppe Borsato—to the floating bath constructed by Tommaso Rima in 1833 and moored off the city’s Punta della Dogana, and, most celebrated of all, perhaps, Aldo Rossi’s highly poetic Teatro del Mondo, built in 1979.
Tafuri’s first edition of the Renaissance book, Venezia e il Rinascimento—published in 1985, just a few years before Pink Floyd’s floating stage (also witnessed from the Piazzetta)—articulated a characteristically political argument in presenting the history of Venice as a constant battle between those who wanted to restructure and renovate the city (whom Tafuri dubs the primi) and the traditionalists who only wanted to uphold its established principles and structures. The book was not written as a contemporary allegory, at least not explicitly, but the parallels are obvious, not least in the ongoing clash between the more progressive Venetians who defend the Serenissima’s artistic patrimony but also endorse more modern solutions, and those who seem only to consider the city as a kind of frozen museum. Like many entrenched oppositions, the two sides are actually not all that different, but the debate centered (and still centers) on striking a balance between the city’s delicate ecology and its economic viability. In this debate, tourism and spectacle are both the agent of destruction and the city’s salvation.
More than Palladio’s San Giorgio, then, this was the real backdrop to the Pink Floyd concert, confirming the music promoter Bill Graham’s famous adage, “politics uses and abuses rock music.” Even Mason himself revealed the ambivalences and overlaps endemic on both sides when he admitted, “I must say I like the idea of carrying on a tradition rather than being totally unique.” It was no coincidence that 1989 was also the year Venice was preparing its bid to host the 2000 European Expo, which was expected to attract upward of two hundred thousand visitors a day and act as a springboard for a new, modern city.
The project was backed largely by Italy’s Socialist Party (PSI), and more particularly by Gianni De Michelis, then the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ranged against them were the traditionalists, including a number of key members of the opposing Christian Democrats, who were keen to block the expo bid by whatever means. If the former group had secured an initial victory in clearing the way for the smaller, metonymic rock concert, the latter soon took their revenge, using Pink Floyd as a Trojan horse to point to the city’s inability to accommodate a crowd. In fact, this apparent inability was not unconnected to the city’s refusal to provide either city cleaners or portable toilets for the concert. The day-after hangover, depicted in all its squalor by the local newspapers, had therefore actually been designed.
Despite his passion for Renaissance architecture and enduring fondness for Cornaro’s seemingly perverse theater project, Tafuri, as we have seen, was vociferous in his objections to both the Pink Floyd concert and to Venice playing host to the European Expo. For Tafuri, the theatricality of both events concealed a darker ambition to transform the city into a purely political and economic object. Venice, he countered, is a particular city that negates the possibility of an absolute modernity—a theme he returned to repeatedly, but especially in the same 1993 lecture in which he lambasted Pink Floyd.
In this talk, presciently titled “Le forme del tempo: Venezia e la modernità” (“The Forms of Time: Venice and Modernity”), he argued that the concert relied not only on the splendor of the city but also on the perfectly Italian splendors of blackmail and bribery, and the ascendancy of economic and media interests. However, perhaps because this was the school’s Lectio Magistralis (the inaugurating lecture for the academic year), he concluded more optimistically with the notion that the imago urbis of Venice is sacrosanct and impossible to recalibrate, ending defiantly with “The battle is not yet finished.”
But in many ways the battle has finished, and is one that has seen a victory of sorts for a kind of synthetic Venice that is both traditional town-museum and a contemporary hub—for what are the vast cruise liners that today pass through the Grand Canal if not a recalibrating imago urbis fundamentally reliant on both the historic and the commercial? And what, for that matter, is the Venice Biennale if not a repeating ritual that under the theatrical guise of art and architecture maintains a thriving, even defining, economic model? The vast numbers of people these different tourist attractions draw in dwarf all of the figures ascribed to that moment in July 1989 when Pink Floyd ended their set with “Run Like Hell.” The historian in Tafuri would no doubt see this as further confirmation of all those Italian splendors, and in this, as ever, he may well be right.
Léa-Catherine Szacka is also the author of the forthcoming book Le Concert with Sara Marini, which will be published by Editions B2 in 2017. A longer version of this paper was originally published in AA Files 69, 2014: 12-17.