If you’ve been reading Architizer this past week, you know that the Venice Biennale is finally upon us. This year’s festival promises to be memorable indeed, with films, proposals and exhibits addressing the most pressing topics in architecture today. If you are lucky enough to attend the Biennale this year, there will certainly be no shortage of attractions to hold your attention. However, it would be a mistake to spend your entire stay in Venice at the exhibitions. A trip to Venice is hardly complete without venturing into the city itself and visiting the manifold architectural treasures that have existed there for centuries.
For a guidebook to the city, one cannot do better than Dream of Venice Architecture, a collection of stunning photos of Venice landmarks paired with reflections on the city written by famous architects. This magnificent coffee table book was just released this spring by Bella Figura Publications and features photographs by the esteemed Riccardo De Cal. Architecture enthusiasts visiting Venice for the first time will surely find much of interest in these pages.
What follows is just a brief sample of the book’s highlights. The whole collection can be purchased here.
Richard J. Goy
“How to characterize and thus comprehend this most enigmatic and complex of cities? Countless writers have tried over the centuries, using a myriad of metaphors, similes and flights of rhetoric.
One practical way is to consider Venice as a tightly packed collection of tiny villages, each with its own campo, parish church and noble palazzi. This is indeed how the city coalesced over time, almost like a miniaturized version of the hundred-odd villages surrounding London before they all expanded and joined together to form a vast, contiguous urban whole. Here, though, every campo remains unique, every island parish retains its own identity. Most also retain their palazzi and parish churches.
Another way might be this. A few years ago, Roberto Alajmo wrote a wonderfully idiosyncratic introduction to his home city, Palermo, which is entitled Palermo e’ una Cipolla (Palermo is an Onion). And Tiziano Scarpa has described Venice, perhaps more obviously, as a fish, using the human senses as extended sensual metaphors for the experience. But in many ways the onion analogy, although certainly less romantic, is more applicable to Venice than it is to that beguiling capital of Sicily. Alajmo means, of course, that a city reveals itself in layers, one at a time.”
“Though Japanese culture has developed the habit of repeating ‘scrap and build’ philosophies based on economic rationality, I believe that architecture should be essentially rooted in society and be immersed in a lapse of time. This is exactly what I learned in Venice. Genuine affection for architecture and the city is spontaneously shared among the Venetian people. The projects in Venice brought me chances to contemplate what architecture should be, which became a precious experience for me.”
“For the architect, the recognizing of a city is nearly always expressed through emerging elements: a bridge, a monument, a tower, a neighborhood or a geometric structure. In the end, nearly all of us reason like collectors of snow globes, those that are found in all souvenir shops, and show the stereotypes of different cities.
It is rare that landscape is used as the substantial element of a city, its GEOGRAPHY. But Venice is the exception.
To picture her, let us begin with the waters of the lagoon that have the acrid taste of stagnation with its saltiness that penetrates with the humidity, arriving at the Lido, and finally, to the sea — the real sea, the one that changes and alters, and frightens less than the high or low tides that violently shakes the city. Venice, within whose waters everything that there is to reflect is reflected, including history. Venice, where everything flows, unpredictable, like nature itself.”
“Five years living in Venice as a young architect altered the very lens through which I see the world. The watermark the city has placed upon me is indelible — an aqueous tattoo that endures today. I came to the city to work for an architecture firm and to learn contemporary design using the ancient crafts of cut stone, terrazzo, marmorino, scagliola and stucco. As the years streamed by, my American frame of reference adapted to the Venetian urban form and I became metabolized into the body of the city, moving fluidly through the organs and veins of the forma urbis.”
“More than any other city, Venice embodies a defined urban form, compact fabric and unitary body composed by successive historical transformations. Composing an extraordinary stratification of these ages and disparate cultures, Venice today presents itself as a privileged place, rich in history and memory. But the city also has a dynamic reality that the architect Le Corbusier reinterpreted in its modernity beyond its fantastic aspects.
… Le Corbusier came to explicate this heritage of knowledge, interest and attention through an unrealized hospital project. My relationship with Venice was strongly influenced by the Maestro’s critical reading and by my encounter with Bepi Mazzariol, who made me physically know the city. By way of large paths, and walks along its typical fondamente and calli, he taught me to love it, to criticize it; to confront the contradictions of my work and encounters with modernity — always supported by this heritage in which he saw, to quote Louis Kahn, the past as a friend.”
For many more incredible photographs and more beautiful quotes, you can purchase "Dream of Venice Architecture" here.