The August bank holiday weekend marked the end of group 3’s time in Venice, many of us returning home to visit family or friends before the start of a new year. With our focus now shifting from onsite research to the production and resolution of our research projects, it seems a good moment to reflect on our month away.
As the third group of Fellows at the Biennale we had to contend with the soaked heat of late Venetian summer. The only respite from the heat was the occasional storms (perhaps read tempests) that rolled down off the land to coat the piazza of the pavilion with leaves as they started to turn for Autumn. Yet, in the two months before us, routines and schedules for minding the pavilion had been laid out that could easily deal with the lower visitor numbers during the summer months. This relaxed our timetable meaning more time to explore the city and so, armed with water-bottles and a map of Venetian drinking-fountains, we began to put to paper the research proposals we had been refining since our induction in March.
Two thirds of the way through the month we had a review hosted by the ECA (European Cultural Academy) to assess how this research had been going. It was held in the Palazzo Rossini, a proud building overlooking a canal near Campo Santa Margherita on the south side of the island. The meeting was meant to be hosted by James Taylor-Foster – previously European editor-at-large for Archdaily – but due to a last minute illness we were instead placed in the capable hands of a local architect Stefano Tornieri who runs a small studio called Babau Bureau. In a vividly red room hung with deeply textural oil-paintings we started with coffees and chat to ward off the left-over tiredness of a day working at the pavilion. Yet this quickly progressed to a series of five-minute summaries, each introducing the idea we came to Venice with, and how it had developed since then.
The most prevalent theme across the range of presentations was how much many of them had changed since arriving in Venice. This fact alone speaks to the specificity of the place; black-and-white preconceptions quickly become mercurial in the context. These changes tended to shift focus towards the theme of Freespace, particularly in relation to the Biennale as an event and Venice as a city - where many spaces are less free than they first seem.
Beyond this, the influence of our tour around Cannaregio with We Are Here Venice was very evident. They gave a very sensitive introduction to the political complexities of Venice surrounding tourism, the lagoon, sovereignty and the future. Revealing these facets seemed to give an agenda and a critical voice to many of the projects that was previously lacking. With the next month to continue developing our proposals, and additional groups to add to the chorus, I think we are all looking forward to seeing how the body of research tackles the theme of the Biennale and the city of Venice. With such a talented group of people to work with, from across the UK and the world, I think the outcome is sure to be a thought-provoking addition to the canon of work surrounding the Biennale this year.
Below you can find a summary of all of the projects and titles for Group 3. With thanks to We Are Here Venice for their continued support and inspiration
Caitlin – Queens University Belfast - Architecture
4 identities, 1 material
I set a plan to visit all the food markets listed on listed on the Markets of Venice section on the Venezia Unica website. Some were only on certain days so I had to plan my days off accordingly.
Visiting the markets was a way of me discovering Venice as opposed to visiting any tourist places first. I got my bearings but I also sought finding mussels for the creation of ‘Musselcrete’; a sustainable, low-carbon emission concrete alternative made entirely out of shells and water.
I have four mussel bought locations - Alvise, Burano, Murano and Rialto. The Burano bought mussels were cooked and shared with my GB pavilion fellows for a ‘street soirée’. The intention is to create a ‘Burano Musselcrete’ piece along with three other pieces to represent the areas.
Cameron – The London School of Architecture – Architecture
Venice Chatter – A study of Architectural Conversation in Venice
The Venice and Athens charters lay out ground rules for how renovation projects in sensitive sites are meant to be approach, urging legibility between new and old as well as contextuality. This means architects attempting to engage in these contexts must toe-a-line between distinctive and deferential, creating a sort of conversation in each project between the architect and the building. My research will focus on three case studies in Venice, analysing the voice of each architect in how they interact with the city.
Alice B– University of Liverpool – Architecture
A comparative analysis of the void spaces in modern social housing projects on Guiddecca by Siza and Gino Valle. Analysing their interpretations of the void space in traditional Venetian / Italian streetscape of campos, streets, porches, gardens balconies. This will be expressed through an illustrative volley and selection of cast plaster models.
Danilo – Birkbeck University – Art Curation
Having stayed near Rialto, my commute to work involved a twenty minute walk which would only take ten minutes if the streets were empty. This alienated traffic is being taken from one attraction to the next, while Venice is being categorised according to a hierarchy of tourist attractions, codified by ‘Venice in a Day’ guidebooks. Because most tourists are in Venice for such a short while, the sociopolitical context surrounding the city’s heritage tends to be neglected. My project explores this issue. By proposing an ‘anti-guidebook’, I want to highlighting the hidden things of Venice which are often missed – both the immaterial and the hyper-real – rather than over-expose the romantic.
Lizzie – University College London – Architectural Studies
My research will use the medium of sound to explore, reflect on and discuss the issues surrounding the Biennale and its wider urban context. Primarily focusing on the potential for contradictions to arise from the Freespace brief; I have spoken to activists, Venetians, tour guides and charities, as well as other fellows, gathering opinions, ideas, and thoughts on the Biennale this year. Ultimately I am aim to produce a podcast which itself will be my own Freespace, providing a platform for discussions to be had and ideas to be formed - much like the roof of Island.
Ella – Royal College of Art – Furniture Design
Living in a city so alien from my own I became very aware of the ‘impracticalities’ that Venetians deal with on a daily basis: the scarcity of living space, the laborious process of waste removal, movement around the city being hindered by tourists, and lack of outdoor seating around the smaller canals. Unable to separate my Venice Research from my usual design practice, ideas and thoughts became integrated into ongoing projects, breathing energy into old and previously abandoned ideas, and so I began designing small items which I felt would make day to day tasks more efficient and enjoyable. The outcome of my research will explain some of these ideas in writing with sketches and models. I hope to create a full scale model of my idea for ‘Canal-side Seating’ when I return to London and show it in the show of Fellows work.
Rhea – Ulster
This research project conducted focused on the social human habitation of Freespace in Venice. This particularly focuses on the Freespace between the water…the bridges, a significance and poignant feature of Venice. This was illustrated graphically through the use of blind drawings, photography, poetry and contextual sketches. The combined findings embody a perception of the ways in which Freespace is occupied across the island.
Victoria – Royal College of Art
How free can a freespace be? What is the relationship between local and global in the contemporary freespace? Is this tension resolvable and if so, what are the possible models to follow? In the context of the event-based curating of the Biennale how is it possible to embrace internationalism without creating homogeneous globalism and ignoring the importance of locality in the present moment? Can we find some guidance in positive models around Venice: Caserma Pepe, Bill Fontana and the renewable energy agency MOSE, and the pavilions outside the Biennale ‘enclave’.
Hugo – University of West England – Architecture
Even if you don’t speak Italian, when you hear “permesso, permesso!” in the crowded streets of Venice you know what to do; move from where you are against the wall to let the person behind you pass. ‘Permesso’ is someone’s request for space, for access; it can either depend on you or depend of the others. It may suggest having a wish, a will or a dream, often liable to a certain element of permission (or simply an invitation) in between that process.
During my time in Venice, I explored ‘permesso’ in relation to a number of local issues, both spatial and cultural: (illegal) immigration, tourism, public space, the biennale and pavilion themselves. The result will be a magazine with four chapters that expands on these themes.
Karolina – Goldsmiths – Art Management
Do ‘I’ reach the exhibit? Does the exhibit reach ‘me’? A literal take on the idea of reach through the practices of accessibility
Venice, a city one of a kind, but is it ready for and open to any creative sector visitor? I will be focusing on the issue of accessibility in itself (ramps, disabled facilities, signage) rather than the descriptive side of accessibility and communication in galleries, museums etc (exhibit description and navigation through the space). Nevertheless I am planning onto mentioning that in my research as well inspired by the current exhibition at The Prada foundation. The greater focus will be put on art events, art organizations and the art industry as a whole with additional information on accessibility in Venice/Italy in general in order to contextualise the work.
Victoria Pap – Warwick University – Art History
Squaring the Circle
My research in Venice has centred around the documentation of Venetian ‘campos’ in relation to the theme of Freespace. This has involved documenting the communities that use these spaces as well as analysing the history behind their establishment. My final research document will focus on three Campos: Santa Margherita, Ghetto Nouvo and Giacomo di Rialto.
Shemol – Glasgow School of Art – Architecture
A catalogue of Venetian thresholds
Inspired by Asplund's sketches from his time in Venice and Italy, this research proposal focuses on process and gathering rather than a final outcome. It hopes to use Black and White film photography as a medium to practice composition, and aims to document and catalogue the range of threshold conditions encountered in Venice. In turn, they are to be collected in a catalogue, perhaps as a first chapter of many in the future, and will be accompanied by a short text that documents some of the thoughts and ideas that occurred during the month, which I hope may be the genesis for future work, as with Asplund.