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Posts Tagged ‘Venice’

Churches, Venice

San Giorgio Maggiore, Palladio

Venice has a rich tradition of ecclesiastical architecture. The dome of the nearest church is never far on the horizon. Ironically, some of the best buildings are outside the city limits, on the island of Giudecca.

Buoyed by his success elsewhere in the Veneto, Palladio moved to Venice in the mid-16th century. Two of his most famous commissions, San Giorgio Maggiore (1565) and Il Redentore (1576-77) are located here.

Il Redentore, Palladio

Palladio’s churches solve the problem of designing a facade to fit the basilican cross section. A taller temple front, with four Corinthian columns, covers the nave; whilst a low, wide pediment fits the aisles. The churches exploit the Renaissance dome, but do not result from central planning. Columns on the exterior are replicated indoors, with barrel vaults forming the structure. Palladio’s crisp, monumental churches contrast with more decorative architecture found inside Venice.

First published in 1570, the Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (four books of architecture) are Palladio’s legacy. The collection contains accurate drawings of Palladio’s own designs and reconstructions of Antiquity. The books have proved useful to many famous architects, including the British architect Inigo Jones, who used the Quattro Libri as his guide for a journey to Rome.

Santa Maria della Salute, Baldassare

Another remarkable Venetian church, Santa Maria della Salute (began 1631), sits at the southern end of the Grand Canal. To commemorate the Plague, Longheno Baldassare designed an octagonal church in the Baroque style. The central plan, in the form of a rotunda, depicts Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Views within the church are carefully controlled. Arches serve to frame vistas outdoors to the Grand Canal, whilst allowing passers-by to view the altar. Like the Teatro Olympico, lighting is designed to enhance the spectacle. Structural elements are picked out in grey stone, contrasting with the white-washed walls behind. Externally, the facade is decorated with elaborate scrolls. Baldassare’s dome can been seen from many parts of Venice, contributing to the city’s picturesque skyline.

Santa Maria della Salute, from the Ponte dell'Accademia

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Ponte di Calatrava, Venice

Ponte di Calatrava, Venice

Ponte della Constituzione, better known as Ponte di Calatrava, opened in 2008. The bridge spans across the Grand Canal at its most northerly point, linking Santa Lucia railway station with the car, bus and ferry terminal at Piazzale Roma. From its inception, the project has polarised opinion, with proponents describing the structure both a ‘carpet of light’ and a ‘lobster’ respectively.

Santiago Calatrava’s design investigates rhythm and transparency. The 94 m single span bridge is achieved using a futuristic structure of glass and steel, which rises from 3.45 m to 9.38 m at the centre.  Stairs are made from toughened glass and istria stone. Each ascending tread becomes progressively wider, forming a curve perpendicular to the span direction. Bronze handrails nimbly vault the Grand Canal, whilst glass panels enclose the bridge deck without obstructing views. At night, illumination in the handrail and beneath the decking, turn the structure into a ribbon of light.

View South along the Grand Canal

Commissioned in 1999, the Ponte di Calatrava is the newest bridge in the city to be constructed in more than 70 years. Venetians first spanned the Grand Canal at Rialto in the 16th century. The Scalzi and Accademia bridges followed later, in the 1930s. Calatrava, a Spanish architect, is well known for projects that fuse Architecture and Engineering, including the City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, and the Tenerife Concert Hall. Although Calatrava has designed over forty bridges worldwide, he believes this his ‘most beautiful’, declaring it ‘an act of love to Venice and of love to Italian civilisation in general’. Aside from linking two important districts, the bridge forms a symbolic gateway to Venice, where visitors leave behind road traffic and enter the domain of vaporetti, motor boats and the gondola. The vista South, along the Grand Canal is particularly key to this transition. The architect believes Venetian bridges ‘serve as landmarks, points of definition in an urban fabric that is utterly unique’. Alongside its function, the bridge has acted as a catalyst, regenerating  the canal side. For example, the abutments provide seating and allow access to the new vaporetto landing stages.

Bridge abutment

Although hailed as ‘the  most important architectural achievement in recent decades’, the Ponte di Calatrava has come under much criticism. The project was completed late and came in four times over budget. Construction had to be halted for two years, due to uncertainty about stability of the canal banks. A further criticism was the lack of disabled access. During the design process, it was always assumed wheelchairs would use the existing vaporetto connection to cross the canal. (Retrofitted lifts have now been installed). The bridge was finally unveiled in September 2008.

As a piece of design, the Ponte di Calatrava both contrasts with and complements its historic context, successfully functioning as the gateway to Venice.

Big Bambu, Mike + Doug Starn

Big Bambu, Venice Biennale

Recently on view at the 54th Venice Biennale, Big Bambu is a remarkable experiment in art and structure. Located next to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the 50 feet hollow bamboo tower supported a pathway to a 20 feet wide rooftop lounge. The Stairns employed a team of 11 rock climbers to continually build and support the evolving structure, throughout the exhibition period of May 29th to June 15th. Mike Stairn comments “It is a sculpture – but not a static sculpture…growth and change remain inevitable. Furthermore, the sculpture is a physical construct that embodies the philosophy of inter-dependence within natural systems. Doug Stairns adds, “Everything depends upon one another and the loads are distributed throughout…There is not too much weight applied to any one thing.” A previous exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2010), proved popular, being rated the 4th highest attended contemporary art exhibition in the world. Hopefully the success of Big Bambu will inspire similar projects.

Aerial Pathway

Getting Hitched: simple roped connections