Reporting from Giudecca, the other side of Venice /1

Simo Capecchi from Venice.

As Mario Linhares already greatly reported on Urban Sketchers and more in details on his blog, he invited me to join him, Josè Louro and Benedetta Dossi to sketch a few days before the opening of Portuguese Pavilion in Giudecca’s island, at the 15th Architecture Biennale in Venice, on behalf of DGArtes, a department of the Portuguese Ministry of Culture.

I’ve studied architecture in Venice many years ago and haven’t come back to Giudecca island since a long time. To my surprise, many new buildings by famous international architects – but also local ones as my ex teachers – have been build meanwhile. Add new architectures in such an ancient and protected area is a challenge that 25 years was hard to imagine. This makes Giudecca a real workshop in progress and one of the most interesting place to visit when you’re in Venice. Above, Álvaro Siza Vieira unfinished social houses and on the right Aldo Rossi’s ones.

We had the chance to visit one apartment and talk with a couple of residents. Since they are nice people, they’ve been already interviewed, filmed and photographed a lot! Anyway having their point of view was important to focus on the difficulties even for a great architect to meet inhabitants needs. Italian administration and low quality materials unfortunately did not helped.

Álvaro Siza’s idea to locate the Biennale portuguese pavilion inside the unfinished houses is praiseworthy and will helps to complete this construction carried on for too many years. Neighborhood is the key word and the event’s title. The opening day has been an important one.

The best moment was probably the dinner offered to all residents, where official representatives from Portugal Ministry of Culture, the director and staff from Venice Biennale and Álvaro Siza with his studio collaborators had lunch with the social houses’s inhabitants. A real unconventional Biennale opening and a good neighborhood party.

The day ended with a debate in Villa Hériot’s garden, right beside the social houses area. The beautiful villa, dependance and garden, build as a vacation house by a france couple, was donated to the municipality in 1947. An elementary school and other institutions are located there, as Iveser that helped to organize the debate, hosts an exhibit of Portuguese sculptures (with a stone chaise-longue by Siza as well) and kindly hosted us to sketch from their windows. 

As the local activist Andrea Barina said, Giudecca island is “a balcony facing beauty”, with the lagoon on one side and Venice on the other one. From a former industrial area, with factories but also countryside with cows – architecture historian Francesco Dal Co reminded when as a kid each morning he would wait for fresh milk bottles delivered door to door from Giudecca – to a lively, authentic but also “modern” area of Venice. Seldom tourists and no Veniceland here but an interesting neighborhood to discover.

to be continued: part 2

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