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Speculative Salt Museum

Part 1 Project 2008
James Purkiss
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL), UK
The building is Speculative Salt Museum and Institute in Venice for the ‘International Commission for the History of Salt’. The Commission was founded in 1988 to “promote, coordinate and primarily stimulate scientific research in the field of salt history.” Venice is an appropriate location for the Commission since salt has been a vital and tangible element in its political, economic and architectural history. The building occupies a small, restricted site, adjacent to a canal in the Dorsoduro district of the city. The building uses salt water from the canal for evaporative cooling. Salt produced as a product of evaporation is used to adapt the building in response to environmental conditions, particularly in the screening and shading of the roof ponds and thermal mass. By extracting salt from the canal water the building will make explicit to the visitor the relationship between the material and the city. Through its environmental strategy, the building might also suggest a new context, or value, for salt in the city and through it a more sustainable way of occupying the lagoon environment.
James Purkiss

James Purkiss’s work has been extraordinary: precise, inventive and compelling. The work develops a unique personal language that strongly combines architectonic concerns with a contemporary environmental and technological strategy.

James worked as an inventor and restorationist of the near future within the picturesque landscape of the city of Venice, whose very existence is under threat, treating the drawing as a site for survival.

Transforming the diverse qualities of saline water into delicate spatial systems, he uses the salt to draw, cool, shade, exchange and dazzle, in a sophisticated and subtle manner. Exposed structural systems weave together a series of hybrid environmental elements enveloped and choreographed to form a dynamic set of seasonal spaces.

A mature political approach is developed to articulate the public and private nature of the project; for example the president of the 'International Comission for the History of Salt' becomes the private resident and keeper/preserver of his building/city. The building borrows from Venetian construction methods – new and old: Academia bridge, Carlo Scarpa architectural details and boat building techniques – by combining them with contemporary sustainable technology his Speculative Salt Museum becomes an active model not only for the museums of the future but city and environment at large.

Dr Penelope Haralambidou, Mr Max Dewdney and Mr Chee Kit Lai


Dr Penelope Haralambidou

Prof Christine Hawley
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