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The Oblique Threshold

Part 2 Project 2010
Luke Mcdonald
Manchester School of Architecture Manchester | UK
The Olbique Threshold is a project concerned with the re-stitching of the northern fringe of Venice’s Castello region -one of the less coherent quarters. The paradoxical nature of the site – a former gas works - allowed for an investigation into both the openness of the Lagoon and the closed internalised characteristics of Campo San Francesco della Vigna. The latter owes much of its characteristics to its occupying church - San Francesco della Vigna - or more specifically the facade added by Andrea Palladio in the sixteenth century. The ambiguity of this space is such that a third of Palladio’s façade is screened by an adjacent Palazzo. The current frontal approach allows for a limited reading of the facade. As a result a new oblique entry into the square is proposed allowing for a greater unveiling of the façade whilst also providing a connection between the Campo and Fondamenta Nuove – Venice’s northern most boulevard - currently in existence without terminus.

Bordered by a vineyard the building is essentially split into two parts, both exploring the production and promotion of Venetian wine. Taking the form of a winery and guild hall the building is anchored into context at two termination points. A wine bar sits at the northern most edge of the site transcending the boundary of land and water emphasising a connection to the Lagoon, whilst also forming an object at the end of the Fondamenta Nuove. Paradoxically the Guild Hall or Scuole Piccole forms a Civic relationship with Church and Monastery, terminating in a reading garden – a space for quiet solitary contemplation.

A series of thresholds is set between the emphasis of external space and the revelation of internal function. The winery is designed with an industrial clarity and simplicity using the process of wine making as a generator. Celebration of each stage is through the use of individual rooms linked via a series of external loggias / terraces which attempt to re-stitch the building firmly into its context, driving a greater understanding of the wine making process, context and Venice as an urban idea.

Luke Mcdonald

Luke McDonald’s project is sited between Palladio’s church of S. Francesco Della Vigna and the Lagoon in the Castello area of Venice. The building takes its place on the site of a former gas works and crosses the boundary into the vineyard of the adjacent monastery. The function, a winery with associated educational, tourist and Guild facilities is a vehicle for a careful reading of the space between the Piazza and the Lagoon.

As the openness of the Lagoon plays against the interiority of the piazza, the building plays with the overlapping of Factory and Guild. Vista-filled open space contrasts with a multiplicity of routes and entrances. The generosity of the idea - a new opening into the city supported by the importation and processing of grapes from the mainland- is balanced by the subtlety of the architectural expression. A limited palette of materials supports the framing of path and space.

Luke chose to use a wide range of drawing and modelling methods in order to generate atmosphere and subtle variety. Ink and watercolour drawings were particularly important. Hand-drawn projections were used in an exploratory fashion and represented a conscious rejection of fast and facile computer generated forms. A bedroom-sized hand-built working model was used to develop the form and space. The joy of the project is in the drawn and modelled exploration of the building and the discovery of the delights and ambiguities that are typical of Venetian urban space.


Mr Dominic Roberts

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