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Venice Terme

Part 2 Project 2011
Martin Flett
Mackintosh School of Architecture, UK
As well as forming the lanes, streets and avenues of the city, the canals of Venice were also a place in which to bathe and swim. However, modern concerns about the safety of these activities have led to their prohibition. This, alongside the retreat of bathing into the private domain in the past century, has led to the formerly significant Venetian culture of public bathing dying out.

The project draws on eastern and western bathing traditions, forming and articulating a dialectic of two physical worlds – a wet world of stone, belonging to the ground plane of Venice and the Roman Thermae tradition, and a dry world of timber, belonging to the roofscape of the city and the tradition of the Turkish Hamam.
The site is adjacent to a busy tourist thoroughfare yet is only ever seen in glimpses, thereby analogous to the public and private dichotomy at play within any bathhouse. Bound by canals on three sides, it offered an opportunity to establish a strong visual relationship between the prohibited waters of the canal and the pure waters of the bathhouse.

As the project developed, the site came to be understood as a room within the city, held by the walls of the adjacent buildings, engendering a shift, to an understanding that the bathing should not occur behind a wall, but in a mediated publicity inspired in part by a story in Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities:

Abandoned before or after it was inhabited, Armilla cannot be called deserted. At any hour, raising your eyes among the pipes, you are likely to glimpse a young woman, or many young women, slender, not tall of stature, luxuriating in the bathtubs or arching their backs under the showers suspended in the void, washing or drying or perfuming themselves, or combing their long hair at a mirror. In the sun, the threads of water fanning from the showers glisten, the jets of the taps, the spurts, the splashes, the sponges’ suds...

The Terme looks to explore the relevance of the bathhouse today, and meaningfully reintroduce the lost art of public bathing to Venice.

Martin Flett

Ms Sally Stewart
Mr Charlie Sutherland
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