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Decay, Texture and Craft: The Gondola Workshops, Venice

Part 2 Project 2011
Derek John Draper
University of Greenwich | UK
In Venice a richness can be found in the seemingly mundane. Layers of decay, peeling renders, bricks crumbling with the tides, and repairs reusing ancient stones. Seeking out and studying these exposes a richness to be captured in drawings. The act of discovering is as important as the final drawings. The experience forms an understanding of the city, studying these elements assembles my own image; an instrument that constantly interrogates any decisions.

For a thousand years the Gondola dominated the Lagoon. It’s authority has since been eroded by the motorboat, and the communities born of its construction have retreated. These thriving collaborations can still be seen, hidden in the alleyways: Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Guilders, Tailors, and Cobblers. Strewn across the city they feed into the boat yard. The Squareo at San Trovaso, a square abandoned by the day trippers. But behind the closed doors is the climax of the craft, the point where all trades are joined and home to the ceremony of the Gondola launch.

The project brings these workshops to San Trovaso. The amalgamation on a single site opens the doors. It engages the crafts with the public again, a public searching for a richer experience of the city. A dialogue with the craftsmen forms an understanding of the strict rules of the Gondola’s formation. The construction process lays out the workshops on the site the spaces between house each craftsmen’s engagement with the city. A meandering route through these public spaces offers visitors views of the process.

It is the understanding of the city, which guides how the program connects with the site. An understanding of which layers to add and which to peel further back. Suggesting a way of working with the site with a delicacy whilst addressing a subject impossibly weighed down by cliché.

Derek John Draper


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