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Drifting City, Venice : Sounding, Drifting, Sustaining

Part 2 Project 2012
Ben Watson
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK
Venice faces an increasingly flooded future, with sea levels predicted to rise up to 1.4 metres by the end of this century. In an inherently conservative city this plight presents a unique opportunity for radical intervention. Drifting City seeks means to sustain the city, proposing dispersal into the lagoon with new intervention catalyzing adaptation or salvage of the flooded old city. Threat becomes opportunity and experimental designs move between scales, allowing lagoon scale strategies and carefully detailed architectural proposals to inform one another.

Grounded in a pragmatic engagement with pertinent themes of tourism, ecology and the encroaching sea, the project also embraces the intangible, employing the narrative of sounding and drifting to propose reverberations of the city in the lagoon. A lagoon-scale framework for the work is based upon soundings of Venice transformed by a process of drifting. A drifted surveyor’s chain becomes an armature for new proposals grounded in the physical and social fabric of existing Venice, embedded with its fantastically rich historical and mythical narratives, yet transformed by the complex ecological context of the lagoon.

Six functionally diverse test projects - from a flood refuge within an abandoned church, to an isolated lagoon laboratory - engage the framework, responding to globally relevant issues within the unique context of the Venetian Lagoon at the scale of institution and dwelling. The test projects range in approach, adapting existing spaces, (re)collecting public artworks as a catalyst for new communities, salvaging the fabric of the city for re-use and profit and prospecting for new sources of energy and income in the natural resources of the lagoon.

Drifting City does not seek to ‘solve’ Venice, rather it represents the development of a conceptual approach to a city at once disconcertingly ethereal and stubbornly preserved:

an architecture of radical intervention with the potential to sustain the city without destroying it in the process.

Ben Watson

Ms Vicky Bernie
Mr Adrian Hawker
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