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Sanctuario di Venezia: An archive of a dying city

Part 1 Project 2013
Paddy Fernandez
Oxford Brookes University Oxford UK
“To be permanent is contrary to existence. Things are forever changing” – Enric Miralles

Venice, pinned by wooden piles into the silty lagoon is like the most delicate of butterfly collections: a landscape of decadence and decay. The city is failing; widespread structural damage is recorded due to salt deposits from rising water levels degrading the load bearing capacity of the bricks. The project seeks not to ‘cure’ Venice’s deteriorating physical health but rather to document and perform the unique memories, transcriptions of spatiality, experience and sensory phenomena. The Sanctuary is to act as a cultural black box and spatial celebration of the unfettered beauty of temporality.

The accelerated entropic drama of the Venetian fog inspired a series of full-scale experiments analysing the spatial significance of transience. The narrative of the ‘keeper’ and his ‘collection’ questions and re-imagines the relationship of durational scale between the living and the abiotic. The collection comprises of artifacts collected from the ruins of the city, surrogates for the physical environments from where they were taken. A tautly choreographed series of optical parameters amplify micro-fluctuations in seasonal environmental behavior, the artifacts bloom into life as they become saturated in rich, heavy Venetian light only to flicker and fade into obscurity seconds later, these unique performances dictated by the hybrid union between light, time and users speak of the intangible volatility and beautiful fragility of the urban fabric which makes up the city.

Sited within the Arsenale (former site of colossal galleon construction) in the highest point above sea level, fractured timber masts pierce into the sky paying homage to the site’s truly remarkable history, becoming a beacon amongst the chaos. Layered exchange networks link to the existing Venetian circulatory system forming complex vectors and trajectories through the archive chambers and viewing platforms. The project asks how architecture can engage more actively with time. It also analyses what makes a city special and how these qualities can be captured and preserved. The Sanctuary is a celebration of colour, memory and the nuanced ephemerality of a city soon to be lost to the inevitable forces of time.

Paddy Fernandez

Tutor(s)


2013
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