17 August 2014
As you arrive in Giudecca you would never suspect that this island is the home of some impressive examples of contemporary architecture. As you get off of the vaporetto at Giudecca-Palanche station after having crossed the Giudecca Channel, you see some beautiful buildings not so different from the others you have already seen in Venice. This is what an inattentive visitor would think. When walking along the “fondamenta” in St. Marco direction, for example, one would find a beautiful and peculiar building called Casa dei Tre Oci; but only if he gets inside he will discover the modern architecture that is possible to find in Giudecca. Casa dei Tre Oci was built at the beginning of the XX century. It was designed by the painter Mario de Maria in memory of the death of his daughter’s death. It is called Tre oci which means “three eyes” because of the three ogival windows that open the facade. This three elements represent the members of the family that were still alive, while the daughter was represented by a bifora on the top.
It is a peculiar example of neo-Gothic architecture. Fruit of the merging of various architectural trends from those of the traditional Venetian casa-fondaco (house-warehouse) to that of avant-garde of the twentieth century. Nowadays this building hosts many cultural events related to art in the twentieth century; inside many of the original furnishings and art and photographic materials related to the events of De Maria and Casa are still preserved .
The present exhibition is IK-OO the spaces of confinement. Visiting the exhibition, I had the chance of observing the modern style of the indoor of Casa dei Tre Oci. I really liked how the streamlined style merges with some ancient original elements like the doors and a traditional Venetian chandelier. I also liked the particular detail of putting bars on the window.
So Giudecca discovers her examples of modern architecture with parsimony and only to people who deserve it. Modern architecture is not visible at first sight. You can perceive it in details: in an elevator near a bridge in fondamenta Saint Giacomo, in the style of some windows and door fixtures, in the style of the benches of the little park near the civic centre and the library, in the triumph of the straight line over the curve (the curve prevail instead all around Venice). Modern architecture is hidden to inattentive eyes and to people who are not curious because you have to enter the buildings to find that inside there is a different style. You have to lose yourself in the small street and be attracted by the small clues that increase while you move from fondamenta St. Giacomo, the one facing the Sestiere Dorsoduro, toward the laguna.
The relationship between these buildings and their environment is therefore quite like a hide-and-seek one, in a way that is not disturbing and can be invisible, but sometimes is totally the opposite as buildings like the Molino Stucky stand out as colossal and explicitly atypical in Venice. This building (Molino Stucky) formerly a mill constructed in 1895, is in fact neo-Gothic style. It was riqualified in the 2000s and is now one of the hotels of Hilton chain.
Giudecca Nova: Campo Junghans
If you decide to enter a very small street that crosses the fondamenta, you will arrive in this beautiful campo. It is called Junghans after the name of the owner of the first italian factory of watches (at that time the biggest in the world) founded in 1877. During the Second World War, the factory was converted to military use (production of military fuzes). After the closing of the Arsenal after World War II (late 50s), the factory became the island’s most important production company. The activities ceased in 1971. Now the buildings of the factory Junghans have been converted to new use. In addition to several residential complexes, created in 2008 (private and public as the university dorm), the building now houses the theater (2005) which has preserved the historical name of Junghans.
This theater is the last to be opened in Venice. It was once a store to deposit fuses of bombs. The cultural association “Piuttosto Puck” which sees culture as a source of exchanging ideas and growth, wanted to give the impression that the theater is a factory of culture, a place of experimentation, a meeting place and peace-building.
The theater is characterized by a small triangular stage, designed to host a small audience of 150 seats. This space prepares the intimacy of the performance and at the same time the right distance from the scene. And the shape of the apse and stepped favors symposia and lectures. The Teatro Junghans also owns four rehearsal rooms more than any other theater operating in Venice, promotes the presence of workshops, seminars, training courses (teaching), art shows, as well as evidence of shows and performances of experimental theater.
In Giudecca Nova it is really nice also the Rio dei Scorzeri, a channel facing Rio del Ponte Lungo and the Laguna. It has been recently created in the context of the requalification of the surrounding area. This channel is surmounted by two nice modern bridges: “Ponte dei scorzeri” and “Ponte dei bolzeri”.
Ex fabbrica herion (in the former church of SS. Cosma e Damiano)
This area (first a Benedictine cloister, then a knitwear factory) has been requalified in 2004. The building complex is an “incubator” for enterprises with high technological development. This term indicates an instrument to foster the development of newly formed companies. The aim is to provide companies’ “incubated” incentives to facilitate their integration into the economic and financial world.
In the requalification the architect chose to respect the original features of the buildings. For instance, the internal subdivision of the spaces is obtained by the use of closed walls with vitreous material. The vertical connection is assured by a new block stairs, inside which are placed the hoist way, elevator and two concrete trench technicians. The apparatus of general systems and spaces of work, including over the large building behind the church also once used as a “deposit” of the factory.
Cino Zucchi’s buildings
Cino Zucchi is an italian architect who is famous for his renewal of industrial and historical areas. We need to mention that this project represents an important step in italian architectural culture for most of the project in Venice since the 50s has been rejected. It is important as the architect is Italian although in the last period foreign architects have been privileged. These buildings are perfectly integrated, as in their extreme simplicity are both modern and traditional. The features are eye-catching. The clue of the modern style of the buildings are the windows whose shape is alternately squared and rectangular.
In my opinion being too conservative regarding architecture even in an urban historic context determines the Venetian environment, limits its possibility and is anachronistic. I think that modern and contemporary architecture is especially important for functionality. In this respect I found that Giudecca offers a good balance in integrating modernity in the previous environment. Exalting the tradition with fine modern details and requalifying the old while respecting the main feature, can help us to remember their history and thus enforcing a sustainable philosophy in building.