Saturday, July 31, 2010

La Biennale Architecture 2010 - People Meet in Architecture

(Venice, Italy) La Biennale sent over a press release about the collateral events at this year's Architecture Exhibition, the 12th edition, and it sounds so innovative that I am going to share it with you in its entirety. This year's Director is Kazuyo Sejima, who is not only an actual architect, she is also an actual woman -- the first female Director ever -- so I am really looking forward to seeing life from her point of view. When the architects were here two years ago, all of Venice came to life. They flooded the streets, bars, restaurants and hotels of the city with their particular brand of creative energy, unique and refreshing. (That image you see is Frank Gehry's project back in 2008 from the very cool site I just loved the architects, and listening to the way their minds work. You can read that Venetian Cat Blog by clicking here:

One particular group of students and I had an interesting discussion when we shared a table at lunch. I asked them what type of project they would create in Venice, and they said they wouldn't create a building, they would create a space. 

I told them I had always dreamed of creating a Baby Park like they have in New York City along the Hudson River down by the West Village. The architects completely transformed the river, which used to be filled with dead bodies and drugs, so dangerous you could not go past Washington Street, into one of the most desirable areas in NYC. Using housing and design, the entire river came to life. And when they put in the Baby Park -- no one over twelve-years-old allowed to enter unless accompanied by a child -- guess what happened? Right! The West Village became full of babies! (I wrote about this phenomenon in my second novel, HARLEY'S NINTH.) Since the Forces of Evil continue to chip away at Venice's fragile infrastructure, and the resident population continues to decline, in my opinion a new Baby Park, say, over in Campo San Polo, would be the perfect solution to counteract that energy.

By the way, I piece I wrote entitled "Conversation With a Gondolier" that focuses on this situation has just been published by Gadling/AOL after Red Room, a writer's website I belong to, hooked me up with them. Under the terms of our agreement, Gadling/AOL has exclusive rights for six months so I can't give you an excerpt. I can, however, provide you with the links:

Click to go to my article on Gadling:

Click to go to my Red Room blog:

Here is the La Biennale press release:
la Biennale di Venezia
12th International Architecture Exhibition
People meet in Architecture

Collateral events

Venice, July 30 – 20 Collateral Events will be presented at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition, with the title of People meet in Architecture, directed by Kazuyo Sejima and organized by la Biennale di Venezia under the presidency of Paolo Baratta (Preview August, 26th-27th-28th 2010) that will be open to the public from Sunday 29th August to Sunday 21st November 2010.

The Collateral Events are proposed by international organizations and institutions which organize their own exhibitions and initiatives in Venice. With their proposals and initiatives, the Collateral Events represent an original and significant enrichment of the program of the International Exhibition.

A Park dedicated to Giuseppe Ungaretti
Castello, 6113 (Borgoloco P. Molmenti)
from August 29 to September 26
Organization: Associazione Amici di Castelnuovo

Asian View of Life
Ex Magazzini del Sale, Salone del Sale, Dorsoduro
from August 29 to October 15
OrganizationCentro Italiano per le Arti e la Cultura

Beyond Entropy : when Energy becomes Form
Fondazione Giorgio Cini, San Giorgio Maggiore Island
from August 27 to September 19
Organization: Architectural Association School of Architecture



green ethics – habitat - environment
Arsenale Novissimo – Spazio Thetis
from August 26 to November 21
Organization: Politecnico di Torino

De l’Objet à la Ville avec l’École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs
Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti, Palazzo Loredan, San Marco 2495 (Campo Santo Stefano)
from August 29 to November 21
Organization: École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs

"On site" considerations on the future of vulnerable cities
Arsenale Novissimo – Spazio Thetis – Padiglione “Modelli”
from August 29 to November 21
Organization: Università degli Studi di Roma “Sapienza”, Facoltà “Ludovico Quaroni”, Dipartimento Architettura e Progetto, with Technische Universität Darmstadt, Fachbereich Entwerfen und Wohnungsbau

Il vuoto e le forme 2010
Arsenale, Castello, 2126/A (Campo della Tana)
from August 29 to November 21
OrganizationDIET Dipartimento di Ingegneria Edile e del Territorio dell’Università degli Studi di Pavia

Immaterial spaces
San Servolo Island, Edificio 17
from August 26 to September 30
Organization: Art Experience

Le cattedrali del vino. The meeting of two cultures
Hotel Danieli – Saloni Marco Polo, Castello, 4196 (Riva Schiavoni)
from August 28 to September 9
Organization: O.A.R. - Ordine degli Architetti Pianificatori, Paesaggisti e Conservatori di Roma e Provincia and IN/ARCH - Istituto Nazionale di Architettura

Arsenale Novissimo – Nappa 89
from August 27 to August 29
Organization: ARTIMAGE CONTEMPORARY informe

M9 - A New Museum for a New City. The International Architectural Competition
Via Alessandro Poerio, 24, Venezia - Mestre
from August 28 to November 21
Organization: Fondazione di Venezia

Mapping Contemporary Venice
from the city of today to the Venice of the future
Venice International University - VIU, San Servolo Island
from August 26 to September 20
OrganizationVenice International University – VIU

Ca’ASI, Cannaregio, 6024 (Campiello Santa Maria Nova)
from September 25 to November 21
Organization: Ca’ASI Association

Paris La Défense Seine Arche, Alex MacLean Given a Free Hand
Ca’ASI, Cannaregio, 6024 (Campiello Santa Maria Nova)
from August 29 to September 19
Organization: Public Development Authorities of La Défense Seine Arche

Provincia italiana – The Italian Provinces

Different venues in the towns of Bassano del Grappa, Caldogno, Montorso Vicentino, Possagno, Schio, Valdagno, Venezia, Vicenza, and those of the Camposampierese area.
from September 2  to November 19
Organization: Fuoribiennale and C4-Centro Cultura Contemporaneo Caldogno  with Centro Studi Usine

Quotidian Architectures: Hong Kong in Venice
Arsenale, Castello, 2126 (Campo della Tana)
from August 27 to November 21
OrganizationThe Hong Kong Institute of Architects and Hong Kong Arts Development Council


Palazzo Ducale, Loggia Foscara
from August 29 to October 30
Organization: fuori_vista

Take A Break: Spatial Variability in Contemporary Taiwan
Palazzo delle Prigioni, San Marco, Castello, 4209
from August 26 to November 21
OrganizationThe National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMOFA)

The Bearable Lightness of Being – The Metaphor of the Space 2
Arsenale Novissimo – Tesa di San Cristoforo 94
from August 28 to October 7
Organization: Fondazione Mudima

The Garden and Beyond: A Global Garden
ESU Venezia – sala polivalente “Nardocci”, Dorsoduro, 3861 (Calle larga Foscari); VELA-Actv – info point “Hellovenezia”, Isola Nova del Tronchetto, 21
from August 29 to November 21
Organization: Associazione Culturale Gruppo Giovani Pittori Spilimberghesi

Ciao from Venice,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Festa del Redentore - Feast of the Redeemer

(Venice, Italy) This past weekend, July 17th and 18th, we celebrated Venice's greatest festival, the Feast of the Redeemer (that image you see was taken from the Comune di Venezia's site). I have written about this holiday before, back on July 19, 2008:

The Church of Redentore was built in honor of Christ the Redeemer to save Venice from the plague, which wiped out ONE THIRD of the population, including Titian himself. Now, what, exactly, were the sins from which the Venetians thought they needed redemption? One was that they did a lot of trading with the Muslim countries. (I can think of several others:) The Venetians had tried everything, and as we know, when all else fails, the only thing left to do is to pray. In any event, it WORKED! The end of the plague on July 13,1577 is what we are celebrating tonight with what is usually the best fireworks in the entire world exploding over the lagoon. Venetians from all over the Veneto arrive in their boats to watch the show. The fondamenta on the Giudecca is lined with tables and Venetians eating traditional food. Terraces and balconies are filled with revelers. The Lido has their own party going on over there. It's a big Venetian party, and deserves its own blog, which perhaps I will give it in the future.

Click here to read the entire post:

Well, the future is now:) I have seen Redentore every year for the past eleven years from many different angles and venues -- in boats, on rooftops, terraces and balconies, at Cipriani's, on the island of San Giorgio -- this year I walked across the floating bridge that links Venice proper to the island of Giudecca where the Church of Redentore is located FIVE times!

More background about the origins of the festival:

The Plague of 1576 is the plague that inspired one of Venice's most beloved holidays and famous churches -- Redentore. From the Comune's website:

The plague In the three years between 1575 and 1577 the Serenissima was tormented by the plague: aided by the high density of the population, the disease spread through the city, causing terrible losses. Almost 50,000 died, which was more than a third of the city's inhabitants.

That image you see of the man with a hat and a beak and a wand is a plague doctor. The beak was stuffed with medicinal herbs, etc. to keep the doctor from catching the plague.

The vow On September 4, 1576, the Senate decided that the Doge should announce the vow to erect a church dedicated to the Redentore (Redeemer), in return for help in ending the plague.

The end of the plague On July 13, 1577, the plague was declared definitively over and it was decided that the city's liberation from the terrible disease should be celebrated on the third Sunday in July.

Ah, those were the days! When doctors ran around dressed as birds with long beaks, and gravediggers smashed bricks into the mouths of female vampires to stop them from munching on dead plague victims. Just think: we still celebrate the Redentore holiday today!

Click here to read the entire post:

So, the Venetian Senate vowed on September 4, 1576, in the midst of the plague, to build a church. On May 3, 1577, just eight months later, the cornerstone was laid. Miraculously, the plague was declared officially over two months after that, on July 13, 1577. The church was then consecrated only 15 years later in 1592, and put in the care of the Capuchin order of friars, who protect the Church of Redentore to this day.
From Wikipedia:

Il Redentore was built as a votive church in thanksgiving for deliverance from a major outbreak of the plague that decimated Venice between 1575 and 1576, in which some 46,000 people (25-30 per cent of the population) died.[1] The Senate of the Republic of Venice commissioned the architect Andrea Palladio to design the votive church.[2]. Though the Senate wished the Church to be square plan, Palladio designed a single nave church with three chapels on either side. Its prominent position on the Canale della Giudecca gave Palladio the opportunity to design a facade inspired by the Parthenon of Athens and enhanced by being placed on a wide plinth. 15 steps were required to reach the church's entrance, a direct reference to the Temple of Jerusalem and complicit with Palladio's own requirement that "the ascent (of the faithful) will be gradual, so that the climbing will bring more devotion".[3]

The corner-stone was laid by the Patriarch of Venice Giovanni Trevisano on May 3, 1577 and the building was consecrated in 1592.[4] At the urgent solicitations of Pope Gregory XIII, after consecration the church was placed in charge of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.[5] A small number of Friars reside in the monastery attached to the church.
Every year the doge and senators walked across a specially constructed pontoon bridge from the Zattere to Giudecca to attend Mass in the church. The Festa del Redentore remains a major festival in the Venetian calendar, celebrated on the third Sunday in July. A huge firework display on the previous evening is followed by a mass procession across the pontoon bridge.
Click here to read the entire article:
Have you calculated all that? It means that Venice has been re-enacting the original Redentore scene for 433 years. (Do any of you scholars out there know if the ceremony was suppressed by Napoleon?) This year was especially poignant for me -- more religious, less "festive" -- this year I spent most of my time hanging out in the church, or rather, churches. 

To watch the fireworks on Saturday night, I sat on the ledge at the top of those awesome stairs of the Church of Redentore, dangling my legs over the  edge, as I often have done on the ledge of my own balcony. I counted twelve people, including a nun, who, too, were sitting on the ledge. It gave a good view of the lagoon and the sky, and raised us above the crowd below. Nature, too, got in on the act -- a dark cloud flashed lightning bolts at the other end of the lagoon -- a great build-up to a spectacular thunderstorm that finally arrived very early Sunday morning.

Later on Sunday, the morning of Redentore, the air was fresh and clear. I had the great honor of having the Mass in the Church of Sant' Eufemia, (located closer to the Hilton on Giudecca) dedicated to me; the service was performed by a Capuchin friar. Sant' Eufemia is a sweet, ancient church whose Venetian-Byzantine foundation dates back to the ninth century; it was a beautiful ceremony that I appreciated very much. Later that evening it was standing-room-only back at the Church of Redentore, with our Patriarch, Angelo Scola, performing the ancient rite that has been celebrated by Patriarchs of Venice for centuries.

Ciao from Venice,