|Querini Stampalia Library, Carlo Scarpa, Venice, 1961||Manhattan’s Architects Perform ‘The Skyline of New York’, Beaux Arts Ball, New York, 1931 (source)
I am in love with Venice. I spent this past year thinking about my ode to this iconic city. How could I design something befitting such a grande old dame, with grace, mystique… My proposition was a contextual project, where the architecture forges a deep connection with its setting, a relationship with the city.
This project has got me thinking about how relationships in life and architecture are so similar. I approached my relationship in the following way. I attempted to land Lady Gaga onto the site, where I hoped to woo the fickle residents of Venice with my salacious forms and sexy images. I would overcome their backwardness by making them accept my futuristic design. I was rejected by the city. Looking ridiculous was not a way to assimilate into a city with such strong character. Simple diagrams justifying a physical connection to the city could not suffice either because Venice deserved more than using the same superficial stonework as San Marco. Forcing the acceptance of the city would not sustain a happy relationship between project and city that would last.
My inclination towards a very passionate, if not somewhat obsessive love affair with the textures of the city, was not a deep enough connection to be accepted. It is akin to wrapping Gisele in Coreten steel whilst trying to evoke the iconic Ayer’s Rock. Caring about Venice is not enough to overcome a lack of speaking Italian, as a lover must respect the cities heritage and complexity.
Throughout this testing year, I came to realize that bombarding my love with a passionate barrage of materials was not going to sustain a real relationship. In despair, I began to realize what works in life, works in architecture and vice versa. I decided to look to Venice’s old lover—Carlo Scarpa’s Querini Stampalia Library. Their relationship is one where both partners’ materialities do not attempt to overcome the others’—there is no domination or submissiveness here. Instead it is a quiet affair, intimate, outwardly restrained, a private journey through the many spaces that reveal and endure. In time, it has already proven to be a long lasting marriage, one of material and experiential cohesion. This was the type of relationship that I discovered in my final year, one that I would aspire to. A relationship which is a journey through the sensational and material dialogue between architecture and its context creating a happy, lasting marriage.
By now you have read about thirty captions and you are growing accustomed to the story. Foreground, background relationships, designed in accordance with natural, green, white, sentimental, nostalgic and copyist viewpoints.
At a certain point you remark: ‘This sentence sounds familiar. In fact, this whole passage reads like something I have read before’. Of course: there are recurring themes, the text is interwoven with reprises, which serve to express the fluctuations of time. You are the sort of reader who is sensitive to such subtleties and you are quick to catch the author’s intentions. Nothing escapes you.
You are getting bored and you have seen just about everything. You openly dismiss conventional thinking and you like to be surprised by the unexpected. Anything goes, anything that frees you from the weight of the average, the burden of the ordinary, the generic. You want to be particular, exceptional. You are always searching for something new.
You adopt a fascination with carelessness, a tolerance for ‘whatever’ in a ‘whatever generatio’ and you reclaim the right to vacate yourself. ‘Fuck context!’, you scream! Who cares as long as it is a good piece of writing/architecture. You want to free yourself from the external judgments of others, in order to stress your own artistic subjectivity, because you know that pure artistic subjectivity is the essence of everything.
…but as You is Me and He and She are We—I begin to realize that our own best subjective content is based and dependent upon one another—generating essence precisely out of the inessential: our context. We are one another’s template for framing our own subjective realities.
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