Venice in Peril at the Architecture Biennale, Venice until 25 November 2012
The Invisible Architect
The main pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by David Chipperfield, contains a small exhibition dedicated to four restoration projects in Venice, all designed by Mario Piana, and entitled The Invisible Architect. The exhibition “addresses the often invisible common ties between historical architecture and its present-day use” and reflects on the predicaments faced by architects when planning maintenance, repair and adaptation operations on buildings of historical interest.
The four projects illustrated are the roofs over the Gaggiandre in the Arsenale and Palazzo Grimani at S.ta Maria Formosa, both dating from the 16th century and both financed by the Italian State, the 15th century Church of the Miracoli, financed by our American sister organization, Save Venice Inc., and the vernacular “council house” in the parish of San Giobbe, for which Venice in Peril commissioned a team led by Mario Piana to produce restoration plans that were then implemented by Venice City Council, using funds provided by the Special Law for Venice.
The restoration work was completed in 2006 and since then the four flats it created in the house, previously abandoned and quickly deteriorating, have been fully occupied by families on the housing list. The house was visited by Prince Charles in 2009 and its exemplary, innovative approach to the rehabilitation of non-monumental, historic buildings is often cited in scientific and academic works.
Still available from the Venice in Peril office is the book the Fund and the Milan publishers Mazzotta brought out in 2006 to coincide with the inauguration of the restoration. Un restauro per Venezia,tells the story of how ViP came to propose and carry through a project that aimed both to provide a concrete contribution to rethinking Venice’s housing/depopulation problem and to encouraging the application of rigorous conservation standards to historic buildings not effectively covered by the laws which protect the churches, monuments and palazzi of Venice. The book also gives detailed accounts of the exhaustive preliminary research that underpinned the restoration project, the principles that informed it, the work involved in carrying it out and how the whole operation compared, in terms of cost, to other more destructive restoration projects. The book figures prominently on required reading lists for restoration courses at universities in Italy and Germany.