by Mario Piana
By Mario Piana. Un Restauro per Venezia describes and illustrates the conversion of a Venetian house, showing that a vernacular house can be made habitable to modern standards at relatively low cost whilst, critically, maintaining its historic features.
Published in Italian only
Venice is made up not just of architectural masterpieces, but of thousands of anonymous and ancient buildings that are the city's housing stock. As you go round Venice, you see many insensitive modern restorations of these, using hard modern bricks at ground floor level, cement rather than lime plaster, inappropriate window frames and harsh industrial paint colours.
To show that such a vernacular house can be made habitable to modern standards at relatively low cost, yet keep its historic features, Venice in Peril has collaborated with the government authorities and the Municipality on an exemplary conversion of a publicly owned house in the parish of San Giobbe.
The Fund provided the incentive for this restoration to take place and paid for the detailed planning of this radical new approach while the Municipality financed the actual restoration work through the Special Law for Venice. A team of architects, some from the city's own famous architectural university, recorded the project and its execution in detail and the book, Un Restauro perVenezia has been published to provide an example of good practice that we hope may influence future restorations in Venice.
The conversion of the San Giobbe house by the town council into flats for low-cost, public housing, has been carried out by the firm Pasqualucci and work is now complete.
The challenge was to prove that a restoration based on an historically expert study of the building, aiming to conserve all possible original elements and carried out with traditional materials and techniques, need not cost more than a commercial, more destructive restructuring. Wherever possible the original terrazzo floors have been retained, which, using lime mortar are flexible, allowing movement (modern developers tend to use concrete flooring, which cracks due to its rigidity). The window frames and doors have also been retained and the walls have been plastered with lime plaster throughout. An innovative approach was taken to countering the rising damp, by washing the corrosive salts from the original brickwork (see separate sheet) rather than replacing it with new, industrial bricks.
We are happy to say that the challenge was met, and the final bill, even after dealing with the inevitable contingencies, still reflected the project designers' estimates.
In addition, the patio at the rear has been re-laid and the small garden area has been put in order.
The four flats into which the house is divided will shortly be allocated to individuals or families on the Municipality's waiting list. A ground floor flat has been created and made flood-proof for a disabled person.
Un Restauro per Venezia (published by Mazzotta, 2006 euros 24) describes and illustrates the project.
The ISBN number for the book is 88-202-1798-8.
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