GSD Course Bulletin - Fall 2011

01304: Urban superimpositions\Historical Archive: Negotiating public roles in Piazzale Roma (STU 0130400)

Option Studio - 8 credits - Limited enrollment
Tuesday Wednesday 2:00 - 6:00  

Course Tools for this course (Canvas)

Luis Rojo de Castro

Course Description

First_Site: We shall work in Piazzale Roma, a strategic site within the city of Venice.

The quality of Venice resides in the coexistence of the homogeneity of the historical whole with the monumental value of each piece. The result is a balance improper of contemporary environments. In Venice continuity prevails against fragmentation, unity over aggregation, the frame versus transparency. Except in Piazzale Roma.

In a city where every space or building has certain historical and architectural value, Piazzale Roma does not posses any. However, it is one of the most used open spaces in Venice.

Despite the intense public role and its symbolic potential, Piazzale Roma it's a mere by-product of use, strict and attentive to its role: the arrival and departure of public buses that connect to terra ferma, the waiting of users and the ultimate limit for cars approaching Venice. It is a machinical tool predicated in the geometry of the turning radius of buses. Private cars can enter the loop and stay up to 20 minutes, after which they must leave, while the public buses occupy the rest in a central dock from which to fetch and carry the Venetians from and back to terra ferma.

For the Venetians, as for many tourists, it constitutes, along with the train station, the main entry to the city, the gateway to Venice, the transition point.

As a city, Venice is an anomaly. As a public space in Venice, Piazzale Roma is also an anomaly.

Second_Program: We will address the needs derived from the key infrastructural role of Piazzale Roma by covering the bus station, as it currently is. Simultaneously, we suggest taking advantage form its strategic condition building a public facility of symbolic character: the public facilities of the Historical Archive of the City of Venice.

The activity of Piazzale Roma is essential for the functioning of the city: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Piazzale Roma sustains a constant movement of people, buses and cars to and from Venice. But the large dock of buses remains in the open, unprotected, and the Venetians wait for the arrival and departure of buses in the cold and under the rain. Its covering has been repeatedly requested by the citizens. But the only proposal made so far has been a Murano glass roof. Everything stays at home.

The covering of the outdoors bus station allows for the location of the public rooms of the Historical Archive of the City of Venice, superimposed on the site. The actual Archive of the City is already divided between Venice and Mestre, keeping most of its content away from the lagoon and from its historical location for reasons of conservation.

While traditional archives have been built around the notion of the original, its preservation and display, both public institutions and communities of scholars are searching for ways to take advantage of digital technologies in order to mobilize its content to larger audiences and opening up new forms of knowledge creation. These recent initiatives not only affect the content of the archive by shattering the aura of the original document but also its architecture, asking for new typologies and technologies to be designed.

The studio will accept the premise that the structure of these new type of archives can be divided in two differentiated elements with diverse functions and requirements: one destined to the physical preservation of books and documents, whose accessibility is no longer needed for a larger public but on exceptional circumstances, and another for its mobilization in different forms of public exhibitions or private consultation. We suggest leaving the storage -the physical archives- in Mestre, moving back to Venice the consulting rooms and other public dependencies, including research areas, exhibition, and a conference hall.

The presence of the Historical Archive in Piazzale Roma provides with public and symbolic character linked to the historical memory of Venice to this undervalued urban space, while its relationship with the storage in Mestre insists on it infrastructural condition.

Third_Content: Building the Historical Archive of the City of Venice in Piazzale Roma mobilizes the relationship between the city and the history of the city, between history and the experience of history.

Behind its frozen image, Venice is still superimposition of different layers of history and conflicting social processes.

Already at a literal level, the mere programmatic superposition of the Historical Archive and the bus station is a typical contemporary operation that is foreign to Venice techniques. In Venice, the prevailing solid fabric permeated by a network of canals that are read as a system of volumes against void, ignores vertical overlay operations typical of contemporary urban infrastructures.

But at a deeper level, the homogeneity of the image of Venice veils a whole series of social and historical processes such as its rapidly sliding population, and its increasing museification. Our project addresses these different processes both in its site and its program: As a transition point, Piazzale Roma allows for a conflicting relationship between Venice and terra ferma to unfold while the program of the Archive makes visible and socially relevant the historical material underlying these processes. And its strategic location and public significance introduces a critical question over monuments, existing and new.

Fourth_Schedule: Studio will meet on Tuesdays and Wednesdays