A few months ago GOOD Ideas for Cities was selected as one of 124 grassroots urban initiatives in the exhibition Spontaneous Interventions: design actions for the common good, the U.S. delegation to the 13th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. As part of the exhibition, we were asked to organize an event pairing three Venetian architecture firms with challenges proposed by three local urban leaders. Here are the ideas for Venice they proposed. If you can get to Venice by this weekend, the Biennale closes on Saturday, November 25.
First up, ETB studio presented their solution for a challenge proposed by Jane da Masto of We Are Here to help re-connect Venetians to the lagoon that surrounds the city. Venetians chiefly use the lagoon for urban transportation, and there aren't many places they can go on a daily basis to interact with and experience the lagoon's natural ecosystem. ETB looked at the places where residents have direct access to the water, and found one incredible, underused opportunity: the three kilometer bridge from the mainland. This bridge is currently used by the train but also has several lanes of car traffic, which basically creates a dirty, ugly speedway through the fragile lagoon. ETB recommended moving the train station and car park to the mainland and ferrying visitors in on boats, thus transforming the bridge into a three kilometer-long park that allows residents to walk, bike, picnic, and generally experience the lagoon's native flora and fauna—like a Venetian version of the High Line, right on the water.
The second team to present, Studio Tamassociati, subverted the assignment a bit. Although they were tasked by Francesca Bortolotto Possati, CEO and owner of The BAUERs, to address the serious issues of waste management in the city, they instead used their time at the podium to advocate for a drastic rethinking of Venice's overprotective policies to preserve its traditional architecture. Using an example where they had transformed an aging Venice structure into a contemporary health clinic, Tamassociati demonstrated the benefits of introducing new structural and aesthetic changes to the city's urban fabric. Although preserving the city's incredible history is important, the team argued that architectural diversity is vital in order to help the city to evolve.
Finally, a team from Spedstudio responded to a challenge from Marco Zordan of Associazione 40XVenezia, who asked how tourists and citizens could have more meaningful interactions on Venice's streets and canals. Lamenting that the tourist-clogged St. Mark's Square was a lost cause, Spedstudio cheekily recommended converting it to a Disney-like "Doge's Land," completely surrendering the plaza to commercialism. But they also proposed several serious solutions for the city, including an app called Being Bepi. This cross between Airbnb and a guided walking tour would allow tourists to connect with local residents to experience snippets of daily life in Venice, from touring the city's sites on a fishing boat (not a gondola) to eating an authentic home-cooked meal.
One final note: In light of the catastrophic flooding that Venice is experiencing—70% of the city was flooded last week, in some of the highest water levels they've seen in recent history—most of us have only seen photos of people giddily frolicking in the high waters. Be sure to read this letter by one of our GOOD Ideas for Cities urban leaders, Jane da Masto, to understand the devastating environmental impact the floodwaters are truly wreaking upon the city.
A very special thanks to ArtPlace for supporting this event.
Videos by Kelly Loudenberg
GOOD Ideas for Cities pairs creative problem-solvers with real urban challenges proposed by civic leaders. To learn more visit good.is/ideasforcities. Watch more videos of recent GOOD Ideas for Cities events, and if you'd like to talk about bringing the program to your city or school, email alissa[at]goodinc[dot]com or follow us at @IdeasforCities