The Anatomy Lesson . Europan 12 . VENEZIA

Special Mention . Console/Oliva

The mainland of Venice has always been a marginal land that has undergone radical transformations over the past centuries. These transformations, following a strategic development mainly oriented for the sake of its complementary part (the Lagoon), have generated a fragmented urban fabric marked by the lack of any individuality of urban artifacts. Then now Mestre is a chaotic addition of urban parts never being able to become a whole.

The Anatomy Lesson
Whatever happened to the form of the city?
In the past, Mestre was a city of castles, a trading city, a military city, an industrial city, a harbour city. It had various identities, always being a strategic place. However it seems that these past identities didn’t leave any recognizable signs on the urban structure, except for a series of fragments now making Mestre only a wide-spreading periphery waiting for representing itself.
Can we then recognize a peculiar nature within the mainland of Venice? Can we represent its complex and various identities, finally releasing Mestre from the dependence of the Lagoon and, starting from the inside, looking for the reason and meaning of its peculiar nature?
We believe that, for representing Mestre, we have to start from the form of the city. In the last years contemporary architecture thought the city starting from its image. Very often the solution to urban problems was put into the hands of the image, believing that make-up could hide wounds that instead need surgery. So we propose to build not the image, but the form of the city of Mestre.
In order to build the form of the mainland of Venice, we operate an anatomical dissection of the body of the city, a deconstruction of its parts to reveal hidden traces. The result is a map purified from the real disconnected parts of the city that, due to their generic feature, have buried the urban form. It is a diachronic map showing only a whole of fundamental elements (the organs of the city), as starting point to generate the form. This map highlights the presence of traces: some traces are only hidden, others are definitively lost but we preserve the memory, other ones are simply forgotten or ignored. This map shows us a Mestre in-attesa.

From here we start.
The map of Mestre in-attesa is composed by fundamental elements that belongs to different historical periods resuming its stratified identity. Analyzing each part of the map, we realize that each element can belong to 3 + 1 categories, 3 +1 autonomous systems that are waiting for being related to each other: the system of Castles, the system of Nature, the system of Defence.
In addition to these, we consider also the net of infrastructures that signs and crosses the mainland.
Our project means to add to the map of Mestre in-attesa 3 new elements that establish a double relationship with the 3 systems so previously identified. On the one hand, the new elements originated their nature from the 3 main systems; on the other hand, they give systems a new meaning, allowing them to create interconnected relations. This way, the 3 systems of reference turn themselves from an inert matter into a generative matrix: the Castra, the Woods and the Entrenched Field. They become formal categories, design principles that generate the project.
Then the 3 projects for Mestre assume their own identity from the correspondances between the following themes: the housing/precinct, the garden/wood, the railway station/trench.

The Mestre illustrated by this map reveals us its real nature and, in a paradoxical way, its basic structure doesn’t seem so different from the structure governing its counterpart (the Lagoon): Mestre appears us as an archipelago of faraway and separated islands that, floating in a homogeneous sea, are however strictly connected to each other thanks to their individuality.
Each part of the project shows the seeds of its own generative matrix and all the parts together create a whole, even though separated, being able to give a new meaning to other islands through a series of correspondances and representing the first step towards the definition of urban form.

Project: The Anatomy Lesson
Authors: Console/Oliva - Alessandro Console & Gina Oliva
Competition: Europan 12 - Italy
Prize: Special Mention

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