Venice, 17 nights, September & October

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Sep 22nd, 2018, 11:17 PM
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Venice, 17 nights, September & October

The outline, Venice, seventeen nights, solo traveller. The main focus is the Architecture Biennale and a few other attractions around Venice. A day trip to Padua, lunch on Vignole because I’ve never been there, an excursion to the Lido to take ship to the Lazzaretto Vecchio, the Homo Faber exhibition on San Georgio, the Tre Oci photo gallery. I had thought of doing an overnight visit to Trieste, but I think the schedule can’t accommodate it. With a bunch of “off Broadway” venues to visit, it will be a very busy time indeed. A solo trip, and so for my sins I shall have to do some shopping for my wife; linen crochet thread, perfume, cosmetics. She has provided me with a photographic shopping list.

So let the visit commence.
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Sep 22nd, 2018, 11:52 PM
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23 September 2018.
Getting to Venice is a bit of a long haul venture, Australia to Italy, crossing some 83.2 degrees of latitude and 102.6 degrees of longitude, I guess that’s why we are called the Antipodes. I flew with Emirates, Melbourne to Dubai with a couple of hours on the ground in Singapore, four hours in Dubai then the leg to Venice. All quite simple, arriving at Marco Polo around 1.45 PM, and while immigration was pretty quick as Marco Polo now recognises “Smart Gate” passports, baggage claim was very slow. My passport failed after about 5 attempts, and the officer said that Australian passports are a bit unreliable, perhaps a comment on our convict history; however I do have an entry stamp which I quite like. About 50 minutes from touchdown to exiting the terminal. No 5 ACTV bus to Piazzle Roma and hello Venice.

Transacted with a Bancomat, getting a bunch of euros; the sound that the machine is counting out your notes is one of the happiest sounds for the weary and jet lagged traveller. Walked to my apartment, which is just over the bridge in front of the Frari, in Ramo Cassetti. There is a Palazzo Cassetti down the way, my apartment is not so palatial but it does the job. Hand over a bunch of euros, carta on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, vetro on the other days, if you miss the rubbish collection take it to the garbage boat round the corner, WiFi password and I’m good to go.

Ramo Cassetti ends at a gate preventing people falling into the Rio di San Stin. From my open front door, I’ve seen several groups of people walking down Ramo Cassetti, eyes glued to their iPhones, and then retracing their steps. Paper maps have a lot going for them in Venice.
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Sep 23rd, 2018, 03:29 AM
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Glad you arrived safe and sound - you've got a lot planned! I couldn't find Ramo Cassetti on google maps but the Rio di San Stin came up easily enough so I can picture where you are - in the midst of everything but away from it! Good you've not had to fish anyone out of the canal so far. I am still hoping to get myself back to Venice for one last trip this year, preferably before the end of the Biennale but my mother's move to Cornwall still hasn't happened so I can't commit myself to anything yet.

Looking forward to reading about more of your adventures and explorations very soon.
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Sep 23rd, 2018, 08:37 AM
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Sunday 23 September.
A big day, or maybe I’m still jet lagged. Headed out to San Marco around 5:30, I wanted to see the Piazza without the day visitors that arrive around 10:00. The Piazza was all but deserted, a few photographers waiting for dawn shots, and very few others. I took some iPhone shots but no real photographs. I’m shooting black & white film with a vintage camera, and 400 ASA film won’t cut it, half a second at f2.8, impossible with only a monopod.

Strolled over to the Rialto in search of coffee, found none until I was back at the Frari, where I was bitten 3.00 euro for a cappuccino al banco. So that’s a bar that I feel no need to visit again.

Today was all about San Giorgio, to see the Vatican contribution to the Architecture Biennale, and also the Homo Faber series of displays in the Foundation Georges Cini; both Vatican and Homo Faber were great.

The island of San Georgio is much bigger than one would expect, roughly twice the size of the Piazza plus the Doges Palace On the south side of the island there is open space, avenues of trees and an amphitheatre, the Teatro Verde. The exhibition is titled the Sacred Forest, perhaps also the Unknown Forest, as few Venetians and no tourists visit there. So there are ten chapels by ten architects, all exploring the concept of “chapel” and the three essential elements, an altar, a lectern and some seating. The ten results are beautiful, ranging from a suspended doughnut through to a mass concrete structure that seems to express adobe through to a structure made of compression elements and steel cable tension elements. The last was designed by Norman Foster, a UK architect, and in some way reminds one of a Bucky Fuller geodesic, with a graded processional entrance.

Really worth a look.

Next, the Homo Faber.
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Sep 23rd, 2018, 09:29 AM
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Definition of homo faber. 1 : the human being as the maker or creator. 2 in Bergsonism : the human being as engaged in transforming both the self morally and material things —contrasted with homo sapiens.

So the Homer Faber exhibition was all about creativity and skilled crafts. I lasted about an hour and a half and then sensory overload kicked in. https://www.homofaberevent.com/?gcli...SAAEgLZV_D_BwE gives a good overview. A few examples of displays that I saw.

Photographs of venetian and Veneto craftsmen (OK, for the purists, craftswomen also). This is a series exploring artefacts, tools and processes, and the photos are most intimate and poetic. Whether it is a shot of a ladle of hot metal, the tools used to hammer and roll gold into leaf or a carpenters mallet, they all tell a story about skilled people doing extraordinary things.

Centuries of shape, a story told gently through a collection of a couple of hundred vases – curated in the old library. “Space is explored by containers that hold it, silence is explored by music”, so it’s the void of the vase that expresses meaning.

People doing the most remarkable works. A man doing marquetry, and when I saw the program I thought that might be a bit ho hum. But he was working on a marquetry ring smaller that a two euro coin, and I watched as he selected a piece of wood and cut it down to the size of a tenth of a grain of rice. Amazing.

A woman doing book edge painting. First, find a volume that has gilded page edges, clamp the book so that the edges are fanned, and then paint a miniature. Accuracy is important, all the work is done with watercolour and mistakes cannot be rectified as white watercolour pigment will stick the pages together. Once the work is completed, close the book and polish the gold edge to remove any paint traces. Hold the book and you just see gold edges, fan the pages and the scene appears. Magic, just magic.

A woman doing marquetry, but not with wood, but with straw. Incredibly fine work, vivid colours, beautiful patterns.

That’s just a sample of what I saw, and the architecture alone of the Foundation makes it worth a visit.

On to the Palazzo Tre Oci photo gallery. We seem to get lucky with Tre Oci, last visit was a retrospective of Fulvio Roiter’s work, this time a retrospective of Willy Ronis from 1934 to 1998, a huge volume of works. Willy was a dedicated Marxist and this is reflected in his work, political protests, people on strike, French POWs returning in 1945. Much of is quite bleak, and maybe Willy was anticipating the bleak political landscape that we now encounter. One could imagine his photographs being used to illustrate Orwell’s book, “The Road to Wigan Pier’, or Alan Sillitoe’s novels like “Kes” or “The Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner”.

Photography comes from the Greek, photos means light, graphos is writing, so hence “writing with light”. Willy certainly had a sharp pencil. As I write about Willy’s bleak view of the world, I am listening to Leonard Cohen, “Songs to Slash Your Wrists By”, so to speak, dark music,

Seems fitting when looking at Willy’s work.
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Sep 23rd, 2018, 09:56 AM
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No chance of my getting to Venice to see Homo Faber so thanks for showing it to me here, Pete. Looks fascinating but as you say very easy to reach sensory overload. I will try to get to Tre Oci next time though - I didn't make it in July as even a week wasn't long enough - though i'm not sure that either Willy Ronis or Leonard Cohen are for me, and certainly not in tandem!

I enjoyed the Vatican chapel exhibition very much, though some more than others. The Norman Foster was exceptional but then it did have the most favourable location, overlooking the lagoon.

Next time you venture up to the Rialto I can recommend a very reasonable cafe on a corner by the fish market. My phone says it's called Al Minuto but Google maps doesn't come up with that; all I know is that it's on a corner and has red awnings and has some tables and chairs outside. Inside cafe and brioche for €3 or €6 with a large spremuta. Not sure what time it opens though. Near the Frari I had a very good [and reasonable?, i can't remember exactly] coffee at a rather modern cafe on a corner just past the Scuola di San Rocco but you have plenty of time to explore in that area, obviously. Have fun!
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Sep 24th, 2018, 10:38 AM
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In which hotel are you going to stay? There is a luxury hotel Danieli Venice. The cost of living is expensive. But this hotel is like a museum. I recommend you just to visit, drink a cup of coffee. And on the roof of this hotel is a chic restaurant with a very beautiful landscape of Venice and canals.
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Sep 24th, 2018, 11:26 AM
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Gilly, I think that the Danieli is a bit above my pay grade, I’m a bit more a humble occasional Venetian, but one might dream.
Ann, I know the bar of which you speak, to the left of the top end of the fish market. It opens early and i might buy some scollops there tomorrow morning early. Still a bit jet lagged, so rising stupidly early comes very easily.
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Sep 24th, 2018, 11:26 AM
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Monday 24th September
I went over to the far reaches of Cannaregio for a Canova exhibition at the Abbazia della Misericordia, and I have to say it did not reach my expectations. I think I was expecting to see some actual works, but the exhibition was more about Canova’s thought processes, his detailed anatomical drawings and the way mythology was expressed in his works. Two years ago I’d visited the Canova Gypsoteca at Possagno, and seen many works in the flesh so to speak, so my time was not really wasted, but it might have been better spent.

One thing that did come through was how Canova had studied anatomy, and he must have looked, maybe dissected, some cadavers; that is displayed in his sketches, how muscles work and are attached.

There was a good explanation of how an idea transforms itself into marble, starting with a clay model, then a full sized clay model. Cover the full sized model with gypsum plaster, and dress it to the final form. (The client may intervene a little. “Hey Antonio, sure it’s to be sculpture of the wife, but that hooked nose, it’s a bit in your face, and maybe lose an etto or three from the hips and add it to her breasts. Sure, realism is great, but I have to live with her.”)

And so, once client sign off for the gypsum is achieved, many bronze pins are inserted at salient points, finger tips, point of the nose (hooked or otherwise), toes, several hundred reference points. The sub-artists will rough out and finish the marble with reference to the bronze bench marks, Canova then does his magic.

I always thought that if Michelangelo was just sculpting David, just chop all the bits that are not, well, David and you’ve got it. It is not that simple.

Strolled back to the Frari via about 500 metres of Strada Nove. While I love Venice, I find it hard to love Strada N. However there is a perfume shop on Strada Nove, so one must.

A bit more shopping near San Zaccharia, a spritz at the Ai Artisti in San Barnaba, and that’s a day.

Tomorrow, the Archi Biennale at the Giardini.
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Sep 24th, 2018, 01:02 PM
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Signing on to follow you, Peter S Aus. Looking forward to your adventures.
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Sep 25th, 2018, 05:09 AM
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The first time I saw a lot of Canova in one place was at an exhibition at the National Museum of Rome and I was distinctly underwhelmed, however on a more recent visit to somewhere in Italy [has to be Bologna or Venice I suppose] I saw another one and it bowled me over. Perhaps I have some photos that will help me place it. Interesting to learn more of the detail of how the works are produced though. Talking of sculptures not moving me I saw a large number of Henry Moores in the AGO in Toronto recently and they didn't do much for me either. Perhaps I will just have to accept that I'm a bit of a pleb when it comes to sculpture.

Hope you got your reasonably priced coffee and your scallops.
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Sep 25th, 2018, 12:52 PM
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Tuesday 25th September.
Rialto market to buy scollops and breakfast at the small bar near the Pescheria, then off to the Giardini for stage 1 of 4 for the Archi Biennale.

The theme for this year is Free Space, and sad to say that for many of the national pavilions I was underwhelmed. The GB pavilion was completely empty, white walls, nothing. Erected over the top of the pavilion was a scaffolding altana, the roof of the pavilion poking through. Maybe that’s a reference to the walkways that are erected when there is acqua alta, tea is served there at 4:00 PM. It may be at height; I doubt it will be High Tea.

The Russian pavilion was all about railways, the Trans Siberian in particular, so there were drawings and renderings of Stalinist Brutalist railway stations, also references to how the land along railways often becomes a wasteland. You see the same often looking out the carriage in Italy.

Germany was the interface or architecture and politics. The Berlin wall went up in 1961, came down in 1989, it’s now 2018. So the Wall has been down now for as long as it was up, and the question is what to do with the dead zone once occupied by the wall. Sure, there are Westies and Osties still, some in Berlin still think of the East as Druben with an umlaut, the lack of Trabbies notwithstanding.

So Checkpoint Charlie is a tatty tourist thing, Checkpoints Alpha and Bravo not recognised, and do you memorialise the Wall, or be glad it’s gone. The same goes for other guard posts along the old border. So Deutschland still has a problem. And I still don’t much like Albert Speer’s Nazi architecture for the pavilion at the Giardini, it looks like Leni Riefenstahl is about to call “Lichter Aktion Kamera”.

One moves on, say to Israel, their theme being “Status Quo”. The Israelis take Status Quo to mean the informal agreements between the Abrahamic religions as to how sacred sites are managed in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and so on. I think that one of the Abrahamic faiths gets a pretty raw deal there. In English usage, Status Quo mostly means settled and agreed, clearly in israel the meaning is different.

The Swiss pavilion is surprisingly fun, Swiss + Fun being my entry in the Oxymoron of the Year competition, just easing out Friendly Fire. Their display is called Svizzera 240: House Tour. There is something of a world standard for apartments, white walls and ceilings at 2.4 metres, and there is a genre of architecture photography that takes images of such apartments, apartments devoid of any objects that might give them scale, completely empty. So the Swiss have constructed a set of rooms without scale, rooms with crazy proportions, ceilings at 1.8 metres, benches too low or too high or at the usual 900 mm. But if you took a photo of those rooms it would appear that they are normal.

The Scandinavian pavilion had three large inflated things the size of a water buffalo that had air and water being pumped in and pumped out, perhaps a comment on the fact that, well, air and water are really important; you might think about that. I think my thought was, whatever they were smoking when they dreamed that up, might I have some please.

There are the usual models of what to do with re-purposed buildings, and it seems that 3D laser printing has made it too easy to create a bunch of models, add a bit of laser projection and hope that it is engaging. But somehow it misses the mark for me.

I had in mind a comment that I saw at the Homer Faber exhibition. A volume is defined by what contains it, silence is defined by music. Similarly, you can’t have an island without water. Given the theme of the Biennale is “Free Space”, the Free Space is defined by whatever surrounds it. I found the definition lacking.
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Sep 29th, 2018, 12:59 PM
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Wednesday September 26th.
Today was the Arsenale chunk of the Archi Biennale, and I think it followed on from the Giardini. It seemed quite esoteric, all about some vague theory of “Free Space”, without really addressing what space is all about. Maybe it is the theory of architecture, and in that respect I am something of a Luddite.

The Italian pavilion was good, though, exploring how facilities can be brought to the more remote and difficult parts of Sicily and Sardinia. Interesting concepts, and a story well told. Also in the Arsenale, a gigantic bamboo structure, demonstrating that bamboo might be one of the most valuable building materials of the future. I think it’s hard for Westerners to wrap themselves around the concept of bamboo, we are more a bricks and mortar mob, but in the Orient, it is seen as viable.

The UAE pavilion was interesting, in that it seemed almost apologetic for the way Dubai has been developed. Models demonstrated that the very high rise buildings that Dubai is identified with are almost on a single axis, and that once one leaves that axis, there is a more real Dubai. I think that is a hard story to sell.

Another presentation seemed to be homage to The Corb, showing how development could reflect the concepts of le Corbusier. This seemed so backward, the Corb, Mies van der Rohe et al came up with totally dehumanised built environments. Unfortunately those environments were realised in developments like Thamesmead that failed catastrophically. Sometimes lessons have to be learned all over again.

I think that technology has made it a bit too easy to create presentations. 3-D laser printing, video presentations, put a couple of thousand words in 3 point font on paper and that’s a wrap. It hard to engage with, though.

I’ll be interested to read some serious critiques of this year’s Archi biennale.
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Sep 29th, 2018, 01:45 PM
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Thursday 27th September.
Day trip to Padua. You can get lucky in this life. My daughters half sister is a gastroenterologist, doing a training course in Milan, looking at how ultrasound intersects with gastroenterology. Her mother Jane joined her in Milan, and brought my grand daughter Violet with her. So we met up in Padua.
A very happy day, strolling around the central market, and then the Orto Botanica, the Padua Botanical Garden, a ENESCO classified site, created for the study of medicinal plants in about 1500. It is really worth seeing.

The oldest plant in the gardens is a palm tree, planted in 1585, and Goethe was inspired by that tree. It resides in a purpose built green house, recently refurbished and extended. In the garden, there are sections for medicinal herbs, poisons, carnivorous plants, a huge variety and beautifully maintained. It really is very special. Jane is a gardening enthusiast and loved it.

There is also a huge greenhouse there, divided into five separate climatic zones, from humid tropics to arid desert. Lou and I saw it just before it opened and it looked a bit sparse; now it is dense with plants. The micro climate supports insects as well as plants, so you might see lizards and tadpoles, certainly mosquitos in the humid tropics, and water lilies about one metre across. It is really great, demonstrates how humans have changed plant biology, and also how plant biology has changed human behaviour.

A walk through the church dedicated to Saint Anthony, born in Portugal, died in Padua in 1231. All parents of teenagers should offer frequent prayers to Saint Anthony as he is patron saint for lost things, phones, sports uniforms, sneakers and so on.

Venice has Saint Mark, Padova has Saint Anthony. I can’t help but think that Saint Anthony is venerated and prayers are offered to him, saint Mark, not so much. St Anthony’s tomb has a board covered with photos and invocations. By contrast, I think that Saint Mark is more political and mercenary, his body being brought back from Alexandria in 828 AD, to replace St Theodore who was never going to draw the pilgrims and their coin. Saint Marks body was lost in a fire that destroyed the old Basilica but, joy of joys, his bones burst forth from the plaster encasement of a column in the rebuilt Basilica.

Cynical? Moi?

I left Jane and Violet at the Scrovegni Chapel, a chapel built by Scrovegni Jnr in the hope that his father, a money lender would escape the flames of Hell. Giotto’s frescoes depict in some detail what Hell might be like, also what Heaven could be, so he was having a bet each way. Art books explore the frescoes in detail; for me I am intrigued by the process of creating them. Yes, Giotto has his paint brush, and there must have been a team of painters filling in the background, clouds and such. But there must have been a team of scaffolders, men mixing plaster, men on the trowel, some means of feeding them, it must have been like building site. And what of the contract, was is fixed price, did Giotto contract for the whole job and subcontract the scaffolders et al? The books are mute on that, but in some archive somewhere, the contract docs exist. I’d love to see them.

So, Padua, and a happy day. Yes, you can get lucky.

Practicality – there is a tram that runs from the station to the centre of padua and then down close to St Anthony’s Church and the Botanical Gardens. There is a ticket office to your right as you exit the station, and the tourist info place is in the station, also to your right. Get an all day tram ticket, costs about 3.00 euro, and saves some pretty boring walking.
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Sep 29th, 2018, 02:31 PM
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Friday 28th September.
Another dig at Homo Faber. Homo Sapiens is all about “Man” (including women, I haste to say) as a thinking, a sentient being. Homo Faber is all about Man as a doer and creator of physical things. Homo Faber is without a doubt the absolute best exhibition I have ever seen. Not just in Venice, but anywhere.

I was talking for while with one of the attendants, asking why it only ran for two weeks. She explained that part of the reason was the cost of insurance. There are a couple of restored sports cars there, a Ferrari and a 24 Hr Le Mans job. Each valued around 20 million euros or dollars, to say nothing of a couple of bicycles with sterling silver detailing. And that’s just a small part of it.

I had been several days prior, and there were different artisans at work. A man engraving the housings for knives, superb detailing. Another grinding glass. A woman painting porcelain, using a brush with about three hair from a babies head; ground pigments in turpentine and when the piece was fired, the glaze would incorporate the pigments. Mont Blanc fountain pens, detailing the dozen or so steps that go to making a bespoke pen nib. Bespoke spectacle frame makers, a dozen cranial measurements are taken before they start making frames that will fit perfectly. A saddler, again making saddles to measure, made to fit both horse and rider.

The George Cini Foundation, for some reason, had a swimming pool built in the 1960’s out the back of the main cloisters. It is empty and one prays to God that it does not try to float should an unexpected acqua alta come along. The pool was the venue for a display of fashion, and the detailing on some of the garments is extraordinary. Tens of thousands of embroidered knots, making the dress look like is is covered in soft beads.

A woman making artificial flowers, each petal individually applied, stamens in the centre, looking like botanical specimens. Silk weaving, using a loom about 200 years old. Traditional basket weaving. Engraving glass, freehand. The variety of skills displayed there is quite mind blowing.

Three or four art restorers, and that is a discipline that you don’t often see in action. Restoration of a marriage chest, the size of a coffin, being cleaned using tiny cotton buds and gilt being applied. Fabric restoration, no Singer sewing machine in play there, but needle and silk thread, about fifty stitches to the inch, a couple of Tiepolo panels being cleaned and touched up. Good descriptions of the technology in play, micro injections of binding agents and so on.

We buy stuff from Ikea not infrequently, procure mass produced iPhones. It’s good to see that these crafts are alive, flourishing and most importantly, valued.

In the meantime, I have a tiny workshop and shovel bits of wood through the band saw. I have a long way to go.
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Sep 30th, 2018, 09:49 AM
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Pete, you make me very sorry that I will miss the Homo Faber exhibition, which sounds far more like my thing than the Biennale, though I did find the latter good in parts. Mainly I wished I knew more about architecture so as to be able to judge whether I was having an "emperor's new clothes" moment or not! Some - the Scandinavian exhibit springs to mind - definitely fell into that category. Ditto the daft tea party on top of the British pavilion. But I enjoyed the Aussie pavilion with all the aussie plants, though we did wonder how they would fare by the end of the show having been indoors for all that time. And i liked the German one with its striking black slabs [shades of 2001: A Space Odessy] with stories on the reverse, as well as the tapes of different people's experiences playing at the front. But like you i struggled with the concept of "Free Space" and didn't see anywhere where it had been made to make sense.

A happy accident indeed that you could meet Violet and family in Padua and thanks for the tram tip. That will come in very useful, if I ever get there!
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Oct 1st, 2018, 12:01 PM
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Saturday September 29th.
Friday evening I took a short tour of the Foscari University, celebrating its 150th birthday this year. There are two main buildings, Ca’ Foscari and Ca’ Dolfin, just over the bridge. Doge Foscari was a significan political figure in Venice, and was Doge for 24 years, an exceptionally long time; he is buried in the Frari. So he had Ca’ Foscari built as a statement of political power, facing the broadest reaches of the Grand Canal, a façade which is square and symmetrical, and the courtyard is the second largest in Venice; only the Doges Palace courtyard is larger. The massive brick walls to the rear and to the Rio Foscari (what else) look defensive, but are mainly to convey the impression of political impregnability.

The main hall upstairs looks out over the Grand Canal and is light and elegant. Carlo Scarpa did a couple of interventions there, the first being the glazing to the Grand Canal, furniture and marble detailing. The glazing has Japanese references, very slender verticals and horizontals, set back a little from the façade. There are a pair of oval marble columns to either side of the main stage, once they carried busts of Mussolini and another Fascist. Possibly said busts now reside at the bottom of the Grand Canal.

The main hall is separated from the lobby area by a set of moveable screens, a later Scarpa intervention, and these are pure Frank Lloyd Wright, both organic and angular, built from hardwood salvaged from the first works there.

We hired an apartment in Calle Lunga San Barnaba three times, the top apartment in a building of three apartments. The building had been renovated by a student of Carlo Scarpa, and it had Scarpa’s architectural handwriting all over it. Fine joinery, metal details, everything thought through so well. Interestingly, I believe that Scarpa was never a registered architect, and was trained as a designer. Perhaps that’s why there no monumental Scarpa buildings, but all his works that I’ve seen are beautifully detailed, even down to the little brass door that gives access to a heater valve.

The main attraction at Ca’ Dolfin is the Aula Magna, the grand Hall. Problem there, as there was a convention of some sorts happening, perhaps not a very exciting convention as one attendee was watching football on his iPad. Conventions can be like that, and it’s better than dozing off and snoring I suppose. We could however get glimpses of the Tiepolo ceiling frescoes and they are magnificent. Also from the roof terrace there is a great view of the Frari.

Saturday I was back to the Giardini for the Main Pavilion, works by a bunch of different architects, showing actual proposals and built projects, a little less of the Free Space ethic that is the theme for this year’s Biennale.

There was a collection of what could be described as heritage architectural models, a hotel for the desert in the Atacama desert in Chile, a house in the UAE and many others. These were all mounted on frames at about eye height, so there was a sense of the true perspective. Often models are mounted at low level, so one gets a drone’s eye view, but with the higher elevation there is a sense of approach.

And of course, if you head left from inside the main pavilion, there is the Scarpa designed courtyard, a concrete roof that appears to float.
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Oct 1st, 2018, 12:49 PM
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Sunday September 30th.
Church in the morning, St Georges Anglican in Campo San Vio, all Christians welcomed.
Sir Henry Wotton’s embassy from King James I to the Most Serene Republic brought the first Anglican Chaplain, Nathaniel Fletcher, to Venice in 1604/5. Anglican Chaplains always accompanied both resident and extraordinary diplomatic missions until the Venetian Republic was ended by Napoleon. So the Anglican in Venice have quite a history, and have had the Church in Campo San Vio since 1892, the building previously was a glass warehouse.

I was pretty keen to get there, the usual priest being on holidays and the service conducted by Philip Jones, well known Venetian author. (Go on, treat yourself, buy his books, Phil’s a friend). Phil’s a Reader in Training, and fortunately has a good singing voice – he sings in a couple of choirs in Venice – and compensated well for the warbly contribution from the rest of the congregation. Phil’s sermon was based really on, there’s enough horrible stuff happening in the world, for everyone’s sake and God’s sake, be kind to each other.

Service concludes with prosecco, most civilised, followed by lunch at Trattoria de Sara, formerly Trattoria de Silvio in Santa Croce, Calle de Pistor. We were four for lunch, and all had seafood risotto which was very good. Risotto is a treat for me, being a solo traveller and risotto only being made for two or more guests.

Sunday afternoon I took myself over to Forte Marghera for an architectural thing and more importantly The Architecture of the Motorcycle. Forte Marghera has been a bit hard to get to in the past, but now the tram goes pretty close, second stop after leaving P. Roma. If you ever think of going, when you get off the tram walk about 50 metres past the stop, and you’ll see a gravel path running off to your left. That leads to the fort.

I’ve visited all the lagoon forts over the years, including the fort on Mazzorbetto which never fired a shot in anger and at best might have been able to land shells on Torcello. Marghera is pretty big, there are still many military buildings there in various states of repair and disrepair, and despite the military leaving years ago, if you listen carefully you might just catch the echo of a bugle.

The architecture installation is a little timber folly beside the canal, a place for sitting around, lounging, dozing, and there were many people doing just that. There were many more standing around drinking beer and generally enjoying the sunshine and open space; there are several bars on Marghera, one playing Dire Straits.

The Architecture of the Motorcycle was a story told through some fifty machines, bikes and scooters. The oldest, a 1000cc 14HP Mars A20, the newest a Ducati 1103cc 226HP monster, engine size 10% bigger than the Mars, but 16 times the HP. Pretty impressive for this 200cc two Vespa rider.
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Oct 2nd, 2018, 10:59 AM
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Monday October 1st.
Quiet day, with many of the Archi venues closed.
Lunch at Cantina Sciavoni just opposite San Trovaso. Chichetti are goo, and it was remarkably uncrowded. Watched the guys sanding and painting the bottoms of gondolas for a while, and then walked the length of the Zattere, with rain threatening, and then took a vaporetto up to Ca’ d’Oro, for an exhibition that I wanted to see.

The exhibition is at Palazzo Mora on Strada Nove in Cannaregio. Interesting stuff from young architects, including a bunch of projects from Australia. The exhibition hangs off the back of the Young Architect’s Awards, and they were not as constrained by the Free Space focus of the remainder of the Biennale. Lots of creative work, and quite a few domestic architecture displays, infill housing and some pretty spectacular houses in the most remote areas.

Traghettoed it back at San Sofia to Rialto, and found to my pleasure that if you show a Venezia Unica card you get the cheap 70 cent rate rather than the two euro that others pay. Someone must have heavied the traghetto guys as a couple of years ago, they would not accept the Unica card as any sort of proof, demanding that one is a resident. That’s pretty rough, as a number of non residents who work in Venice have to use the traghettos.

Rain for most of the later afternoon, a bit inhibiting.
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Oct 2nd, 2018, 12:05 PM
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Tuesday October 2nd, so I have less than a week left.
Regulation breakfast of coffee and croissant at Al Archivo, and then back to the Arsenale. I think that the exhibits in the Corderie made more sense on the second time through, the first time was a bit overwhelming.

I was particularly keen to see the exhibit by the Victoria and Albert, a display of what to do with buildings when they reach the end of their useful life, the building in question being the robin Hood Housing Development in London.

Robin Hood was designed in 1968, completed in 1972, comprising some 213 apartments in an seven storey and a ten storey block, with a garden in between, wide balconies at each level to simulate streets. It has been recognised as a fine example of New Brutalism architecture, all precast concrete an metal framed windows. When demolition and redevelopment was proposed, there was a campaign to preserve it. You have to think a little what London 1968 was all about, swinging London, giving birth to a whole lot of ideas, shaking off the dismal past.

So that was 1968, roll forward to 2008, and socially the development had failed, as many such developments do, and demolition foreshadowed. Robin Hood was intended to be Streets in the Sky, however without a diverse group of residents using the “streets” social dislocation happens inevitably. A parallel would be the Thamesmeade development in London, featured at the 2014 Biennale. The residents moved out, heavy metal aficionados and junkies moved in, Stanley Kubrick filmed A Clockwork Orange on site, demolition followed.

At the Biennale, the VAA have erected a portion of the building so one can experience the feel of the Street in the Sky. The question, can you preserve a massive and unusable building because of its architectural heritage, is moot.

Going to Vignole has been on the agenda for this trip, today was the day. Sunny, lunch at the trattoria there would be not unpleasant. So vap from Celestia to Fond Nove then No 13 to Vignole. 13 is of course not a lucky number. There are two main industries on Vignole, horticulture and the erection of signs saying “Vietato l’ Ingresso”, the signs are everywhere. Anyway, strolled to the gate to the trattoria, closed, the “Chiuso” sign fixed with a dozen self tapping screws, so it was not as if I was too late for lunch, or if I had missed the luncheon service, I’d missed it by months. No 13 vap back, and a unique experience – I was the only person to board at Vignole.

I have crossed Vignole off the list.
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