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Venice, September 2016, a trip report (sort of).

Venice, September 2016, a trip report (sort of).

Old Sep 26th, 2016, 02:05 AM
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Venice, September 2016, a trip report (sort of).

I thought that if I started a trip report, it might compel me to finish it. So some W’s.
WHO – Me, male Caucasian, aged 68, travelling solo.
WHEN – Arriving 25th September, departing 12th October 2016, probably reluctantly.
WHERE – staying at an apartment near the Frari.
WHY – mainly for the Architecture Biennale.
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Old Sep 26th, 2016, 02:09 AM
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Getting to Venice.
Pretty straightforward really. Emirates to Dubai with a brief stop at Singapore. I got lucky on the Melbourne to Singapore leg, a row of four seats all to myself. About four hours hanging around Dubai, then on to Venice.

Dubai does not exactly grab me. It feels like a monster shopping mall with attached parking for aeroplanes. You can buy just about anything there, a nice Rolex or maybe an Aston Martin rag top. But you’ll struggle if you are thirsty – and thank the good Lord for McGettigans Irish bar.

Populated by tough looking dudes, shaved heads and bodily ink. They look like they’ve just come from Darkest Africa, maybe just completed sinking a shaft for a glue mine or creating a cement plantation. Snatches of conversation reveal that they are headed home from Thailand holidays, probably bound for Slough where they will install microwave ovens or deliver custom kitchens.

Fly on to Venice, a spare seat beside me. Immigration is like a zoo, grumpy Wildebeests or Wildepeople. Baggage takes an eternity, then jump the No 5 bus to P. Roma. Walk to the apartment near the Frari, meet my BnB host. A quick briefing, internet password, vetro on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday, carta Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and I’m good to go.

A welcome evening meal with Caroline and Phil, members of the Venetian Anglophone diaspora. Phil’s a bit chuffed. His first novel, to be published in March has been accepted for publication in Italian.

I was not a very good dinner guest; eight hours of jet lag almost had me falling asleep in Phil’s very good pasta.
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Old Sep 26th, 2016, 02:26 AM
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Looking forward to more reading.

With a bit of jealousy might I add.
What is the architecture biennale ?
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Old Sep 26th, 2016, 09:01 AM
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WoinParis, the Archi Biennale is held every second year. You might think of it as a sort of World Expo for architecture, but not as crass as that sounds, and more intellectual.

Meanwhile,

Well, I came to Venice for architecture, and this year celebrates 110 years since Carlo Scarpa, Venice’s best known modern architect, was born. There’s a display of his docs at the School of Architecture, looking at several of his buildings, plus a display of photos of the Brion family tomb at San Vito di Altivole. I plan on visiting that next week.

The School of Architecture is housed in a former convent, closed in 1820 (thanks, Napoleon), and repurposed in the 1960’s for the Faculty of architecture. Scarpa did an entrance to the school, and it’s pretty special.

The Italians know a thing or two about concrete; Italy is just about made of limestone, handy if you want to make cement. But even then, concrete has historically been expensive, and labour cheap. So in Italy, you will see some of the most elegant concrete structures, bridges on the autostrada, where huge labour was expended on formwork to minimise the amount of concrete and reo going into a structure. Scarpa is good with concrete.

When the convent was renovated, the original Istrian door surround was salvaged. The logical thing would be to re-use it. Scarpa laid it flat in the entrance courtyard, in a pond of sorts. That doorway would once have signified the separation of the nuns from the world, a statement of isolation. Laid flat, it seems to say “there are no barriers to learning, the world is welcome here, and the students have to go into the world”.

And yet a reference is retained, as the entry to the courtyard from Campo dei Tolentini is closed with a sliding door made of stone and glass, something of a statement. Yes, we are closed for business right now, but we are not isolated. A concrete portico stands over the door, inviting entry and saying something about the shelter that academe can provide. It’s tapered, no easy task for a cast in-situ concrete element. But Scarpa, and his tradesmen, knew a thing or two about concrete.


Google Scarpa School of Architecture Venice Entry and you'd see photos.
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 06:13 AM
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Sign me up for this trip, per favore!
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 10:01 AM
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me too.
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 12:11 PM
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Good for Phil, BTW. Fancy his novel being translated into Italian? give him and Caroline my best if you see them again, and Phil my congrats.

More detail about the Biennale and the buildings, please.
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 12:18 PM
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Fascinating. We're spending a week around Christmas in Venice this year and will check out the concrete
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 12:31 PM
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The German pavilion was something of an intellectual experience. Built in 1938, designed by Ernest Haiger, so it is a fine example of Nazi triumphalist architecture, the Third Reich in cement and stone. Leni Riefenstahl would have been shovelling 32mm film into a camera and using it as a film set.

The German exhibition is all about how refugees are to be incorporated into mainstream society. “If we build it, they will come” turned on its head. “If they come, we will build it”, notwithstanding Angela Merkel’s recent electoral problems. It portrays residential developments in the main refugee receiving cities, Munich, Stuttgart and others, where a community can be created that does not become a ghetto (a problem for Germans, that ghetto thing), and ultimately become a vibrant community.

The German exhibition is titled “Making Heimat”, “heimat” probably a term that makes sense to speakers of German. “Welcome’, “at home”, “here is a place for you” may cover it.

Heimat has been rendered physically. Four openings have been made in the German pavilion, no doors or closures, a statement of openness incorporated into a heritage structure. They will be bricked up in November when the Biennale concludes, and in the meantime make a strong social and political statement. It makes me a bit humble when I think how we Australians treat our miserable refugees.
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 12:32 PM
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I am posting this stuff to facebook, where I can include photos. Message me if you are interested, and I can friend you.
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 12:53 PM
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hi peter,

you can find me as Ann Higgins on FB.

do you need anything else?
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Old Sep 27th, 2016, 05:29 PM
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Ann, there are a multitude of Ann Higgins on Facebook - hope they are all as pleasant as you. However, there are only two Peter Stockfelds in the whole world, which might make it easier for you and others.
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Old Sep 28th, 2016, 05:21 AM
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There was a very famous German multi-episode television drama called "Heimat" that was about the experience of one ordinary German family during the war that destroyed their home country. The many episodes cover about 30 years of time as I recall. You can probably find it somewhere and you might find it interesting. Also, if you were deeply impressed by the socially conscious architecture you saw then if you have never been to Berlin you might want to visit. Because of the immense destruction that took place, both physcally and psychologically, to the German capital, and the rebuilding that took place, not just after the war in the divided city, but then again after reunification and the ascension of Germany as the richest country in the Eurozone, Berlin is a showcase of social & politically conscious architecture that is very powerful if you know what you are looking at. If you are intereted in architecture, going to Berlin and taking a professional architecture tour would be very rewarding. Despite being wealthy, Berlin is not an expensive destination for tourists.

Also, while there is much to honor in the German dialogue about welcoming refugees, especially in comparison to the response of much of the rest of the world, it is still important to know that there are many violent attacks on refugee centers inside Germany. It is an almost weekly occurrence, where centers for asylum or refugees are burned or attacked. So this a a great crisis of conscience for the world, if no one minds my writing that here, and also to bring peace to places the people call home and do not wish to flee.
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Old Sep 28th, 2016, 09:41 AM
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French, nicely put. Berlin has never been on my radar, and maybe I have to give that some thought.

Thanks.
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Old Sep 28th, 2016, 01:40 PM
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Peter - I would second what French has said about Berlin - "es ist ein Muss" as an elderly lady said to us in Vienna. [ even though she was in fact referring to the view from the Kahlenburg over her home city].

Heimat was indeed very good [as was the more recent "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter] which was about the WW2 experiences of 5 young Berliners.

I had no idea that I was so ubiquitous!
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Old Sep 28th, 2016, 09:46 PM
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I took a trip to Padua yesterday, strolled around the Piazza’s del Frutta and Erbe, on a not successful shopping expedition, then on to the Botanical Gardens, the Orto Botanico. Padua has been a seat of medical learning for just about ever, and the garden was established in 1545 for the study of medicinal plants. So there are gardens with poisonous plants, with labels indicating the hazard level for the unwary visitor. There is a section for plants introduced into Italy via Padua – the potato, sesame, lilac and sunflower and many others. Another section has rare and endangered species, so in all it is very educational.

Education moves on and learnings have to be displayed in a new setting; hence the Garden of Biodiversity, opened a couple of years ago. A huge greenhouse, climate controlled, spectacular architecture, with intelligent building automation that can be a surprise. You can be standing beside a louvred window, that all of a sudden opens.

Five climatic zones are incorporated – tropical, sub-humid tropical, temperate, Mediterranean and arid, and you can feel the difference as you walk through. There is lots of information, how plants have affected human development, and how humans have affected plant development by selective breeding and land management. It is very approachable for young people, and there is an app you download that gives extra info as you walk about.

If your kids are sick of churches and museums, this might grab them.

Cant ost photos here, but if you friended Peter Stockfeld on Facebook you'd see them.
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 07:57 AM
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The Orto Botanico sounds fascinating. I will be in Venice in November so the greenhouse would be a welcome break if the weather isn't co operative!
I will look you up on Facebook!
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 08:44 AM
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I visited the Orto Botanico a few years ago and agree it was very interesting and well done.

This past summer I also did a day trip to Padua from Venice and decided to do the Museum of Medicine. Unfortunately that was no where near as good as the Orto Botanico.

I'm a nurse and always interested in anything medical or health related, plus the reviews made it sound great but it didn't live up to expectations. I had read that it was very interesting and had English explanations for everything, and included the historic church and hospital. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to that. It may be on the site of the old church/hospital but everything was new and modern. There was a room with some models of the old buildings and info (and that part was in English) but you didn’t see anything (if anything is indeed left). The rest was about anatomy, physiology, disease and medicine. Most of that was not in English (there were a few videos with English subtitles) and there were several interactive displays, most of which didn’t seem to be working.
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 11:50 AM
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Isabel, if you are are in Venice again, visit the hospital library at Campo Zanipolo. A great display of instruments, plus engravings showing how to use them. The ceiling of the library is worth a visit in itself.
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 11:50 AM
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A visit to Forte Marghera
Forte Marghera has been on the “to do” list for ages, and now it is Mission Accomplished. Took the tram which was much maligned when first introduced, breaking down on the Ponte della Liberta, causing traffic jams back to, well, Trieste. But it worked well today.

If you think of going, cross the tram track, head back towards the roundabout, head right at the roundabout for about 300 metres along the side of the road, and you’ll see a sign to the Fort. Your usual seven day or whatever vap pass works on the tram, I believe.

I got a bit lucky – I thought that the exhibition I wanted to see, how waterfronts are being developed – opened at 10:00. Wrong, it opened at 12:00, so I had a couple of hours to kill. I’ll write about that separately.

The first shipping container appeared on the waterfront in 1956, and has had as big an impact on shipping as, say, email on the postal system i.e. Completely turned it on it’s head. All those down-town wharves with small ships, with ships cranes, unloading cargo have gone, rendered useless. Container ships need massive craneage, and equally massive container parks. They don’t fit in down town.

So many cities are struggling to figure out what to do with those dock areas behind the high brick walls topped with broken glass. There’s great scope for urban renewal, and the exhibition at Marghera showcased some of them. The theme for this year’s Archi Biennale is “Reporting from the Front”, and the work at Marghera was titled “Reporting from Marghera and other Waterfronts.

It showed how London got it right on the Isle of Dogs, Genoa, where the waterfront is now connected to the city, Sydney at Darling Harbour. Melbourne was not showcased for good reason. The development in Melbourne has lead to no more than a bunch of high rise apartment towers, a windswept precinct even on a calm Summer day, no street life and no community. Totally rotten.

So what about Marghera? Visitors to Venice just look over the lagoon to Marghera, and wish it was not there. However, it is a major port, industrial facility and centre for technology, none of which we visitors want to know about. The Venice port Authority covers Marghera and the Venice cruise liner docks (and we all complain about the cruise liners), and the liner docks are a hand basin compared to Marghera.

On the train or bus on the Ponte della Liberta, we see the Marghera cranes in the sky like fighting machines from “War of the Worlds”. I’ve never seen a load on the hook, but if you want to bring a 300 tonne lift into northern Italy, Marghera is where you will do it.

So there is a bit of a problem for Venice/Marghera/Port Authority, and the solutions are not clear. But at least the display at Forte Marghera flagged some of the issues, and gave me cause to think.
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