A Guided Tour of Contemporary Venice

Venetian architecture is not limited to the Moorish, Byzantine or Gothic styles alone, as anyone who’s stayed at the Philippe Starke-designed Palazinna G Hotel can attest.  But by calling our attention to Cristina Gregorin’s tours of modern architecture in Venice, JoAnn Locktov now raises our consciousness too.  JoAnn’s a publicist, a Venetophile and a writer who’s editing a new book on Venice, with photographs by Charles Christopher.   She recently returned from an extended stay there, and has agreed to write a few posts about it for A+A.  We’ll run Part II of this one tomorrow.

By JoAnn Locktov:

When you think of architecture in Venice, your mind invariably goes to the grand structures of historical importance. These include the buildings of Palladio and Sansovino, and the Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance edifices that have favored Venice with allure and significance.

Cristina Gregorin perceives Venice differently. She asks that you consider a contemporary Venice, a place where modern art, craft and architecture have been meticulously integrated and yet are often overlooked by the more than 20 million visitors who descend annually.

Gregorin is a tour guide by profession.  In 1991 she passed an exceptionally rigorous exam (considered the most grueling in Italy) to become a licensed guide. With her encyclopedic knowledge of historical Venice she might have been content with an immersion in the same art and architecture that conferred upon it the status of UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Instead, she has invested in the uncommon practice of dignifying contemporary Venice.

Her tours explore the architectural works of Carlo Scarpa, Santiago Calatrava, Tadao Ando, and Aldo Rossi, all notable 20th century architects. She organizes tours not only of fine artists’ ateliers, but those of masterful artisans working in the legendary materials of glass, paper, marble and iron.

Gregorin, a PhD in Contemporary Literature and  author of four books, holds the past and present together with expert stitches. Her impassioned discussion of Scarpa’s restored Olivetti Negozio fluctuates between anecdote and analysis of his devotion to light, water and material. She makes visible his wide range of inspiration, from Titian to Klimt, and crowns her presentation with a convincing demonstration of Scarpa’s influence on Tadao Ando’s restoration of the Punta Della Dogana.

She also looks to the future, saying “I refuse to consider my city as a ‘Veniceland.’  We have to look forward, not only backwards. Living in Venice means having responsibilities toward our great past. We must maintain and protect it. But the relationship between past, present and future in Venice is more complicated than in any other historic city. We have nowhere to expand. Every time we build something new, we are obligated to demolish something. 

“If you create an open air installation, it will be surrounded by architectural masterpieces of Western and Mediterranean culture,” she says.  If you are a painter, you are confronted at every step with Titian, Tintoretto, Bellini, and Tiepolo. And yet, in spite of such difficult confrontations, we must give both the city and ourselves a future. What we create today will be the heritage of future generations, the memory we leave of ourselves. We must understand this process in order to grant Venice a future.”

For more on Cristina Gregorin, go to http://www.contemporary-venice.com/

For more by JoAnn Locktov, go here

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