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Mario Botta talks about the contradictions of Venice. Venice is … magic, modern, a low quality market product, elitist, a wonder.
I know Venice because I studied there for six years; most of what I know comes from Venice, from Querini Stampalia, which was a library open even during the night, so let’s say that is how I spent my years of training. It is common to say that Venice is a a magical city, a city that is magic because of its peculiarity of being an island – you can reach it only through the canals or by train, but in any case you must leave all means of transportation outside the city – it is made of many walkways, so the real Venice is the small Venice, with its narrow alleys (‘calle’), the small squares (‘campielli’) and the canals where goods are transported.
Le Corbusier once said that it was the most modern city he had ever visited, in that it had resolved the issue of traffic, the canals and of transportation with regards to pedestrians along the alleys and the squares; so, there is this natural separation that many cities all over the world dream of having. From this perspective, Venice is amazingly modern, because it is all pedestrian, you can cross it easily, it takes about 40 minutes from the Giardini to Piazzale Roma. The problem you mentioned, that it has become
a place that attracts many people, a bit like a Disneyland: Venice has become a low-quality market product, because everyone goes there, they “consume” it in less than a day, then they head back to their busses on the outside of the city. So, on the one hand Venice is elitist because of its exclusive hotels, making it a sort of gathering for the world’s élites, with its great privileges, because it is clearly an expensive city, and on the other hand there are these masses who visit just out of curiosity, so to say.
I don’t know who has seen a Tintoretto, or visited the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, I don’t think anyone in this category of weekend or, even worse, hit and run tourists ever has! But it is nevertheless a reality, like Manhattan, like New York, it is a city of the world, so it is fine if someone wants to feel its scent, its odors, its history. If, however, we look at Venice for its housing, throughout its history, its historical morphological evolution, so to say, it is a marvel of the world, I mean, we feel well when in Venice. Why? Because despite all the differences we feel that it belongs to us.
Interviewer’s question: “Venice is an example of architectures that are attractive because they are wonderful, but risk, on the other side, to be denaturalized by tourism. What do you think about these processes?”
In this video, Mario Botta talks about the contradictions of Venice: a marvel of the world, one of the most modern cities in the world, and, in the same time, a low-quality market product. In the end, however, we must conclude that we feel well in Venice, because despite all the differences we feel that it belongs to us.
Venice is … magic, modern, a low quality market product, elitist, a wonder. Which of these attributes best represent Venice to you? Share your thoughts in the discussion area.
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Mario Botta: To Be an Architect

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