Lug 20, 2018
Commenti disabilitati su Urban Renewal in Venice

Urban Renewal in Venice

Que c’est triste Venise“… but we have a project for the stones of Venice 

by Corrado Poli

The romantic mossy stones of Ruskin’s Venice and Charles Aznavour’s city becoming sad when love vanishes. The contemporary Venice of old groceries stores and craftsmen’s workrooms transformed into junk goods bazaars, into pizza hut’s, unfitting Irish pubs and masque and fake shops for the flood of millions distracted tourists. Dwellings once full of people, children and life now turned into emotionless bed&breakfast to be booked online which provide a good income for former residents who defect to the mainland. The heartbroken nostalgia of Venetians who see their old city depopulating and perishing, but at the same time are afraid of every possible change. Churches, once place to pray in, now transformed in pagan museums where you have to pay to get in. “Que c’est triste Venise” they say wallowing in a defeatist melancholia and in a self-compliance of individual and cultural idleness filled with common places that thwart all possible change.

Recently some professionals and scholars are trying to break into this collective depression with projects and a renewed enthusiasm so to stop the city’s slow agony and transform it into a reborn lively place for people who like to live there. An international group of scholars and professionals – architects, geographers, economists – are designing a new human habitat based on an updated interpretation of the contemporary society which provides the cultural groundwork to make of Venice an example of a new city-life style.

Since a couple of decades, the old modern mass-society transformed into a collaged of real and virtual communities that adopt diverse life-styles. Unfortunately, by getting old the old modernists grown up in the mass society, the ones who boasted to be outward-looking have got presbyopia: they can still imagine huge infrastructural constructions, devise metropolitan areas and stubbornly think that all the problems can and should be resolved in one single manner, namely at a higher and higher scale. They don’t realize how they have lost ability in dealing with details and do not perceive the increasing diversities inside the cities and the society.

Because the presbyopia of old modernists, when we think of Venice as one city which now includes the hinterland and the metropolitan area. We do not realize how the very historical center is made of different neighborhoods (sestrieri) that in the past used to be towns with their own character, style, institutions and even with different accents. Certainly, there is the mass tourism Venice that realistically cannot be changed and return it to the way it used to be at Ruskin’s times. If we look at it carefully, this part of Venice ruined by mass tourism does not constitute a large part of the whole city albeit it is definitely the noblest and celebrated. We can call it a sort of Disneyland of the Las Vegas Venetian’s copy though we do not give up mending the decay. Because we cannot return it to the beauty of the past we need to generate present-day values as much as it is possible. Aside this damaged Venice, there is a much larger one, unknown and quiet where people live differently from any other western city: no cars, silence with all the comforts that modern technologies allow. Venice neighborhoods are not all the same: Celestia, Fondamenta nuove, Sant’Elena, each of them has its own character and none is affected by an injurious tourism.

We need to focus on two special areas: at Giudecca and Castello lands are available for development and there are projects inspired by the idea to attract new residents and create employment which is not necessarily connected to tourism. The new projects are based on updated social considerations (not on old biases) which drive to new projects. We think to a unusual Venice, an attractive milieu for young and creative residents who look for a peculiar life-style which is not available in other places and is connected with a unique historical, monumental and cultural heritage. The promoters claim that they want to free these areas from a nostalgic and unyielding perception of the city. While carefully preserving the “Stones of Venice”, we need to build another which is both the same and different to revitalize it with new all-year residents. City spells “change” and without change the city dies. There must be a future for Venice which can’t help being based on: (a) the attention on small scale design and plans, and the harmonization with natural and built environment; (b) enhancement of traditions and life-styles almost disappeared (e.g. slow and clean mobility) that now are possible again thanks to ICT technologies; (c) a peculiar society and a new economy that can develop in a unique international environment; (d) a new – and at the same time very old – idea of urban life, where energy is fully renewable, waste is smartly collected and recycled, quality of life comes from a civil social interaction. In a few words, all what a large part of the millennials dreams of. Let’s make Venice happy again! Let’s stop chasing the dreams of yesterday’s tomorrows and imagine we already are in a tomorrow’s yesterday that soon will come.