Reusing formerly abandoned islands in the lagoon of Venice is a socially polarizing movement. Some people view it as the way of the future development while others see it as a danger for speculation and irreversible damaging interventions. Over the past three decades the municipality of Venice has encouraged endeavours to privatise many islands with longterm lease contracts. In this way they hope that investment would bring positive effects for the city. In recent years, however, awareness of the detriments of such developments has increased. Activist groups and nongovernmental organizations put increasing scrutiny on the economic and social consequences. The increased presence of sold islands in local and national media has intensified the debate on architectural operations as well. Close analysis of proposals - in particular entries from recent international competitions - show that there are many potential solutions. The hypocrisy of decisionmakers as well as the difficulties of the local conditions, however, have prevented the valorisation of abandoned islands so far.
The context of the lagoon is highly complex. In fact, scientific research confirms the necessity of treating the lagoon as a whole beyond the classical Venice-centred studies. With every new discovery we witness the interrelated effects of an immense but also fragile system. The lagoon can be best described as ecological framework which features a substantial human influence. ‘Opposed to nature, however, ecology has nothing to do with stability – and especially not with balance.’ It can be argued that the lagoon is in a ‘no-equilibrium state’1: In order to keep it ‘running’ manifold aspects need to contribute to its persistence.
Architecture and urbanism are both crucial factors in this overall framework even though their importance seems to decline for a considerable time. Due to a missing, active involvement many problems stay unsolved: architecture does not offer solutions for geographically peripheral but contextually central issues. The exodus of citizens in many parts of the lagoon indicates that there is a need to find new strategies for abandoned islands. The project of ‘Maritime Oasis’ exemplifies the transformation of one of these islands by facing three major issues: The first is the assessment of existing architecture on relevant islands in the lagoon. The second concerns the balance between privatisation and the appropriation of spaces for the public and the third deals with revalorisation for future use.
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A master project at the Politecnico di Milano with professor Lavinia Tagliabue, Prof. Ciribini & Arch. Stefano Tropea.
Franz Bittenbinder & Che Liu
1 I Gorny, A.; Shift Happens: A Prologue to Gestaltungsgesellschaften; 2013, 56