The building is part of a large urban renewal on the site of the former Junghans industrial plant on the island of the Giudecca in Venice. The urban structure of the Giudecca island mixes traditional dense residential housing types with large private gardens and nineteenth century industrial enclaves on the Laguna side. The general urban scheme, implemented on the basis of the results a closed competition won by the author, is acting a sort of micro-surgery in the delicate body of the city, with the construction of a new urban fabric and the renovation of existing industrial buildings converted to residential use.
The D building is a new construction which substitutes an utilitarian building on the corner between two canals. An existing brick chimney is integrated in the design as a testimonial of the industrial past. The cubical mass of the new D building is excavated on the south side by a triangular court, an intimate space which leads from the public path to the central core of the vertical distribution.
A new architecture in Venice cannot really be “innocent”, pure, content of its own existence: the uniqueness of the city – but more than that the literary and turistic commonplaces which overdubbed its reality, melting it in a sentimental pastiche – requires “oblique” strategies. If the materials and the technical solutions of the building are very traditional, the details of their use reveal the impossibility of an historicist replica. The façades have only three kinds of window openings; their irregular disposition follows the varying floor plans of the apartments, and is arranged to maximize the views toward the Redentore apse, the canals, the Laguna. The traditional plain white stone window corniche of the minor historical Venetian architecture is changed in proportion and transfigured into a “graphic” motif which underline the different depths of the window panes in relationship of different obscuring solutions. The crowning of the perimeter walls hides the gable roof required by the local prescriptions, reconducting the volume to an abstract image which is doubled by the reflection in the canal waters; the “wound” of the white-stuccoed courtyard reveals odd intersections with the roof eaves, generating a slightly irregular inner profile which suggest a less formal inner domestic life. The cubical mass is inflected as it touches the ground to guide the pedestrian paths which cross the area.
Beside its specific attributes generated by the very constrained technical and economical reality of subsidized housing, the project is trying to establish a contemporary attitude toward our urban landscape, which treasures the spatial and formal innovations of the Modern Movement without being trapped into its Sachlichkeit moralisms. The resistance to urban Kitsch, at least in Venice, cannot take the simple forms of “structural honesty” or adopt fashionable avant-garde attitudes, but forces us to question again the problems of modernity versus permanence, individuality versus the collective artifact of the city.
The building, founded on steel piles, is built in load-bearing brick masonry and reinforced concrete for the stair and elevator block and for the columns of the loggias. It has four floors and hosts sixteen apartments served by a central stair and elevator. The roof is cladded in copper, the exterior façades are plastered with natural grey sand plaster and left unpainted. The inner court and the loggias are finished in white stucco (marmorino). The window sills and lintels and the base cladding are in white Trani stone, the window frames are in hemlock wood and the shutters are in water-resistant plywood painted in a blue-grey color.