The Hours | Paisajes Emergentes
The park designed by Paisajes Emergentes is a living museum of the slow death of the city. In the project, the Venice lake is colonized by an artificial reef system that intends to recover, keep and protect a living fertile ecosystem. With the change of the tides the reef emerges and disappears partially, inside the canals the light and water level reveal the passing of the hours. Eventually the canals get flooded and become unwalkable.
The project described above and called “The Hours” was a finalist project at the 2G Venice Lagoon park international competition and, as we’re used to see at Paisajes Emergentes projects, the poetic behind the design is really strong and the references to literature, always present:
“I draw, not with ideas, not with stones; but with light and air the way of my transit.”
– Octavio Paz
The competition was completely theoretical and speculative and didn’t involve subsequent phases of the project or its execution, as they said; “is an inducement to free, non-restrictive reflection, the objective being to embark on a worthwhile debate within the profession.”
From the competition brief:
The park project will be devoted to reclaiming the urban idea of the lagoon as a complex network of communications and settlements, through a hypothetical re-colonisation of the territory of the lagoon, the decentralisation and atomisation of a programme of uses, and the reclaiming of the idea of the lagoon as an urban constellation necessarily integrated in its natural environment. The programme for planning this rehabilitation will consist of an Urban Park and Lagoon Prototypes.
Paisajes Emergentes proposes a surface for the island that is covert with as many seeds and spores as possible, the strongest and most capable species will impose and some months later there will be a completly unpredictable, wild and convulse garden.
The Venice Lagoon is the most important survivor of a system of estuarine lagoons that in Roman times extended from Ravenna north to Trieste. Later, it provided naturally protected conditions for the growth of the Venetian Republic and its maritime empire. It still provides a base for a seaport, the Venetian Arsenal, and for fishing, as well as a limited amount of hunting and the newer industry of fish farming. We can read:
The present aspect of the Lagoon is due to human intervention. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Venetian hydraulic projects to prevent the lagoon from turning into a marsh reversed the natural evolution of the Lagoon. Pumping of aquifers since the nineteenth century has increased subsidence. Originally many of the Lagoon’s islands were marshy, but a gradual programme of drainage rendered them habitable. Many of the smaller islands are entirely artificial, while some areas around the seaport of the Mestre are also reclaimed islands. The remaining islands are essentially dunes, including those of the coastal strip
Is in this context that The Hours project intends to keep the residential and workshop constructions of the city of Venice colonized by contemplative uses, as they are now abandoned or become obsolete. On this proposal, roofs are removed, walls stay, new gardens emerge, sitting rooms that will eventually get flooded. New decks, galleries, small parks and public thermae appear within the old walls in an unplanned way.
The need to provide Venice and other built-up areas in the lagoon with an effective sea defence system follows the devastating flood of 4 November 1966, has driven some experimental projects as MOSE Project, that aims to solve the problem of high waters which has afflicted Venice and other towns and villages in the lagoon since ancient times in autumn, winter and spring. The MOSE Project [acronym for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico — in English, Experimental Electromechanical Module] is an integrated defence system consisting of rows of mobile gates able to isolate the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea when the tide reaches above an established level (110 cm) and up to a maximum of 3 m.
Over the years, various proposals have been presented as an alternative to MOSE. Some propose quite different technological systems, others suggest technologies to improve the efficiency of the system of mobile gates. We can imagine how the new Venice may look if The Hours project become real, instead of deal with rising sea levels either by demolishing old buildings and erecting new ones on higher, impermeable-stone foundations. What if instead the MOSE’s gated city we just dream with the poetry of The Hours for Venice?