Campo di Marte
Álvaro Siza’s project for the Campo di Marte area resulted from a restricted invitation tender, launched in the mid 80s by the Venice IACP (Autonomous Institute for Public Housing) - today ATER Venezia - on a much degraded (and partially demolished) residential area on the Giudecca island.
The Portuguese architect was the winner of this interesting exchange of ideas involving other competitors: Aldo Rossi, Carlo Aymonino, Rafael Moneo, Mario Botta, Boris Podrecca, Aldo van Eyck, James Gowan, Gianfranco Caniggia and Tomasz Mankowsky. Having the French architect Bernard Huet as head of the jury, the tender predicted not only different building stages, for the winning proposal, but also the possibility of including some of those other competitors in its future development.
Anticipating this possibility, Álvaro Siza designed an orderly and cadenced urban fabric based on the elongated structure of the old cadastral division, layout from north to south - between the Giudecca Canal and the Lagoon - and resuming some of the existing architectural archetypes of the island: galleries, porticos, courtyards, loggias and top balconies. To this end, he carefully studied the urban analysis developed by Egle Trincanato, noted researcher at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV), in her seminal book Venezia Minore, published in 1948. From that study he learned how to identify the typological invariants of the popular housing fabric, which formed the interior of the Giudecca Island, and from which emerged, by contrast, the magnificent churches and palaces placed at the borders of the canal and the lagoon. This type-morphological analysis proposed by Trincanato, within the "School of Venice" in the late '40s, anticipated counterparts work done by Giuseppe Samona, Saverio Muratori and Aldo Rossi in the following decades.
Siza also assimilated that influence and opted, in his general plan, for a cohesive urban composition, height uniformity and windows arranged in a constant rhythm along the extensive facades. This kind of "meta-project" was later interpreted by Aldo Rossi, Carlo Aymonino and Rafael Moneo, three architects listed in the tender and invited to design different buildings adjacent to the quarter assigned to Álvaro Siza, in the centre of Campo di Marte. Over the following decades (1986-2006) only the two Italian architects were able to complete their works. Nowadays, Siza’s project is partially completed (the builder filed for bankruptcy in 2010), and that of the Spanish Rafael Moneo is at an early stage of study.
In 2015, Portugal has proposed to ATER Venezia to install its official representation at the Venice Architecture Biennale of 2016 in the incomplete front of the block designed by Álvaro Siza, a fact that helped trigger its completion and, predictably, the future making of the adjoining square. In that process Siza returned to Campo di Marte in February 2016 and met some of the people living in the concluded part of his project. The meeting made him understand how the population had appropriated the building typologies, but also the collective spaces. Visiting different local residents, Siza talked, smoked and toasted with them during a lively afternoon of conviviality. There he heard, in local dialect, that Giudecca is the last island where the authentic Venetians live, in contrast to an accelerated depopulation and "touristification" of the central island around the Grand Canal. In Campo di Marte, Siza finally realized why it was worth studying the urban form and social life of this Venezia Minore, where it is still possible to build true neighbourly ties.