17th Venice Architecture Biennale

Servizio Modificato


Site specific installation in the Arsenale, Venice


For all the continuities represented by Venice, the city-lagoon system is deeply threatened. Once a metropolis, Venice now hosts just fifty-five thousand permanent residents, who in recent years are deluged by an annual tourist population of twelve to twenty million. The lagoon, for thousands of years a cultivated balance between sea and silt, has in the past forty years undergone ecological shifts — of level, composition, ecology, and salinity — that threaten its very existence. And amidst these challenges, the communities inhabiting the lagoon and its margins — tourists, residents, and commuters — move separately, along highly prescribed routes, and rarely engage the space and scale of the lagoon that connects them.

Historically, Venice was not confined to the dense network of isole, shaped from sandbars in the early Middle Ages and cleaved by the Grand Canal. Rather, it was an interlinked archipelago stretching the length and breadth of the lagoon, in which a variety of functions — innovative, incompatible or inconvenient, were diffused along a network of connections in between mainland and maritime routes. This ecology of relationships defined the city even more than its physical reality. Today, the historic core of Venice blithely accepts a singular role as a terminus of the global tourist economy, while the surrounding urbanised metropolitan region of almost 3 million people, seems disinclined to remember the lagoon on its map.

Taking the challenge of the 2021 Biennale to “work together… to imagine new geographies and associations,” and with the conviction that any possible future for Venice must reconnect at all scales the city with its territory, this project is a catalyst for journeys and trajectories that weave the unique ecological and cultural inheritance of Venice into the daily lives of residents and visitors alike. Extending from this point of departure in the Arsenale this work will expand to encompass an independent program of mediated journeys of students, critics, ecologists and architects in the Fall of 2021, and ongoing research by the longstanding University of Virginia Venice program, MIT, and a series of local partners partners active at different levels. The futures it images are essential to the challenges and opportunities of the current moment; we experience modified service but also an opportunity to shift our expectations and sense of possibility.

All are invited to take part.



With: Kathryn Moll, Nicholas de Monchaux, William Sherman

Support by: The University of Virginia Venice Studio

With the additional support of:  Valmarana Memorial Fund, Actv Spa

Photos: Gerda Studio