With its ornamented buildings that seem to grow out of the water, it’s no wonder that Venice draws architects, artists, and intrigued tourists alike, year in and year out. Tall, delicate arcades seem to defy gravity and, in fact, they do: it is no mistake that Venetian buildings display extensive glazing. Built on a lagoon, it was necessary for Venice’s buildings to be as light as possible lest they sink into the canals. This, combined with the security offered by waterways and the availability of glass, led to the widespread implementation of colonnades and loggias, pointed, rounded, and decorated, stacked one on top of the other.
The care in construction to prevent Venice from sinking extended to its floors, where beams were placed extremely close to one another. Moreover, brick and timber construction was preferred. These were light, as construction materials went, and the bricks with soft-lime mortar offered a slight flexibility as the building settled.
Venice has also been shaped by the lack of space to build as the city grew. Rather than building additions to the sides, front, or rear, Venetians often built their additions on top of what they already had; they added floors to their already characteristically tall and narrow-featured buildings. The result is the web of narrow, canyon-like streets that are such a delight to wander through.
Venice attracts visitors for a variety of reasons, but its architecture is what creates the mood and captivates the onlooker. The arcades that rise out of the canals, the stairs that seem to descend into the water, the gondolas that transport between buildings: these pieces of Venice are seen nowhere else in such concentration. The 5th and 6th Century wealthy mainlanders who built Venice as a safe haven began a city that has become an architectural wonder.
For an even closer look at Venice, consider joining Adventures in Preservation’s project in Serravalle. The two trips, scheduled for September and October 2014, include a full-day excursion to Venice with top Italian art conservator Alma Ortolon. Your time with Alma is a chance to explore the frescos and wall paintings that define Italian art and architecture as well as the opportunity to help with conservation work. Don’t miss it!
- AiP’s Clues to the Cloister: Investigating 15th Century Art and Architecture
- Royal Institute of British Architects Venetian Architecture page