In the last month, Frida and I took a trip to Venice with our advanced art and design class. As you know she and I are fond of portraiture, but because my focus this year is in architecture, I decided to take a closer look at the architectural personality of Venice.
St. Mark’s Bell Tower, located in the center of Venice’s most popular Piazza San Marco, which stands nearly 100 meters tall is something of an icon. What was once a lighthouse for shipping was first built in the 12th century and continued through the 16th century. The tower has a structural frame made of solid square brickwork with a pyramidal spire atop it and a golden angel that acts as the building’s crown. It was built upon reflection of the Roman concept as shown in its harmonious lines and proportion.
Just across the Piazza is St. Mark’s Basilica, the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, which is one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture. The cathedral sits adjacent to the Doge’s Palace, and was only the private chapel for the Doge until 1807, when it became the city’s cathedral. It’s opulent, glimmering gold mosaics is distinguishable from a mile away and is itself a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, it’s even been nicknamed the Church of gold.
On the Venetian island of Burano, founded by the Romans during the Barbarian period, each home or building is painted a different color. Long ago, Burano was home to the fishing industry and it used to be the island’s biggest business, whereas now it is known for its production of lace. Since fishermen came in and out of the island’s harbors, it is said that the houses were painted in order to be easily identifiable in the fog for the fishermen at work. Burano is now an incredibly popular tourist destination simply because of its distinguishability.
Along Venice’s Grand Canal, at the Ca’Sagredo Hotel, is an art installation hugging the building’s 14th century walls. The installation is titled “Support” and is a pair of 5,000 pound white hands as intricate and detailed as your own. The hands are symbolically holding the hotel from falling into the water as there has been much speculation as to how climate change will take its toll on architectural history like in Venice. The hands are powerful and beautiful. They put a contemporary twist on a centuries-old city meant to address a growing social issue.