Garden of the Virgins
Section Curator: Dario Pedrabissi
An Exploration of the Resilience of Public Space
CRISPR-Locus by Pongratz Perbellini Architects, Maria R. Perbellini, Christian R. Pongratz with Dustin White, Dario Pedrabiss and Pimar Italian Natural Limestone: By bringing together stone and nature in a lively, dynamic narration to inscribe a public open room, the installation “CRISPR" turns spatial resonances into a stage for social encounters, an emotional observation point of the beauty and power of water, still hidden by walls and the extensive complex of buildings. It is a sensorial immersion into exaptation as a reflection on the passing of time and the uniqueness of an inspiring place that went through a history of transformations: the Arsenale, one of the landmarks of Venice. “CRISPR" traits are revealed by its rules and at times latent principles which, if written computationally, are generating non-linear geometries, interchangeable as well as non-adaptive functions and relationships.
Public space as the centre of community life
The Giardino delle Vergini has been conceived as a proper section of the Italian Pavilion of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition. The theme of Resilient Communities is treated here focusing on public space with an exploration of urban resilience in the contemporary city.
Since the ancient city, public space has always played a central role in the unfolding of collective activities. The Greek agora, the Roman forum, the town square, the markets and the streets of all the world's civilizations are admirable examples of public spaces capable of promoting social, economic and political interaction among inhabitants. With the advent of modernity and the significant influence that Le Corbusier's Ville Radieuse had on the twentieth century's urban theories, the street, the public space par excellence, has deteriorated dematerializing into undefined semi-urban green spaces. This aspect has produced problems related to safety, low social aggregation between the inhabitants, and environmental and acoustic pollution.
As a consequence of this phenomenon, in the second half of the last century, various sociologists, architects, urban planners and activists began to worry about the negative symptoms resulting from an orthodox interpretation of modern planning theories. To mention just a few of these scholars, we see how Hannah Arendt promoted public space as a political arena and a founding element of democratic freedom. David Harvey was concerned with valuing differences among citizens and seeking a social order based on justice. Jane Jacobs passionately defended a haphazard juxtaposition of everything that ensured the city's vibrancy, such as industry, leisure, and the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the population. Jan Gehl focused on the quality of the space between buildings to capture how this can contribute to the dynamism of social interactions.
In recent years we have also witnessed a typical global city phenomenon, the privatization of public space. The multinational companies that build in large cities' financial centres, usually design the area around their buildings with public space, although this is a private space that could be restricted to citizens if required.
Since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, our relationship with the city's physical space has been further transformed. Restrictions have been placed on us so that the street and our neighbourhood have become the restricted world within which we can move. No longer experiencing public space as freely as we once did, we have rediscovered its fundamental importance to the community's life. We have realized how much stores, bars, restaurants and all the working activities are essential for the city's liveliness and for entertaining social relations that allow us to feel an active part of a community.
The installations in the Garden of the Virgins
Therefore, this section seeks to celebrate the central role that public space plays in the contemporary city by contributing to the quality of our spatial and relational experiences. This exploration has been commissioned to architects from very different backgrounds to have a larger variability of personal perspectives.
The themes covered aspire to present some of the many issues that public space offers. With the installation Porzione d'Infinito (Portion of Infinity), Giuseppe Fallacara reflects the double issue concerning: the climate change of the planet, and the consequent and necessary evaluation of the nature, production and material-cultural quality of the architectural artefacts that enhance the quality of public space. The installation by Maria Rita Perbellini, Christian Pongratz, Dustin L. White and Dario Pedrabissi proposes a public seat made out of stones and marbles modelled using a computational language, offering the experience of a new whole material environment, a scenographic atmosphere, a targeted locus which integrates natural stone into a sequence of insertions in a mutating sensorial experience landscape. Zaha Hadid Architects proposes with Pierandrea Angius the installation Ecologie Urbane Altamente Performanti (Highly Performing Urban Ecologies), presenting a new large urban settlement project for smarter, greener and generally more sustainable communities. Gianni Pettena proposes with the installation Archipensiero, a metaphor that intends to reiterate the conviction of how there are no boundaries, in addressing issues concerning the physical space, between the architect's sensitivity and that of today's environmental artist. The installation of Orizzontale well represents their modus operandi that involve the community in elaborating their public space projects. Ultimately, David Turnbull works with water, the main public good, proposing a widespread model of rainwater harvesting for fragile communities.