Sunday, April 24, 2011

Negozio Olivetti reopens: a Carlo Scarpa Jewel

The Olivetti store reopened this week in Piazzia San Marco, I popped in to take a look.   In 1957 Olivetti wanted a flagshop location to showcase their well designed lines of business and communication equipment, and what better place than San Marco, the one place in the world where everyone will visit.

the Lettera 22 we all had at school...

Carlo Scarpa had just won a national architecture award sponsored by the Olivetti Corporation and they chose him to design their store.  He created a jewel box for the Olivetti business machines.

Just outside the day after it re-opened this week.  It had been used as a novelty store for the past 14 years and after a 1 year restoration, the owner put it in the hands of FAI , an Italian preservation group to operate as a museum.

I got to get in a couple of days later, It is interesting to see the antica and the moderne in such proximity.

After I paid my admission I went right up the stairs...

...rows of machines in a delicate world.

The window at the end, showing the sliding screens.

And the view down to the entry.  A red carpet of tile to welcome the visitor.
Scarpa used an amazing variety of materials, the african teak and the rosewood trim, bronze doors, steel support, venetian plaster, polished black granite, that beautiful red tile and the sculpture by Alberto Viani: Nudo al Sole.
As well as white marble throughout to set all this off.  Not too many could pull it off, but Scarpa had an amazing sense of  detail and its importance to the overall scheme.

Just one thing that Scarpa did not have to deal with...the OliPad...used here to provide interactive history for the museum visitors.

Back downstairs I go into the back room... is dark and yellow and has what was probably a fountain which is not in operation now.  The scale is very close back here...

...I leave and study the stair base.  The slabs of white marble seem to float, and possibly there was water here as well.

The other side shows the slab relationship.  The tiles here are blue symbolising water, the display floors are always the white tiles seen above.

Back at the entrance we see the Nudo al sole.  In the 1966 flood the Nudo was totally submerged by the waters of the lagoon.

Wouldn't you like to see this beautiful place?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Saving Venice: the MOSE project...

I was invited by to join a tour of the MOSE project, the massive plan to control the water 
of the Venetian Lagoon, keep the lagoon vital and protect the buildings of Venice.
This is a large and all encompassing project and two thirds of it is reclaiming land, allowing it to vegetate itself naturally and improve the water quality of the Lagoon.

But the fun parts are the floating dikes which operate to keep the water out of the Lagoon during periods of high tide.  Acqua Alta is here to stay, but this program will keep it out of Venice.

I arrived on the isola di San Servolo where the group of engineers and water scientists were meeting, in plenty of time for the 9AM lecture about the Lagoon and its ecosystem.  At ten, we all got on board the ship Osvaldo and motored out to the north Lido entrance.  There are three entrances to the Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea, the Lido inlet, the Malamocco inlet, and the Chioggia inlet. The Lido inlet is much larger than the others combined and because of that it is the most interesting and complex.

the Lido inlet

This is the way the inlet is now, after several years of work, historically the inlet was as wide as the distance between the 2 barrier islands.  The 'sand bar' in the middle is a new manmade island to support the MOSE system of flood prevention.

On our way out Monica Amberosini of Venezia Nuova  described the whole project to us.

A view sailing out the channel to the Adriatic.

We approach the inlet and see the concrete work of the project at the inboard side.

We are kind of on the route taken by the moving boats above, and we end up docking in the large concrete docking area in the middle of the photo.  Venice is top right, the Lido is top middle and you can see the shallows in the Lagoon clearly.  All the white concrete work on either side of the channel and the island in the middle is new work for this project.  The flood gate system starts at the blackish area in the lower area and goes across to the island.

This can be seen clearer in this detail picture.

Those box things are the casings for the gates.  We will be standing near the crane.

After we land - nicely- we put on our safety gear and walk over to the casting area...

This is one of those little boxes...10 meters high 100 meters wide and 120 meters long.  These are hollow concrete frames for the gates, they will be floated into place and gently lowered by filling the closed half with water.  Located exactly with a GPSsystem, they will be secured to the sea bed.  Those open 'doors' are over 2 stories high and they form the tunnel and work place for the operation and cleaning of the gates.  These will be butted together and a watertight seal will be placed between them.

These blue things are life size models of the hinges...they go where the circle is on the diagram to the left, the gate is yellow and is either down or up.  Water level can be seen by a pale blue at the top of the arrow.  These Gates are hollow steel,  5 meters high, 20 meters wide and 60 meters long...3 of these to each of the concrete boxes.  They stay down because they are filled with water, the raise up by blowing the water out with high pressure air, so that they float.  They can be fixed in place once they float to about 45*.  Very big hydraulic systems or anything.  The blue in the diagram of the box is water, the grey is concrete, the white is air and the 2 little black things are.........people.

Lots of questions being answered...

We all meander back to the boat and take off...

We pass a gull resting on a new island...

...And we get to the Arsenale in Venice, where we see the large drydock, built by the Austrians about 1900, which will be used for cleaning, repair and painting of the large Gates.  The gates will be floated to the arsenal and loaded in to the drydock, just like a cruiser from WWI.

Lots of talk on board..

...About this amazing project to save Venice and its Lagoon...and the work left to do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Veronese Ceilings from San Sebastian at the Grimani Palace

Last evening I walked through Campo Santa Maria Formosa
to the palazzo Grimani where there was the opening event for

Veronese: le storie di Ester rivelate

The familiar -and friendly-courtyard of the Grimani
was overflowing with people.  I arrived fashionably 20 minutes late, which was
lucky as there were 4 speakers who talked for an hour.  I did
catch that these restorations were sponsored by various chapters of
Save Venice, Inc.  These ceiling paintings, describing the Story of Esther from the old Testament
 were done by 
Veronese for the church of San Sebastian in 1555-56,
when he was 25. 
They exhibit elegant draftsmanship, powerful foreshortening and
exuberant and rich color.

Triumph of Mordecai

The first Ceiling we see is this amazing picture, with the road cut away and
this powerful black horse, the only one in the scene who
understands that the opening is there for them to fall into.
These are large paintings, they are part of a ceiling, so they are room size.

repudiation of Vashti

Again, the sublime sense of danger is created, with the use of foreshortening and composition.
The colors are rich and fly off the canvas,
 down to the spectator on the floor of the church.

These are mounted on a massive and clever easel made for this show.
One can see the back as well as get you eye right up to the canvas.  This show will thrill those Biennale visitors who arrive next month.  

 Esther crowned by Ahasuerus 


The final painting is calmer, in a way, less thrilling in the sublime sense, 
and expresses the finality of the crowning.  

I just couldn't help myself, I had to take another picture of this
magnificent ceiling....

Down in the courtyard, people are still waiting to get in to see the show.  I decided to see if any champagne was left by the madding crowd anxious to see the art...and, there was.  After I tasted the bubbly and looked at the building restoration, I walked my 2 blocks back home.

The Grimini has a high reputation now to maintain as an exhibit forum. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

ZEN and a moment in Venice

In the preparation for the Tea Ceremony
the Tea Master will prepare
something appropriate for the moment,
a painting, a flower arrangement, a poem,
and place them in a Tokonoma.

It is often wise to put things down on paper
it clarifies the idea, and allows others to share your insight.

A photograph and a haiku.

In fog one flies
from known to familiar.
Flee habitual,
Seek new.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

la fotografie mi piace

Presso il Mercato

Lavoro all' Alba

La Notte della Grande Luna

La Colore di Venezia

La Colore di Venezia

La Colore di Venezia a Capodanno

Gondole in Trovaso

Il Giardino a Tramonto 

Alba: Neve su Barche

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pompeii and life; you thought you had it good...

The city of Pompeii started out as a port for Phoenicians and Greeks to ride out storms about 800BC.  Because of its climate, natural harbor and fertile farmlands, it became a popular place to live in, but by the time of the Summer of '79 (AD),  after being a Roman city for only 169 years, and a popular summer resort, it came to an end.  Our contemporary city of Pompei, built right up to the edges of the ancient ruins, was located there for the same reasons that the original settlers had for being there.

The elaborate Ionic Capitol above is set on a half column, mostly as a pedistal in a spot right next to the forum.  The column is made of brick with a hard plaster coat around it in the fluted Greek mode.  All the structures were covered by a several meter thick volcanic ash ruble from the plume which rose over 10 miles above Vesuvius and rushed toward Pompeii with a powerful wind.  The immense heat and thick ash doomed the city.

Below, the construction can be seen, the main and original forum is beyond.

Here is the main Forum, the heart of the city, with Vesuvius 5km away, an everpresent sight. 
The Fourm had large public buildings surrounding it, temples and government offices, united by the ring of columns seen above.

Walking along the edge of the Forum along the Cardo, the main N-S street, Vesuvius gets larger for us, but the ancient Pompeiians weren't able to see it from here, as the buildings were so large.
Up ahead is the last remaining business,

Pizza and fast food for the turisti.  Actually... 

...this was the 'Pizza' spot.
There are several of these businesses around the town, where grain was milled above in those funnel topped
mills.  The grain was poured in the top, the workers turned the mill with wooden arms 
set in the square holes, and the farina came out the bottom.  Fresh and put to use with water and whatever, and popped right into the waiting ovens, daily, and sold to those for snack or to take home.  Not too much taking home as most ate out with others, a kind of constant party between work.  Slowfood made quickly...

This is a part of the baths, showing skylights and milling about area, I guess.

The ceilings are beautifully incised with plaster decorations.  Note the broken panel... can be seen the hollow channels within the walls.  The ancients had wood fires below and the tile floor was heated, as were the walls with the heat rising through the ducts.  No need for that extra muffler here.

This is the ante room, where one stowed his/her toga and stuff, in the cubbies between the carved dieties.

Home, for those who had one, usually had a central cortile, for water, 
though they did have a sophisticated aquaduct system for the city, kitchen herbs and verdure.
The access to the sun allowed light into the house as the walls abutted others and there were no windows.  
Rooms opened up to the cortile, like this richly colored room.

Or, this room from the Villa of Misteri, with wall panels showing initiation rites for brides to be.

And au currant tile floors...

with wonderful, painstaking detail throughout.

Here. a visitor is walking across the inner circle where the audience sat in
their chairs, others sat in their chair in the wide arc, and the rest
sat on the stone theater steps above.  This large theater is used today as part of  PompeiiViva, a
summer series designed to activate the city.  The original egressi are used to good effect.  The stage, 

seen in front of the wall to the left, is under reconstruction at the moment.
Originally, there were canvas awnings over parts of the audience to provide shade, the vertical posts can be seen behind the girls above, and below:

In this view, the theater can be seen on the other side of the courtyard wall, 
showing the tall posts and seating.

Another theater, quite smaller, known as the Odeion, was enclosed by a roof.  This little theater was acoustically excellent.  It was for reciting odes. Above is a Japanese tour group, and a visitor watches...

as one, a tenor, tries out the accoustics with

his rendering of o sole mio...Bellissimo!

We walked toward the necropolis, the modern city of Pompei is jammed right up to the edges of the
old city.  We are lucky that it was found and protected in time...

We continue to walk the old streets toward our egress and
a wonderful pranza at the Casa Lucius in the outer world.

with thanks to ST, for the photos of the visitor.