As announced here, from this April we are starting a new project in collaboration with Venice in Pattern: a person, a place, one story, many emotions.
Personality: Frank Lloyd Wright.
Place: Masieri Memorial on the Grand Canal, unrealized project.
“April is a promise that May is bound to keep” once said Hal Borland. It is quite true. April is not winter and it is not summer, just spring, an unrealized time of change.
Temperatures get warmer and warmer and here in Venice, despite lockdown, the sun is welcoming the beginning of the warm season.
For this month of transition, we would like to tell you the story of a great architect and his unrealized project in one of the most beautiful places to visit during spring: Canal Grande.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Our story starts far far away from Venice, in the state of Wisconsin, where the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Right was born in 1867.
Frank Lloyd Wright was a student of Louis Sullivan (Chicago school) and became famous as one of the most prominent representatives of the so-called organic theory.
As simple as its name suggests, according to the organic theory buildings should allow humanity and its environment to live together in harmony. Buildings should have everything which is needed but nothing more and, most important of all, they should be part of the environment, not something outside it.
As the same Frank Lloyd Wright used to say: “no house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other”.
Can you imagine something like that applied to Venice? A building that is not a building, but a living part of this wonderful city? It sounds just crazy.
The opportunity came in 1951 when Wright received an honoris causa degree from the Architecture University of Venice (Iuav). On that occasion, he knew Angelo Masieri who asked the American architect to draft a new project for his family’s house which was on the Grand Canal.
Unfortunately, the next year Masieri died in an accident. Nonetheless, his wife appointed Wright to draft a project for the so-called Palazzina Masieri. According to the plan, Palazzina Masieri had to become an accommodation for deserving students of IUAV, the so-called Memorial of Angelo Masieri.
The unrealized project – an architectural point of view
Fascinated by the triangular shape of the site and inspired by the peculiarity of Venice, from 1952 and 1954 Wright proposed four projects for the Memorial.
The one presented to the Planning Committee of Venice, involved the construction of a modern building overlooking the Canal Grande and dialoguing with the two unique perspectives over the city: one towards Rialto Bridge and the other to the Accademia. For these reasons the project consisted in a building having a vertical development characterized by a fully glazed façade marked by concrete pillars, just like a reed arose from the venetian lagoon, as Wright itself used to describe it.
The building appeared to be detached from the near Palazzo Balbi thanks to a narrow private “calle” designed by Wright in order to bring some more sun light to the internal spaces of the Memorial building.
Inside, the space was organized into five levels including a double-height library, some common spaces, a “mezzanino” with bedrooms, and living rooms with a special view over the Canal. Furthermore, there had to be a “belvedere” on the rooftop of the building.
Unfortunately (even if for someone the proper expression could be “Fortunately”, as suggested by the complaints of Ernest Hemingway), the Planning Committee of Venice rejected the project and the building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright was never built.
Later, the project of the Masieri Memorial was assigned to Carlo Scarpa…but it is another story!
The Grand Canal
None knows what would have been the feeling to visit such a place. It would have been extremely interesting to see how Wright would have interpreted the environment around Grand Canal.
Grand Canal is the motorway of Venice. It divides Venice in two parts and, at the same time, it unifies these sides with four (wonderful) bridges: Ponte della Costituzione, Ponte degli Scalzi, Ponte di Rialto and Ponte dell’Accademia.
Being in the middle of Canal Grande means being able to watch Venice as a fish watches it.
Have you ever tried to float on the dock just outside Ca Rezzonico?
Or have you ever tried to watch Punta della Dogana from Ponte dell’Accademia?
Or, even, have you ever tried to stand at Punta della Dogana where Canal Grande and Canale della Giudecca meet?
These are just a few hints of what you can do thanks to this amazing canal. We do not provide answers because even pictures portray just a little of what you would feel being there.
And let’s say it.
Now on quarantine, we are missing every single second spent there.
We are missing the fresh spring breeze coming from Grand Canal. We are missing the sunset from Punta della Dogana and the wide, open, view enjoyable from there.
We are missing the joyful crowds around Ponte di Rialto and the happiness on everyone’s face.
Let’s stop this list, it’s becoming painful to not be there.
Canal Grande is the engine of Venice and, as an engine, it never stops moving.
That’s why Grand Canal never let us down and, even after thousands of time, every Venetian crossing a bridge just stops for a second to get a hint of this never-ending beauty.