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Notes and reflections on "The venice Variation"

Dernière mise à jour : 4 avr.

Reading notes on:

Psarra, Sophia. Venice Variations: Tracing the Architectural Imagination. UCL Press, 2018. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvqhspn.



Introduction: Between authored Architecture and non authored city


In the chapter Between authored architecture and the non-authored city, Architect and Professor Sophia Psarra introduces the thesis and method developed through her book “Venice Variations: Tracing the Architectural Imagination” (UCL Press, 2018).


The book unfolds around the study of three artefacts with Venice as a common thread: Venice as a city, the place it holds in the work of fiction The Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, and an architectural project by Le Corbusier for the Venice hospital.

To distinguish the other cities’ qualities, I must speak of a first city that remains implicit. For me it is Venice.

Italo Calvino The Invisible Cities (1972)


For Pr.Psarra, cities, buildings, and books are all the result of both collective and individual efforts. Venice embodies this better than any other city, by its capacity to contain a multiplicity of visions and systems of reality, that provoke imaginative engagement. This idea of a city that is more likely to induce a versatile, rich set of perceptions cohabiting in the same geography becomes more striking when read in relation to the subject of the research I am undertaking. The exemple for a city that would be close to what immersive technologies are aiming at inducing, probably in a less subtle way, a more directive one, is not a “smart city” or one that seems to be turned towards a certain vision of the future, but rather one that has been, like the author points, in economical and political decline since the 15th century. Nevertheless, she sees it as an emergent system, with an outcome of a highly probabilistic algorithm. A structure that with a small number of rules, is capable of producing a large number of variations. That way of describing the structure of venice is very close to the description of object oriented programming. Beyond programming, the author draws a parallel in the transformation brought by computer aided programs and the way it is transforming the practice of architecture and the invention of architectural notation in the 15th century at Venice’s heyday. This brought major cultural shifts and modified the way of practising architecture, between the practice of design and the craft of building, to the emergence of architectural design distinct from artisanal building traditions.



Venice in the lagoon. Drawing by author Sophia Psarra, GIS data by Universita IUAV di Venezia - laboratorio di cartographia e GIS



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