it’s a well known fact that i’m particularly sensitive to architecture, specifically since i am such a snob for proportion and have been cursed with acute spacial awareness. the construct that i most appreciate about good architecture is when it acknowledges the one thing that hasn’t changed in millennia: the human scale. although technology and industry has advanced to such a degree that constructing nearly anything is possible however, our bodies as the end users of structures, irrespective of their application, have not.
tadao ando’s work has always proved a bit of a conundrum in this department therefore i was perfectly delighted to see his ‘humane’ treatment of the punta della dogana in venice. a prominent position for a prominent person; fran├žois pinault’s reputation and riches has turned the palazzo grassi on the grand canal, and now this icon on the tip of the dorsoduro next to santa maria della salute, into galleries for his art collection.
even five years after the fact, my impression of the space and the transformation is, in a word: thorough. all the boxes were ticked and ando even succeeded in surreptitiously juxtaposing the seventeenth century structure with his signature concrete in such a way that it is texturally confluent rather than jarring. both from within and without the consistency is held with a blend of renewal and respect. so apart from the 20 odd million euro and all the constraints generously overcome, what can one say? unfortunate, is what i’d say.
the success of the building is exactly why it becomes undone as a gallery space; along with the strong architectural features are views on the city from nearly each of the exhibition spaces, which make for a pretty distracting gallery event. contemplating certain works of art do need a bit of focus (think monsieur pinault’s current conseptual prima materia exhibit), which is the one thing that the ‘punta’ does not offer. each window has such a postcard pretty view of venice that so successfully interrupts the art-viewing process with it’s arresting beauty, that unless you’ve become ignorant or disenchanted enough with the magic of the floating fairytale, you will not be tempted to turn your eye to the art at all. what is called for is an internally centred display approach of the curated material for the sake of some disassociation, it would be of no use to underestimate the power of the venetian landscape. the blue translucent treatment of the belvedere is a case in point. although my criticism of the architecture is on a matter of appropriation and could be remedied by something as bland as a blind, having seen venice from this vantage point i believe it will otherwise remain difficult to consider it’s purpose as an art gallery too seriously.