un-common Venice

A small, turquoise-coloured kiosk in Venice on the corner of Via Garibaldi and Riva dei Sette Martiri is part of a project by Günther Vogt adopted at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, which devotes itself to the topic of “Common Ground”. Günther Vogt’s contribution takes the topic literally, whereby he sees the public space as common land (‘commons’) and has examined this accordingly with regard to the relationship between resources and utilization. Venice seems to be a suitable paradigm for this observation because of the clear separation of public and private space, and because of the tension between local and global use - against a backdrop of the critical question of a potential overuse by mass tourism (see ‘Tragedy of the commons’). 

An attempt was made by means of a pedestrian survey conducted at various public places throughout the city with the help of students from the IUAV (University of Venice) to identify a differentiated perception of the “resource of Venice” and its regulatory framework in relation to everyday life. It dealt with the question of how this place is used, assimilated and mentally conceived, how one gets about there and orients oneself, and what its specific characteristics and qualities are. The understanding of Venice, respectively of the public space as the “commons”, and the focus on the subjective perspective of users - from local residents to the global day-trippers – should, as it were, open up an unusual view of Venice (“un-common Venice”) stemming from an everyday perception and familiar events. 

An initial, low-profile occupation of the urban space takes place from August to December with posters that address the residents and tourists in all the languages of the countries participating in the Biennale. The posters launch the public debate with statements and questions on the subject of common ground. 

A second occupation takes place over the period of the Biennale with the running of an existing kiosk in Venice, located at the corner of Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Riva dei Sette Martiri. This type of kiosk, of which there are only a few in Venice, is a formal reminder of the Islamic roots of this kind of small-scale architecture. There were small street kiosks during the time of the Ottoman Empire from the early 16th century, which served as a public fountain house, because under Islamic law, the supply of the urban population with safe drinking water was one of the duties of the ruling families and wealthy individuals. There used to be a servant inside the fountain houses, who would serve out free drinking water to the passersby. As water is one of the most important public assets (commons), this tradition has been resumed at the occupied kiosk in Venice. 

The kiosk also serves as a communication and presentation platform for the results of the pedestrian surveys. The findings derived from the surveys will be translated into the language of the kiosks, where this unfamiliar side of Venice will be sold in the form of newspapers, postcards and various uncommon kiosk articles. The inventory of the kiosk is supplemented by contributions from students and friends from the fields of architecture, art and design, whereby the kiosk becomes the common platform for a diversity of views and opinions on the ‘un-common Venice’. All the articles in the kiosk will be given to the passersby on the condition that they participate in the survey, thus making them a part of the project. 

In the context of the Biennal Exhibition at the Corderie there is only the more abstract, empty shell of the kiosk from the Via Garibaldi, in which the copper surface reflects the posters mounted on the exhibition walls. The installation in the Corderie is therefore the reflector and archive of the ‘real’ common grounds in the city outside. 

Without wanting to see the kiosk as an allegory for public space or the city, it seems suitable to us as a strategy and common platform: As the guardian of trivia, it thrives on the juxtaposition of variety wherein every little thing has its own identity, but the quality is first created when it is combined in the context of diversity in the smallest of spaces. In an unruffled summation of necessities, the everyday and the specific, mediating between local and global, diverse, colourful and seductive.

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