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Future Cities Forum in Venice: sustainable tourism, culture and investor development

The Procuratie Vecchie, Saint Mark's Square, Venice - image courtesy David Chipperfield Architects.

Future Cities Forum is delighted to be holding its early September event at the Procuratie Vecchie in Venice, Italy. Investors, government, universities, architects and planners will be meeting to discuss how the City of Venice can create sustainable tourism, culture and development.

Venice has faced recent problems with tourists arriving by large cruise ships on day trips avoiding spending money in restaurants or on overnight accommodation in hotels. In addition, there are reports that city dwellers no longer spend time in squares such as Saint Mark's as they have become places they do not recognise. The restoration of Procuratie Vecchie, which is now open partly as an exhibition space and innovation centre, is seen as a first step to encourage back the real citizens of Venice.

Questions at the forum will focus on what kind of cultural offer the City would like to develop in the future, the current success of the Cultural Mile, the reviving of traditional crafts and building skills in the creation of the proposed opera house, Teatro San Cassiano and the restoration of flood damage to monuments such as the Basilica San Marco.

The forum is being hosted by Generali and its social initiative, The Human Safety Net. Generali Group, which is one of the world's largest insurance companies and real estate investors, began its life in the Procuratie Vecchie and has since acquired almost the entirety of the building. In addition to its offices, exhibitions and events are open to the public for the first time in its history. This activity seeks to re-embed the Procuratie Vecchie into the life of the city and a place of activity, innovation and social purpose.

David Chipperfield Architects have been restoring the Procuratie Vecchie building for Generali and the project is now completed. The firm describes the project, its complexities and attention to detail:

'The façade of the Procuratie Vecchie – begun by Bartolomeo Bon in 1517 and finished by Jacopo Sansovino in 1538 as residencies for the public prosecutors – takes up the entire north side and inspired the subsequent developments on the south and west sides of the square. The building defined the language of this public space, mediating between the civic and the private, the formal and the organic.

'Rather than a single concept or gesture, the architectural project is defined by a flexible approach that addresses the complexity of the sixteenth-century structure, its historical changes and practical adaptations, integrating them with a series of new interventions to create a more coherent whole. The project required different levels of interpretation due to a variety of overlapping elements and tasks: historic recovery, restoration and renovation. The refurbishment involved the restoration of the first and second floors, where the most prestigious offices of Generali are situated; the reorganisation of accessibility through new vertical circulation; and the renovation of the third floor, with public access to the gallery, event spaces as well as workspaces and the auditorium.

'The project founded itself on a set of principles and actions, continually updated according to the knowledge acquired as the work on site progressed. The process involved determining the most appro­priate responses to the fabric as it was revealed, from reconstructive to therapeutic measures, all intended to restore efficiency and improve functionality within the building. On the first and second floors, parts of historic Venetian terrazzo flooring, ceilings, plasterwork and frescoes are revealed. On the third floor, the brick walls have been uncovered, exposing the traces of transformations over 500 years.

'Whether repairing historic fabric or adding new elements, ancient, local and traditional construction techniques and craftsmanship were used to create a material continuity throughout the building and reinforce its integrity. The internal walling is covered in marmorino plaster or finished with scialbatura (slaked lime) giving readability and uniformity to the varied surfaces. For the flooring, pastellone and terrazzo are used, both including the same stone aggregates, while the arches and portals are realised in reconstituted stone. The external walling of the new roof pavilion is coated in cocciopesto plaster, and the terraces covered in recomposed terracotta, creating a dialogue between old and new.'

Join us in Venice for this important discussion forum and take a tour with Future Cities Forum and The Human Safety Net of this exceptional building ending on the roof with spectacular views over the city.

Below: inside the Procuratie Vecchie, as restored and remodelled by David Chipperfield Architects.


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