Returning to the Dream

Just because I have recently been in Venice doesn’t mean I’m not already dreaming of it again. In fact, this book helps me daydream my way back to the city.

Dream of Venice Architecture is the second in the series from JoAnn Locktov’s Bella Figura Publications. Marisa Convento had it on display in her jewelry shop, Venetian Dreams, tucked in among bowls of seed bead, vases, and photos of Venetian bead stringers. How appropriate, right? When I got home I got a copy for myself!


Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about architecture. I know what I like to look at, and that includes pretty much all the architecture in Venice. Before opening Dream of Venice Architecture, I expected to see the usual pictures of the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco, the Grand Canal, some crumbling palazzi and a couple churches…. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn about numerous buildings that I never knew existed!

For example, Jonathan Glancey extols the beauty of the Giovanni Nicelli airport on Lido. It’s a little gem. I never would have guessed this was a photo taken in Venice. Or the interior or the library on San Giorgio Maggiore, or the Olivetti shop in Piazza San Marco. I’ve probably walked by that place hundreds of times and never paid any attention to its clean, inviting lines. And I’ve never heard of architect Egle Renata Trincanato, whose work is highlighted by James Biber. This book makes me realize that as much as I know about Venice, there is so much I don’t know. It’s good to get that kick in the rear to wake me up.

The Nicelli Airport on Lido

Similarly, Vincenzo Casali’s essay describes a Venice that is not the mouldering, melancholy city of the past that people most often portray; instead, he sees it as a vibrant city of now, with modern problems and people working to solve them. He made me wonder, “What could be new about Venice’s architecture?”

Constantin Boym muses about Venice’s doors, how they represent years. He wonders, “What’s behind each one?” He seems to evoke speculative fiction stories.

Don’t you wonder what’s behind each and every Venetian door?

Many of these writers, primarily architects themselves, laud Carlo Scarpa, probably best known in Venice for his reimagining of the Fondazione Querini-Stampalia with its garden out back and its tiered, aqueous entryway that invites rather than repels the acqua alta. Dianna Yakely, Robert McCarter, Guido Pietropoli, Michael P. Johnson, Valeriano Pastor, and others write lovingly about Scarpa’s work or their personal relationships with him. I always found the Q-S building refreshing, and I definitely developed a new appreciation for it.

The steps at the Querini-Stampalia make the canal appear tantalizing

Some of my other favorite sites go under the microscope here, too. Shun Kanda talks about the Church of San Canciano uniting interior and exterior spaces, like being “in a protective bosom within the labyrinth.” And Witold Rybczynski brings out attention to the Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei where Mariano Fortuny lived, probably my favorite museum in Venice.

I’m tempted to quote from many of the brief essays proffered in DOVA: J. Michael Welton’s last sentence; Rocco Yim’s third paragraph about Venice’s allure; Jurgen Mayer H.’s idea that Venice is a “performative city.” Everything Annabelle Selldorf writes captures something I’ve felt about my favorite city. But I think I’d rather just suggest you enjoy these bits on your own. (I know, I’ve provoked you. Either I could include long quotes or you could seek these writers on your own, and that seemed like the better choice….)

Have you ever looked over the shoulder of a church?

The essays are engaging and thought provoking, but so are the images. Photos by Riccardo De Cal also surprise me by not being the usual Venice fare. He zeroes in on a door, or views a fondamenta by looking over the shoulder of a church. He lovlingly captures Scarpa’s work. It’s the last four images, of fog or a glassy canal or ancient wood or a hidden campo that make Venice into a city of myths. I can imagine any of those images prompting a story or a mood.

Something about the color and nooks in this photo make it seem mythical, even by Venetian standards

However, I will end by referencing Massimiliano Fuksas, where he describes the “snow globe” version of a city to the stereotypical image we hold of it. I think many travelers are used to the “snow globe” way of viewing Venice, through its iconic buildings, campi, and canals. But Dream of Venice Architecture gets us to think outside the snow globe, to see parts of Venice we haven’t seen, to pay attention to the unnoticed, to be surprised and delighted and curious again.

So the book title fits just right.


About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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11 Responses to Returning to the Dream

  1. Thank you for bringing this book to our attention! Like you, had never known about the Lido airport. The photographs you shared are exquisite, even for Venice: the aqua pointed arch door, and that scene of a Venetian courtyard is the best one I’ve ever seen

  2. Yvonne says:

    Oh, I had a helicopter ride over the lagoons, from the Lido airport. It was magic.

    I drew inspiration from Egle Renata Trincanato as a basis for many wanders through Venice to find examples of domestic architecture, and to compare their current appearnace to what she reported. Some had changed not one iota!

  3. Grazie mille Kathleen! This is an enchanting review, and I’m so appreciative. I’m especially delighted that the book has introduced you to new thoughts and places in Venice. For me, the city is an infinite maze of treasures to be discovered.

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