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Monday, April 14, 2008

Junghans Residential Buildings

Junghans Residential Buildings in Venice, Italy by Cino Zucchi Architetti

Included in a+t's Density series, the urban plan by Cino Zucchi Architetti for the site of the former Junghans industrial plant on Venice's Guidecca island exhibits the obvious focus of those books, while also dealing with a historical context in a sensitive manner, something the other projects in those pages, particularly the urban plans, don't deal with to such an extent.

Described by the architect in the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 2001 (for which one building was a finalist) as "a sort of microsurgery within the delicate body of the city," the mix of renovations and new buildings creates new open spaces that create new connections in the fabric, via alternately large and small gestures. The five residential buildings here consist of both new construction and renovations, each named rather dryly as a letter at the beginning of the alphabet.

Building A2-A3 is the renovation of an existing industrial building. Openings in the flat white facade are enlivened by operable shutters and an apparent discrepancy between the new openings and the old building behind. Building B is a reconstruction and extension of a small structure in brick; the tapered section and double-height openings give it a contemporary expression that separates it from its neighbors. The new D building (which was finalist for the Mies van der Rohe Award) uses surface treatment to enhance the pretty regular openings, while its massing creates new paths that connect to the canal.

Building E1 sits directly adjacent to a new canal created for in the masterplan. The new building presents a white face to the canal but a facade of alternating colors to the street behind. Lastly the twin G1-G2 buildings sit in an L-shaped relationship to create a common garden for residents. This last piece is where the vertical circulation is found, and this may inadvertently illustrate the key to the whole project: horizontal (pedestrian) circulation structures the larger plan while vertical (internal) circulation helps determine each building's form and expression. It might seem simplistic, but the consideration of the spaces in between buildings and the celebration of movement within a building are certainly strong lessons to embrace.

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