Palazzo Di Milioni | Venice, Italy | Unit 21 | 2020

Awarded Distinction for Thesis

Click to see Thesis
Click to see 4th year work

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BACKGROUND: VENETIAN MASKS
The project stems from the Venetian mask culture, and the social and legal power it prevailed. While the mask itself is an iconic part of Venice’s reputation, the strange history is relatively unknown. Masks were normalized in the 18th Century Venice as a reaction to the rigid social hierarchies of the city. This allowed people to control the way they are perceived in public despite their social status, gender, wealth. What I found fascinated was that the masks were so widely used that they began to rewrite the law, as parliament had to regulate their use. This shows how significant the face and recognition of each other is when it comes to the way a city is controlled.
BUILDING PROGRAM: HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT
Based on the masks and laws they entailed, my project is a House of Parliament for an imagined New Venetian Republic. Based on a referendum in Venice in 2019 to leave Italy and become its own republic once again, in an attempt to save its dying identity. Sited in front of St Marks square, the most recognisable part of Venice. The building will be like a mask to Venice, redefining its face while preserving its identity.
DESIGN PROCESS: RESOLUTION AND VECTOR POINTS DENSITY
I explored how the the effect the masks can be translated within the 21st century. My approach it not to disguise the face but explore how the face itself could be digitally reconstructed at different resolutions and what implications this may have for recognition and for preservation of identity. I learnt that at 1:1, the human can recognise a face at 1,000 vector points while a computer while most computer software s need between 10 and 80 points. From there I began to tranlsate this into architec- tural parameters, to investigate what spatial implications this would result in.
CAFFÈ FLORIAN
This is a digital reconstruction of Caffè Florian in St Mark’s Square, from which extends my design. Dating back to the 18th Century, it is the world’s oldest cafe and the chosen gathering point for centuries, witnessing debates, meetings with high-profile visitors and even the plotting of revolutions. Having analysed their resolutions, i manipulated fragments of the caffe’s digital form within my design, as well as adopting their colours. The culture that Caffe Florian maintained also influenced my program, with a debating chamber orientated around the menu that was served during so many pivotal gatherings within Venetian history, and now an international brand. The elements extracts exist within the building at multiple scales and resolutions.
RESOLUTION HIERARCHY/A DIGITAL BUDGET
This collage shows the concept for my scheme in plan, imaging the building as point cloud. Having worked out an arrangement I am proposing a design that is orthogonal in its form, but organic in its point density distribution. This will result in an architecture that is dynamic yet controlled in its tensions between order and ambiguity of form and allows for meticulous analysis of point densities within cubic meter volumes.
A digital budget was developed where the number of vector points within the building is based on Venice’s population. Each citizen, translated to 10 vector points within the cloud. While today’s population is low, the New Venetian Republic seeks to restore its former glory, so taking the 18th Century, where masks were most prominent, and the population at the time of 145,000, by distributing the 10 points per citizen, an overall budget of 1,450,000 vector points is assigned to the project.
Based on the decisions made regarding zones of high, medium and low resolution, the spaces of the building were massed on site, and rebuilt as point clouds of three densities, as explained below. A typical wall height in the building is 3m so the volumes were initially divided accordingly. Digital costs were consistently calculated when developing the design, and recorded throughout the year. Resolutions were reduced, redistributed to redesigned in order to maintain within the budget.
Based on the decisions made regarding zones of high, medium and low resolution, the spaces of the building were massed on site, and rebuilt as point clouds of three densities, as explained below. A typical wall height in the building is 3m so the volumes were initially divided accordingly. Digital costs were consistently calculated when developing the design, and recorded throughout the year. Resolutions were reduced, redistributed to redesigned in order to maintain within the budget.
Antecamber Tower from Council of 40 Points. Point Count: 623,844
Voting Chamber/Chamber of Equal Points. Point Count: 468,459
AS SEEN FROM SATELLITE
The landscape around the building is a digital response to the existing Gardinetti Reali park as seen from satellite view. Key tones within the image were extracted and arranged to form a pixelated image of the park, at a resolution of 1 point per cubic metre. This image is used to lay out paving according the colour code presented. This results in a new landscape within the site, while Gardinetti Reali continues to visually exist from a satellite’s distance. The roof is designed in the same logic as the park, with colours selected to resemble the building as a live CAD model. The roof stands out from the rest of Venice’s red roofscape, to be viewed from above.
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DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
The design focuses on the perspective view in its iteration, how resolution is relative with distance, and how space complexity can be rationed using scale and materiality. The booklet above explains the overall design strategies for the building and the de- sign development. Materiality plays a big role in how i manage resolution. Aesthetically, low resolution reads as more defined architectural elements, for example a wall in its simplest form would require only 8 points, while high resolution areas are the more ambiguous aspects within the design.
The building is developed at a range of scales. The facade, large scale responds to the initial minimum resolution parame-
ters defined by views across the water. As the building is raised, the facade is never approached up close and can therefore be reduced in point count. In contrast, furniture is designed to embody the same tensions between high and low resolution as the rest of the building, at a smaller scale and used the same materials. Masks and cakes were also designed based on the Caffe Flo- rian menu to be worn and eaten during debates. Elements shift between scales throughout the building, where the same high resolution fragment is used for a variety of features from a three floor staircase to the frosting on a cake.