Tempo Torre | Venice, Italy | Unit 21 | 2020
Awarded Distinction for Design & Distinction for Thesis
Venice is a city particularly shaped by time. Its identity is centred on its storied traditions, its history shaped by old systems of counting time, and its impending end date shapes the city in the present. This project examines various Venice is a city particularly shaped by time. Its identity is centred on its storied traditions, its history shaped by old systems of counting time, and its impending end date shapes the city in the present. This project examines various scales of time within Venice—primarily relating to its many traditions—and frames the repetitive, yet evolving nature of those rituals as a basis for design.
By using live input/live output animation software for design generation, By using live input/live output animation software for design generation, the project proposes a clock tower in the Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo whose constituent parts change at multiple rates of speed. Elements shift year-by-year, month-by-month, day-by-day or minute-by-minute; some respond to the centuries-long history of traditions such as the Regata Storica or Carnival of Venice, and others to the real-time activity of gondolas on the canal, pedestrians in the campo, or someone enjoying an afternoon espresso.
The tower becomes a clock unto itself—tracking the time in legible and illegible ways. Repeat visitors will never find the same building, but will begin to be able to tell the time: it’s time for a coffee, time for a rest, time to avoid the crowds, or be amongst them.
Each year, Venice celebrates approximately forty traditional events, both new and old. These operate at the scale of a day, with scheduled activities leading up to and surrounding a main event; at the scale of a year, as they mark seasonal changes and the passage of months; and some at the scale of many tens and hundreds of years with detailed histories.
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Drawn as timelines at the three key scales of time, the traditions revealed patterns of activity, occupancy, location, and dates within the city (top down: day, year, centuries)
These patterns were understood and translated into a variety of waveforms, to be used in TouchDesigner, a live input/live output animation software, where these frequencies could be used to create a variety of visual outcomes.
Above, three categories of output were pursued: form, drawing and colour. Various frequencies from Venetian traditions were applied to translate, rotate or scale cubes or lines in the first two instances. At the bottom, a video input was used to generate colour, which is also applied as scaling and translation information.
Many of the early tests created interesting but arbitrary outcomes, which was a somewhat undesirable out- come. The above video demonstrates a shift towards a logical, though unpredictable, form of animation that grows larger and smaller in a manner reflective of the input frequencies. The form can also be captured in a top elevation, suggestive of a moving plan.
The use of video in TouchDesigner allowed for the introduction of another scale of time: that of real-time, as captured through video during our visit to Venice. Various animation tests sought to translate this kind of input into usable output, by capturing movement or colour.
With the idea of developing a clock tower, the site of the Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo was selected, as it is home to one of the largest basilicas in Venice, though it does not have a clock tower. This is unusual in Venice, where there are more than 80 clock towers throughout the islands of the Venetian lagoon. Above, two videos which show the development of this idea. At top, a concept collage demonstrating the idea that some portions of the tower would move so slowly they appear stationary, while other elements move more quickly from real-time inputs. Below, a video combining tradition frequencies and site occupancy data to create a changing tower (understood as a time-lapse, rather than in real time).
Development of the tower included modeling keyframes and applying materials based on ideas of permanence or impermanence.
Impermanent elements include moving panels, projections and water features. Above, one test demonstrates how an interior space might be filled or created by panels responding to the action of a visitor eating a fritelle, a traditional Venetian donut.
Above, videos are turned into pixel grids for use in gridded LCD glass, obscuring views and colouring light as per various internal and external video captures.
Some inputs are translated into moving images, which are projected onto scrims suspended outside the clock tower. When lit properly, the fabric appears invisible, and the image appear suspended in mid-air.
The campo is also part of the clock tower. As panels are removed from the building over time (and later returned), they are dispersed across a grid, forming seating elements and new paths through the campo. By considering the perimeter of the site as a kind of timeline itself, historical information informs input/output locations, where cameras are placed, or images/moving elements are activated.
Above, several interior views of the clock tower, including internal and external spaces, as well as a coffee bar. The high-contrast furniture, cups and plates facilitate movement capture from cameras placed on tables and within rooms. Over time, spaces become more or less enclosed, permeable and inhabitable. Some spaces feature projections or lighting installations which change the experience of the space as well.