The Mirrored City. 

Site research of Venice.

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‘The Mirrored City’
 
Venice is split between its romanticisation and its reality. It’s construction ––
a fabrication of its inhabitant’s ambitions imposed upon it.
 
The city is designed to be a monument which disregards its circumstances, ignoring the natural environment around it. Venice is an ecological disruption on the brink of collapse, mirrored in the floods that sweep through its streets at night, reflecting the twinkling lights of civilisation, a fetishisation of anthropocentrism too arrogant to acknowledge its demise.

Photograph by Yijun Xiong

Site Writing by Francine Chan & Yijun Xiong

Part of Degree Project for BA Design Programme at Goldsmiths, University of London

Mentored By Tuur Van Balen

 Part I: Weathering the Ecological Faults 
 
Venice, a city built of bricks and stone walls, built atop clay and silt, Buildings and bridges built atop mud, the poles of wood petrified - preserved under the suffocating land stored away from the sun to form: 
 
A city of the bourgeois, built over the refugees of before. The upper class escaping state land, starting anew, a temporary settlement piled precariously for permanence. 
This is a city that foreshadows the concrete skies, a city that overshadowed logic and reason, built atop human ambition.
The foundation of bricks piled atop, taller - 
Of bell towers, brass, arches - 
 
Of bridges that span across the canals channeling the water away, of bridges that tower above rivers, bridges and monuments standing tall, of divinity and the construction of the human civilisation, of a city built for permanence on top of temporary land.
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< Piazza San Marco, Screenshot captured from Google Earth >
A city - foreshadowing the urban jungle
A city firstly of bricks - then plaster
Of plaster - then marble
Of marble - and sculpture
A land of prosperity, where streets are filled
With painted walls, of closely constructed
Communities with parallel windows
Of cobbled streets - a new civilisation 
A dream - like state built from the image of prosperous towns
Floating atop water, the pinnacle of construction and innovation. 
 
And yet the permanence remained within the constructed dream, as the years went on - the ground still caved from the caverns below, hollowed out by the extraction of its foundation. With the water drained from beneath the cracks, the water which kept the city afloat. 
As rain beat on while the waters rose, a yearly haunting of what was channeled and stored away. The tendrils of river under the arching bridges, fills the stone cages built to contain it long ago. 
 
And so the pavements shrunk and the city sunk, and the water that emerged washed away the land. - the city’s protection became its peril, of waterproof ground and the narrow walls that channeled the river upground. 
And as the storms beat down and the water levels rose,
even these doors weren’t safe.
The ground seem to sink and people waded in water,
reminded of the world they kept at bay. 
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< Ponte di Rialto, Screenshot captured from Assassin's Creed - Venice >
As rain beat on while the waters rose, year after year it wore away. 
The wooden bridges rotted as the mould and rot seeped in, yet ambition prevailed to save each monument as more replaced with stone and plaster it became. 
The city closed its doors but it’s never enough as the waters swelled above.
 
They stuck on, crudely cut, planks of wood and foam.
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The damage could be repaired, of crumbling plaster and metal,
the parts of stone that were washed away.
 
But as the water returns back to their cages, the city is left exposed,
what is left of it today.
The real Venice arrives, weathered through history,
it’s age cannot be concealed today.
The real Venice of crumbled walls of bricks and structures that have been impregnated with water within. The cracks and crevices begin to show, underneath the plaster covering the many years the city has been worn away. 
 
And when the patches of plaster fell away, the city revealed itself, with inhabitants who have long anchored within. 
​——
 Part II: The city sinks as the city emerges 
 
The water bridges the city of plaster and the city that erosion revealed,
Land merged with sea as the currents lapped at the feet
Of people left unable to ignore, the glimpse into the city -
The boundaries of civilization blurred —
Caving in, drawn into its origins —
The city built over the past merging with the city of the future
Where ambition no longer salvages, 
where its facade crumbles,
The layers peeled away to reveal the - 
Rusted mechanisms, of society, its fragile exterior
Unnaturally preserved, by monument of memory, by farce and perception.
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— 
*Tourism*
The sunlight brings, the swarms of tourists,
The tide that holds the city in two. 
The nestled chairs set up to gaze at the monuments
Within the comforts of their shielded feet, elevated from the flood,
Beneath the monuments, their cameras out to capture
A novelty that reminds them the value of,
Being one of the last to step upon the sinking monument
The flood, flocked by birds that belong in the sea,
Now on land, an extension of water - 
the backdrop of the dream that perpetuates,
The romanticization of this sinking city,
The privilege to explore - The last of the gilded ages
The novelty of the lagoon, its rising tides
Rays of sun reflecting the waves that begin to swallow,
Shop fronts surrounded by tourists,
Of abandoned arcades, unable to escape
The inevitable ecology foreshadowing the city’s fate. 
— 
*Consumerism*
A facade of luxury, of dazzling shopfronts, 
It’s silver arches, an arcade, an enchantment,
A stately dwelling underneath -
Crumbled bricks and shuttered windows
Of rotting wood - but charming,
A reminder of the golden age. 
Mannequins in Jeweled gowns, 
sitting on colored acrylic, velvet
Peering through the glass, half submerged in brown water
Smelling faintly of yesterday’s seafood,
Splashed across marble floors held behind,
Metal floodgates and pumps of water
Splashed back onto the streets.
— 
*Real Venice*
But behind the mechanisms that built the shopfronts
The unseen alleys house carts of rubbish, 
Trolleys of goods, of mechanical pumps,
The artificial life that keeps the city afloat - 
When the flood subsides, the afternoon brings 
The flood of people rushing back into the streets,
Desperately preserving the idea of civilisation,
Rebuilding of monuments to live for monument,
Where their value is of monument.
— 
*Mirrored* - Reflections of the parallel reality
The city in the day,
Through its gleaming arcades, 
its white monuments and marble,
The radiant blue bridged by sculpted arches,
Of pastel walls and lacquered doors.
Fulfilling the dreams of voyagers armed with -
The projection of their perceptions - 
the romanticisation of the transient city -
Stood above the flood that threatens to wash it away.
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In the changing of the tides as the moon began to rise,
As the water creeps from the ground -
The city light mirrored, and the fevered dream of twin cities
Reflected in parallel, the image of a dream,
Trapped within the water - a pause in fantasy
a silent cry drowned within the currents that ripple and fade.
The desolated city emerges.
— 
*Whirlpool*
But as the morning comes, another cyclical day,
The ripples of footsteps begin to break 
The sense of foreboding hidden within the reflection
Of the folding city, the city of dualities, of escapism of-
Frantic preservation, scrambling to protect the city
With their permanence and decadence to be gawked at as
Tourists come and go, oblivious to the cycles of the tide.
Oblivious to the sinking novelty of a fabricated reality,
A fabricated civilisation, the slumbering dream of consumerism.
Sinking dreams being absorbed -
Down the drains, tumbling back into their cages
That keeps the spirit at bay with daylight preserving the ambition,
Trapped within its parallel reality. 
                                    The ecstasy of consumption, 
the neverending construction
                                    Of civilization.
— 
*The End*
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