In one hour, we make our final presentation in Venice, Italy. The assignment was to create a city guidebook, on a theme of our choice. It’s difficult for me to imagine that I’ve been here for over a week — the experience has been expansive, and compressed. Now we move on to Rome.
It’s no exaggeration for me to say that this project feels like one of the most important in my life — creatively, personally, passionately. Why? I set out to challenge myself and not make it easy. I mean, why would I — I’ve travelled halfway around the world to do something new and enrich my perspective, accompanied by a world-class team of design thinkers and doers (Steven Heller, Louise Fili and Lita Talarico have been phenomenal). I learn every day in my own studio in NYC, so to make this worthwhile I knew that this was about something else. About setting the stakes deeper (not higher) and doing something that felt important to me. A reflection of my own way of thinking and design.
Yesterday Steven Heller interviewed me on video. One of his questions was: “What kind of designer are you?” At first I misinterpreted the question, and then he explained — what kind of thinking and process do you bring to design, in terms of methodology, and how did you use that here in Venice to do the project. Then it was clear to me: I’ve tried to use an analytical way of thinking to discover structural ideas about the city that aren’t so obvious, and reveal them in a beautiful way. This is what I’ve done with my four books.
Venezia a quattro movimenti (Venice in four movements) describes, in a symphonic way, different tempos and lyrical themes that move through Venice. These books expose how I discovered the city, and suggest four ways to move through the city.
77 palazzi on G.Canal describes the largest structure of all in Venice — the Grand Canal that cuts an “S” through the city. The colors on the canal are the public face of the founding families of Venice. The complete palette (from Piazza de Roma to San Marco) is paired with original corresponding family names. These names are a critical way into the history of Venice. With the colors, I thought of this structure as Romanza (Romance).
0-100 in S.Marco documents the numeri civici — the numbered doorways — that begin with “0” in Piazza San Marco. I show 0, 1, 1a and 2 (unmarked doors, because they are for the Basilica and Doge’s Palace), and how #3 is the first number in Venice — at a gelateria in the southwest corner of the piazza. Then the numbers continue, wrapping around the Piazza. Tracing these numbers is another movement through the city that spirals out from this moment — an overlay of ordine (order). Every doorway in Venice is numbered, and the sequence originates here. Some doorways are missing, and these are noted too. The most beautiful result of this is that facing away from the piazza — into the doorways — the photographs catch reflections of what was behind me. The deep space of the piazza is revealed in the reflections.
5 minutes to Rialto is a way to leave the Piazza San Marco under the Clock Tower and reach the Rialto bridge in the shortest time possible along the most touristy route. I documented the distinctive, yellow “Per Rialto” directional signage and show each one encountered. This is tirare (pull) — the gravitational pull from one tourist attraction to another, felt very strongly throughout Venice, but only along particular routes.
39 doorbells in S.Polo documents every citofolo (doorbell) panel in the doorways marked 400-499 and 800-899 in the San Polo district. I discovered letterforms in the doorbell panels and created my first alphabet. The letterforms contain cartoonish faces, humor, charm and spiritoso (whimsy), just like the many of the details in Venice.
Together, this is my Venice. I’d love to publish these. I’ll post the full PDFs soon. Let’s see what the critics think.