In Venice, the modern always arrives unobtrusively. It appears in interiors (Aldo Rossi at Teatro La Fenice; Tadao Ando at the Punta della Dogana ; Renzo Piano at the Vedova Foundation ; Michele De Lucchi in the Manica Lunga wing of the Cini Foundation). It blossoms in the outer stretches of the lagoon (David Chipperfield on the cemetery island of San Michele; Cappai and Segantini, C+S Architects , with the water filtration plant and infrastructures to facilitate visits to the island of Sant'Erasmo). It pops up unexpectedly at the access to the city (with Santiago Calatrava's new bridge). Or, as with the new courthouse complex in Piazzale Roma, it creeps into the articulations of a framework that looks more like a body stretched out on the ground.
Venice's acceptance of the new is porous and selective, rejecting demonstrative gestures (from Palladio to Le Corbusier) yet welcoming a scattered transformation. It tolerates acupuncture but refuses the surgeon's knife, which might remove the wrinkles from its face. Through a practised but unwritten tradition, it prefers to adapt to an apparent permanence, challenging design's ability to fathom its depths and probe its density. But above all, Venice calls for a perception of its "voids" not as empty pockets to be filled, but as deliberate intervals in an urban maze covering the whole lagoonscape. Like a piece of writing that constructs an elastic and flexible plot with its punctuation and ellipses, Venice cannot be readily reduced to the linearity of a mannerist account, and hence not even to the myth of the anti-modern city by definition.
This is Venice before Venice: a point where drivers are transformed into pedestrians and vice versa. In the 1930s, with all the selfassurance of rationalism, the elegant and impressive glazed cage of Eugenio Miozzi's parking garage had tried to represent the ebb and flow of that regular tide. It is an amphibious place, seemingly untidy and chaotic. Made almost "vulgar" by the intermingling of countless architectural idioms and styles, it becomes a backdrop to the sumptuous stage heralded a little further away by the copper cupola of San Simeone. In reality, this "minor" Venice is the functional hardware of the festive machine that awaits tourists and commuters in their daily assault on the city's historical centre.