Conran: Azhar on Architecture: Walk Like a Venetian…at the Biennale

Back-to-back posting this week from our globe-trotting Architectural Director Azhar from Conran & Partners

Arriving in Venice, crossing the Lagoon from Marco Polo Airport you see the alluring silhouette of the city, through the fine, misty spray. Venice from this approach convinces me that she is in fact a celestial body that has fallen to earth; the industrial outline of Mestre is almost spectre-like on the horizon.

Early evening – Campos become football fields and everything goes; african luxury bag sellers, art addicts – it all works. The everyday is just as enchanting as the exceptional. Walking with a purpose – or just meandering – you are bombarded with fragments of overwhelming beauty. To have one’s eyes trained in Venice allows clearer observational power elsewhere.  Is it really possible to take a bad picture of Venice?       


A favourite art installation - a curtain of CDs

The first time I went to Venice was 1984 and ever since then I have returned for the last 17 years, mostly for the Biennales or film festival and I have the privilege to have made many friendships in Venice, which allow me the indulgence to behave like a citizen – to walk like a Venetian.       

The red lion of Venice just visible beneath the Torre dell’Orologio

A large ferry passes through...


Crossing the Grand Canale in a Gondola (a municipal ride costs fifty cents) over to the fish market, – one of my favourite buildings – the rumble of vaparettos rocks you. The poetic engineering of gondolas is somehow much more advanced than these crude, diesel-powered vessels. One sways to the gentle caressing of the waves, even later – when you are daydreaming about Venice on a sofa.

The Fish Market

Fish Market interior

When it’s time to leave , pulling away in a speeding boat one can almost feel the gravitational pull of the city getting stronger – her force pulling you back (this city – to me – is of course female).  Venice never quite leaves you, to say it haunts you sounds extreme but the fact is that even in a short stay, the extraordinary seems normal – and to go back to the “normal” seems alienating.

Sorry, I am not going to mention the art here… you will have to go and see for yourself!’s a taster….

An 'art' bar - very cool...


My favourite building - the Nordic Pavillion

Trees growing through the Nordic Pavillion


The Venice Art Biennale 2011: ILLUMInations

4th June to 27th November 2011

The 54th International Art Exhibition, directed by Bice Curiger, is open at the Giardini and Arsenale venues and elsewhere around Venice. The exhibition is titled ILLUMInations and set up in the Central Pavilion at Giardini and at the Arsenale forming a single itinerary, that features 83 artists from all over the world. Also exhibited 89 National Participations and 37 Collateral Events.

With special thanks: MV, GT, NT, EA and many others!

I would be a poorer man without them, and Venice would not be the multi-dimensional affair it is.

Azhar in 1984 - dazzled by Venice!


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