Water Filtration Plant / C+S Associati

Architects: C+S Associati
Location: San Erasmo Island, Venice,
Project Team: Carlo Cappai, Maria Alessandra Segantini
General project and structures: Technital S.p.A.
Client: Magistrato alle Acque di Venezia, Regione del Veneto, Comune di Venezia
Actuator: Magistrato alle Acque di Venezia tramite il Consorzio Venezia Nuova
Project Year: 2008
Photographs: Courtesy of

An infrastructure is thought as a landscape design project.

Located in the Nortehrn Lagoon Park north of Venice, on the southeastern edge of Sant’Erasmo island, the new water water filtration plant is part of the general urban and environmental upgrading of the island that the Magistrato alle Acque di Venezia is implementing through the Consorzio Venezia Nuova, within the context of a programmatic agreement between the Magistrato alle Acque di Venezia, the Veneto Region and the Municipality of Venice.

site plan

The fragility of the island, its indefinite shores that change contours and thickness with the tide, the beautiful Austrian battery, trace of the more extensive system of fortifications that once existed in the lagoon, whose thick and solid walls leave a mark on the lagoonal landscape, the regular division of the artichoke cultivations and the ghebi or internal canals design the landscape and the building becomes part of its character.

The theme of the project is the design of a ‘threshold space’, the point where the land and its ground comes to an end.

sketches 02

Four one meter thick parallel walls, built in reinforced concrete colored red with pigment and constructed as rough, untreated surfaces give the space the building form, like the ruins of an old battery, at the same time defining structure and shape.

The spaces between the concrete structures are closed by full-height panels in Iroko planks that may be opened at the entrance and in the areas used for unloading of dust.

The red concrete walls also serve as basic structures for the design of the landscape. The building buries its roots deep into the ground, at the same time facing the land, the void as a possible façade.

Inaccessible due to regulations, the new depurator was to have occupied a large part of the public land of the island. This has become one of the themes of the project: working on the distribution of the flows used in the depuration, it has been possible to bury a significant part of the construction, that only appears like a form in the land, the only surfacing parts being those necessary for maintenance and the final removal of the residual dusts.

The building consists of two parts: an underground area that contains the depuration part and the space above ground that hosts the area where the mud is dried, an electric cabin and an area for maintenance.

In fact, the underground area with its roof openings contributes to design a new land which becomes a play with paths that intersect one another, forming a pattern with the vegetation. Lavender and phlox, broom, lavender cotton and rosemary follow and reflect the development of the building. They design the accessible part of the park in such a way that the building, which on the contrary is inaccessible, takes on an ampler significance, as an element for ‘land-watching’ that may become an essential part of the system of the Park itself.

Cite: "Water Filtration Plant / C+S Associati" 02 Feb 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 19 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=48454>

23 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Only in Venice would they bother to build a beautiful water filtration plant that nobody will ever see. That’s real dedication to architecture

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I like how it seamlessly fits into its surroundings. Well, not really. From an untrained eye, it just looks like parallel walls next to each other. It almost looks like all they needed was a ruler to design this–no fancy expensive Auto CAD software to draw and design a mere rectangle.

    • Thumb up Thumb down -1

      i didn’t get it… are you saying that architecture have to be complicated or use some fancy computer made algorithm to be good?

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I think this project is much more complicated than you think. don’t allow the simplicity of the final product fool you, it took incredible rigor to allow it to be like this.

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        the complexity, here, is about the relationship of the building with the surrounding area, It’s not technical at all.
        I well know that an exterior(formal) simplicity does not mean an architectural simplicity

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        I was responding to MZA’s claim that it’s a “mere rectangle”. You really dont think there’s any technical complexity in making it look like this? I mean, look at the plan and the crazy water filtration system underlayed. There’s no way it’s as simple as: “ok, dumb rectangle on top of all of the mechanical junk”.

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        I agree, anyone who has attempted to detail such a minimal object can empathize with the idea that it is much more difficult to achieve the reading of a monolithic, seamless character than it is to assemble one that is expressive of all its connections and their tectonic composition. The materiality is expressive of the context, laudible and not only in that, the contrast of the form against the landscape is evocative and storng!
        Dave

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        Well said Alex… far more design intensive to achieve a building like this than one would think. far more!!!!

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        Alby, i’d argue the technical detailing just in the exterior shots shown here is also far from simple. i took a close look and thought about what some of my 1:5′s would look like in order to achieve what i was seeing… tricky indeed!

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    by the way, my real question with this project is: Are those walls just a mystification for the real function of that building? the water treatment implant is all underground… so what is the meaning of those walls? just the big ego of architects?

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Certainly there is a desire for all architects to express. If reaction to expressive decorative surface is always to be scrutinized as superfluous manifest of ones ego, well then, we are screwed. Perhaps the thing to focus on with this surface is the phenomonal way it achieves a visual effect called ‘moire’. Despite the incredibly hard materiality of concrete after it cures, it is the responsability of the architect to leverage all of its properties. This is done here, successfully through the use of the pattern. The formwork and pattern could only have been rendered with the aid of a computer, and a digital path file created by the computer for the cad cam driven three axis milling machine. A SIMILAR surface effect could have been achieved with a hired plasterer or stone cutter, craftsperson, etc.. the reality is that a handmade effect like this would not have produced the high level of exactitude which grants the reading of the moire effect. It dematerializes the literally hard concrete. Not and expression of an ego, but an almost magic trick where what is normally one thing can be read as many things. Are reverent elevations like the Palais Ca D’oro (venice-see ‘phenomonal transperancy) to be dismissed as ego maniacal expressions of an architects ego? Certainly not, the phenomonal visual sensations thrill us and elevate our condition as human beings.

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        Please disregard previous comment, this was intended for a different article.

        Your inquiry seems a bit severe to me…Maybe the walls are not a mere expression of ego… But rather, in their attampt to emulate a surface chroma and texture (via limmitless surface effect potential born in concrete material plasticity) that is a reflection of the surrounding ground condition, the project is referencing the landscape (good contextual sensitivity) instead of plopping something down upon it as a disassociated object in a field.(see: calatrava, ghery, american suburbs, etc..) Formally, however, to your point, the profile does not evoke or recall even a memory of the context. I have no problem with this. As an architect, maybe they couldnt resist calling out contrast between the landscape and their object by giving it a strong planar reading, rather than blending it with the landscape via more integrated elevation/sectional profiles. Great sections!
        Dave
        This is a good example of ‘habitable poche’.

        best

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