Vessel is a site-specific response to the theme of Common Ground – a wooden structure, composed of a stacked planks, that works in conversation with the layered brick construction of the Arsenale. Irish architects O’Donnell + Tuomey have created a contemplative space, hollowed out of solid matter, that is at once a light funnel, a lantern chamber, and a passage.
The project has been inspired by Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s “The Annals Say” and a passage from Dante’s Inferno, both of which deploy visceral images of seafaring and shipbuilding in the context of profound spiritual discussion. For architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, literary and artistic affinities are central to their practice – architecture’s tained through the inspiration of other architects, artists, poets and performers. for Vessel, in addition to remembering inspirational works and reflecting on projects on projects that runs parallel to their pursuits, O’Donnell + Tuomey have invited practitioners -including Joseph Walsh Studio, Williams and Tsien and Peter Salter- to contribute to the installation.
Following its literary inspirations, Vessel uses simple materials and traditional techniques to create a sacred, shrine-like space. The work also exploits the historic link between timber and brickwork, epitomized by its Venetian setting. The two materials have an intimate affinity -bricks are cast from a mold, each special brick has to be hand-thrown from its own wooden casing; clods of clay are dug out from the forest floor and the als of archaic construction, have not changed much since the shipbuilders built their vessels between the brick columns of the historic Arsenale.