AD Readers Debate: Venice’s History, Makoko’s Future

In the past two weeks, ArchDaily readers have held debates on the preservation of the past in OMA's Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, and discussed the future for the people of Makoko in Lagos after their much-praised floating school designed by NLÉ collapsed due to heavy rain. Read on to find out what they had to say about these stories and more.

New Debates

Making Sense of OMA’s Fondaco dei Tedeschi Renovation

Courtesy of OMA, Photograph by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti

After their renovations at the Fondazione Prada and the Garage Center for Contemporary Art, OMA’s transformation of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice into a department store has continued to cement their reputation as a new force in the realm of architecture preservation. Their approach—which follows the popular tactic of revealing a building’s history, but is unusually bold in making striking new additions—seems to have won a few fans among our audience:

It's an elegant, tongue-in-cheek intervention that grafts OMA's spatial vocabulary into a historical Venetian palazzo. I love the un-puritanical juxtaposition of geometric cuts and flying stairs/escalators against the atrium's colonnade, the 'fake' opus-incertum walls and the Venetian red-painted handrails—a whole theatrical paraphernalia that works quite well in this case. – soperdida

OMA's alteration and exposing of layer upon layer of older gross modifications strikes me as rather joyous. Along with the historic Fondazione Prada complex, OMA's approach becomes clear. No sterile meaningless restorations and especially little if any creation of phony "new-old" interventions. Like all of OMA's work this is not about a "style" but a fresh pragmatic approach—the essence of modernism. The insertion of yet another new function into a structure 6 centuries young promises centuries more of workable, enjoyable space for commerce and social participation. Bravo! – Steven S Dornbusch

However, not everybody agrees, as some felt that OMA’s boldness was disrespectful to the fabric of the listed heritage building:

Quite disrespectful, I realize that modern should not be confounded with the old, but making concrete so rough is too much. The first impression was nice, but after studying it profoundly it turned out to be a big mess. There is no correlation between styles, material, and shapes, the the architects mixed up styles (or everything they knew), things which are not suitable together. The building was treated as if there was no old building. – SomebodyThatIUsedToKnow

What is the Future of NLÉ’s Floating School After Its Collapse?


For the past three years, the architectural community has been promoting NLÉ’s Makoko Floating School as an intelligent response to the challenges facing poor communities in precarious spaces, both physically and economically. However, all of that was brought into question this week by the structure’s sudden collapse. What happens next will depend heavily on the reaction of the NLÉ, the people of Makoko, the architectural media and the rest of the profession at large. One reaction was provided by our readers, one of whom seemed to see the collapse as a minor setback at most:

I would not say this is a negative against NLÉ. This structure was an innovation towards solving a social problem, using design in an inexpensive way. Much like how we learned how to keep today's buildings standing, all of us architects should look at this example to further the discussion on how can we can build a similar situation to withstand the extreme elements. – Sean

Continuing Discussion

Wild Ideas in the Windy City

Courtesy of Marks Barfield Architects and Davis Brody Bond

After our last AD Readers Debate, in which one commenter asked whether the Chicago cable car designed by Marks Barfield and Davis Brody Bond was intended as a tourist attraction or a piece of the city’s transport infrastructure, another commenter took the opportunity to criticize the idea in more certain terms:

The advantage of public transit is that it has the ability to move large numbers of people efficiently and allows for flexibility (getting on and off in different places). Gondolas were designed for a very different purpose and thus don't function well as mode of urban public transit. Also, they are constantly closed due to high winds. Need I remind everyone of Chicago's nickname, of which it most definitely lives up to?

This is a great 2nd year studio project, utopian and whimsical, but from legitimate architects? It's one thing to put it out there as a fun exercise in thinking outside the box but reeling in engineers and developers and selling it like it is something that it is not, is naive. Unfortunately these gimmicky publicity stunts cause many outside of the discipline of architecture to question our relevance and ability to tackle the complexities of the real. – J Davis

Keep the debate flowing! Please post any responses to these topics in the comments below.

About this author
Cite: Rory Stott. "AD Readers Debate: Venice’s History, Makoko’s Future" 12 Jun 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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