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Venice preview: Grafton Architects and Paulo Mendes da Rocha

Infrastructure and landscape

When we received the invitation to exhibit, we had just won an Architectural Competition for a new University in Lima, Peru. This is our first Project in South America. During the competition, as we researched Lima, with its unique climate, its unique culture, we acknowledged our influences from South America and took the opportunity to celebrate the inspirational work of Paulo Mendes da Rocha.

Exploring themes of architecture as ‘built geography’, ‘abstracted landscape’, ‘landscape and infrastructure’ and ‘the horizon and the human being’, we are proposing two ‘figures’, forming a sense of Common Ground .The two ‘figures’ we are studying are Mendes da Rocha’s Estádio Serra Dourada football stadium at Goiânia, Brazil, and our university campus in Lima, where we are investigating the idea of a university as an ‘arena of learning’.

Through models, we explore the relationship between infrastructure and landscape. These include models of Mendes de Rocha’s Serra Dourada stadium and his Montevideo Bay project, along with other of his works and exploratory models of Grafton Architects’ UTEC university campus in Lima and our new building for the School of Economics at the University of Toulouse.

Mendes da Rocha describes Architecture as a specific form of consciousness, aware of the responsibility of man’s action in the universe. He speaks about Venice as the most appropriate place for this kind of discourse, as Venice is a transformed place, constructed after human necessities and wishes. It is the capital of the imagined world: the ideal place to expose these ideas.
He says: ‘An interesting example for me is Venice - not the much-sung Venice, with its beauty, but rather the sight of a new geography … the sublime architecture of Venice is the construction of territory.’

Mendes da Rocha cites Venice as his inspiration in the design concept for his Bay of Montevideo project in Uruguay. This project transforms the shallow bay into a 3km-wide ‘water square’, where multiple passenger ferries animate the urban waterway in a practical, human and delightful way. Like a cultural beacon in this water space, an existing small island is transformed into a theatre.

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