Heritage Italy

Venetian island gets green makeover

Plans to redevelop Certosa, the largest abandoned island in the Venetian lagoon, include a nature park, marina and vineyard

The abandoned island Certosa in the Venetian lagoon will be transformed into an urban green park

VENICE. Plans to redevelop the island of Certosa in the Venetian lagoon were presented at the Venice International Architecture Biennial, which opened on 29 August and runs until 21 November, as this issue of The Art Newspaper went to press. The island, which housed a monastery from the 12th century onwards, and which peaked as a cultural centre in the 17th and 18th centuries, was abandoned in 1806 under Napoleon. The French, followed by the Austrian and later the Italian authorities, turned the island over to military use, leading to the construction of the Pirotecnica, a munitions factory complex, with adjacent barracks and firing ground. After the second world war, the island’s buildings fell into disrepair.

The project, called “Parco Urbano Isola della Certosa”, is a joint public-private partnership developed by architect Tobia Scarpa, which will integrate a public green park, agricultural activities, a nautical centre and training school, as well as restaurants, bars, nature trails and sports facilities. The key partners include the Vento di Venezia yachting club and the city authorities (the Comune di Venezia), with the Veneto regional government, water authorities, and the state actively involved. The budget is €30m, spread over five years and will be borne entirely by the private investor, the Vento di Venezia.

The plan will be implemented in stages, with completion scheduled for 2015.

Scarpa told The Art Newspaper that the challenge of the project is that too little remains of key buildings, such as the monastery, to restore them to their former glory, but no-one wants to destroy what is left by building completely from scratch. He said: “The art will be to harmonise the various structures,” although he admitted that some of the shacks lined up on the island present problems. “However, everyone is enamoured of the park idea, so attractive and pristine,” he said, which is hardly surprising given the lack of accessible green space on most of Venice’s inhabited islands. Plans include buildings with planted roofs that can be walked on, and a public swimming pool floating on a barge. The latest “green” technology will be used throughout.

The driving force behind the commercial side of the project is entrepreneur Alberto Sonino, 33, who has run Vento di Venezia for five years. He says that, following a three-year land reclamation process, a well-known wine producer, Gianluca Bisol, will plant a five-hectare vineyard as part of the project; there are hopes to create orchards and market gardens.

However, the island’s main economic activity will come from water-based activities: boat mooring capacity will double in the canal, while moveable bridges will provide access to the neighbouring islands of Vignole and St Andrea. Traditional wooden lagoon boats (sanpierota and topetta) will be built again in the dockyards, while the sailing school, which already operates on the island, will expand. “If the project goes as planned, we shall double the island labour force,” Sonino says, adding he hopes this will become a model for other run-down Italian areas.

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