the lido island
Unit Tutors: Giulia Foscari & Elena Longhin
2nd Year Studio Project
Project Duration: 2015 - 2016
Location: Venice, Italy
The unit brief for Intermediate 15, called for us to develop an allocated research topic throughout the year, ending in a design charette to enhance, question and conclude the research.
The Lido; this desolate strip of land has an eerie calmness and an unexpected peace. It has been abandoned by its glory as its loss lingers in the shadows. Nothing stirs but the lapping waves and wind of the salty air. Secluded dunes stretch to each vanishing point, where faint sounds of birds and laughter echo, seeming to disturb its barren sands. Its richness and romance; forgotten, but its fascination and captivation will never be lost.
The Lido Island underwent a slow but enriching transfiguration throughout the 19th and 20th century that has been unfortunately, yet questionably, reversed today. It is historically important as the sea boundary of Venice, finding new life in the 19th century as a place of striking natural beauty, praised by all who encountered it. In the 20th century, the entrepreneurs Nicolò Spada and Giuseppe Volpi built the grand hotels and founded the Venice Film Festival. The Lido soon outshone the French Riviera, with its royally glamorous guests at the Excelsior and the Hotel des Bains. However, sadly in the post-war years it saw a steady decline. Investors retreated and even Luchino Visconti's film of the Thomas Mann novel Death in Venice could not save the Lido.
Alongside this history, there is a lesser known story about the influence the Lido’s atmosphere and environmental location had on the health and lifestyles of its inhabitants. It was not only a “golden island” for the world’s elites who found leisure from San Nicolo to Malamocco Inlet, but also became a destination for health and care for orphans, the destitute and the poor. It became a destination for health and care due to extensive medical studies done on the effects sea bathing and sea side exposure has on the body. These medical studies lead to the Lido specializing in hydrotherapy, heliotherapy and thalassotherapy, treating tuberculosis, bronchial and skin diseases, bringing to life the Ospedale Al Mare, which was officially inaugurated in 1933 and sadly abandoned in 2003 to this day.
Sea bathing quickly became a cultural phenomenon as a symbol of health and fitness. This phenomenon highly influenced the architectural evolution of bathing structures and establishments. As the culture shifted, the architecture followed. Started from a completely enclosed structure which enforced complete privacy while bathing, constraining one to roam where they pleased, towards a cultural acceptance of being completely exposed to freely wander in the crystal waters and lay in the warmth of the sand as one pleased. This cultural shift tells a forgotten story of how alive, healthy, romantic and rich the Lido once was, provoking the question of how it can be transfigured once more?