Strategic plan – Sant’Erasmo Island

Virum bonum quom laudabant, ita laudabant: bonum agricolam bonumque colonum;amplissime laudari existimabatur qui ita laudabatur.”“He is the man praised by our ancestors, who called him a good farmer and a good colonist; and those who were thus lauded knew that they had received truly great praise.” (Marcus Porcius Cato, De agri cultura, praefatio.)

Are we talking about 160 B.C.? No, we are in 2011, on the island of Sant’Erasmo, Venice, Italy. In this delicate period, in which the trajectories of our individual and collective development and their underlying political and economic principles seem to be wavering, Cato’s words seem to be a prophecy that has been proved right. It has a physical metaphor: an island a few kilometres from Venice, known as “l’Orto di Venezia,” the Market Garden of Venice.

This city is constantly renewing its status as a laboratory of modernity, and still today, if we look a little further to include the lagoon, the amniotic liquid from which it was born, it has a lot to say on contemporary trends towards sustainability, and the biological and ecological vision of the city fabric. In the recent past, the island’s agricultural vocation could have been considered as a threat to the territory’s survival and a limitation of its development. Today, on the other hand, it fuels the rediscovery of new social, economic and educational roles, becoming a model for development and the preservation of rural areas in city outskirts.

Sant’Erasmo is an island on which two speeds meet, or clash: the cycles and rhythms of nature and agriculture, and the speed of information and knowledge. Inside the body of contemporary cities and metropolises, agricultural and rural microcosms are developing and spreading, in the form of slow adjuncts to the schizophrenic speed of thought and architecture. The opposite is happening in this lagoon territory: an area possessing those qualities so keenly desired today is preserved, and high-speed knowledge, information and experimentation are added as if by means of innumerable acupuncture injections. The agricultural and rural environment is used as the basis for innovative operations that create new models in food production and distribution, hospitality, education, research, art, the relationship with landscape, and in social relations and production. This injection of knowledge and innovation is necessary to guarantee the continuing existence of the rural dimension, and to reinvent a model for the future. This will have to be a model that enables the new generation to live from agriculture, ensuring that the island is not destined to succumb to speculative building. The market is always hungry for areas that can be transformed into “private villas with garden and swimming pool.” More in general, today just as yesterday, the reinterpretation of Venetian territory can become a model that provides guidelines for the sustainable development of all plots of land subject to high market demand, all over the world. This economic, social and ethical transformation is catalysed by a number of factors: social production, the use of shared knowledge and resources, organization growing from the roots, and creative community contributions.

Transition town? No, simply a desirable area…

  • Project: Research/Urbanism
  • Size: 3.511.243, 4 sqm
  • Location: Sant’Erasmo (Venice)
  • Year: 2011 – on-going
  • Team: Michele Brunello, Marco Brega (partners), from an idea of Costantina Verzì, with Giuditta Vendrame and Francesca Vocialta

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