For all its physical suggestion of permanence, architecture is susceptible to the ravages of time. Materials break down, styles pass out of fashion, and clumsy attempts to modernize a structure often exacerbate its flaws. In the case of the Campiello, a 200-year-old palace in the Venetian town of Vigonovo, all of these temporal effects – plus a terrible fire 30 years ago – had wrought a cruel degradation. Happily, a multidisciplinary team composed of local architecture firm 3ndy Studio, sculptor Giorgio Milani and art historian Philippe Daverio – along with the indelible words of a few dead poets – has achieved a smart, sensitive restoration.
The most striking component of the reimagined property, which now features five apartments and four offices split between two buildings, is a 300-square-metre detached facade that knits the scheme together. This new frontispiece creates an open-air transitive space between the main buildings, and evokes the handsome 19th-century arched doorways and mullioned windows of the historical structure, which the design team managed to recreate from period photographs.
Rather than the original plaster, the new facade is clad in 190 Corten panels. Here, Milani has laser-cut some 15,000 words and phrases, including scattered verses by such poets as Lope de Vega and T. S. Eliot. By day, the play of light and dark created by the inscriptions, and by the steel’s characteristic patina, conveys a curiously weathered look. By night, LEDs embedded in the panels allow passersby to pick out verses, such as this one, from T. S. Eliot’s poem “Burnt Norton,” which echoes the Campiello’s history: “Words strain / Crack and sometimes break, under the burden / Under the tension, slip, slide, perish / Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place / Will not stay still.”