Visualizing Venice

Visualizing Venice, new technologies for urban history is the first exhibition entirely devoted to history to be mounted in the Gino Valle exhibition space at the Università Iuav di Venezia. The exhibition offers, on the one hand, a cross-section of the research of Visualizing Venice* focused on a new way of “making” history through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and, on the other, an opportunity to test just how effective the most innovative communication systems can be in recounting urban transformation.

Visualizing Venice 3

The exhibition reconstructs VV’s research over the last three years through a series of “cantieri” (construction sites). Moving through the space, visitors can trace the history of certain parts of the city: the insulae of SS. Giovanni e Paolo and the Accademia, the areas of the Giardini della Biennale and the Arsenale. These sites have become the grounds on which to test a new way doing historical research: they are sites of major change and sites on which Venice is proving to be a future-oriented city, a city that is ready to try out new ways of being, reinterpreting and reconverting entire sections of its urban fabric. The changes in these parts of Venice’s historical building tissue are staged—at both an urban and a building scale—in the dramatic spaces created by the niches of the exhibition gallery, allowing viewers to experience urban transformation in both space and time. Visitors can observe the major changes in each area on a dual register through the relationships created between images from archival documents and digital reconstructions (2D maps and 3D models). Historical sources are seen in relation to interpretations and accompanied by the scanning of time through the phases considered most crucial to each area’s transformation.

SS. Giovanni e Paolo

SS. Giovanni e Paolo

(click to enlarge)

There’s nothing static in this exhibition, nothing that brings up images of dusty display cases protecting hardly decipherable documents. Quite the contrary. The exhibition holds the surprise of finding the historian’s tools in step with the times. There’s everything that’s needed to interpret events dynamically: maps, models, videos with moving images; rigorous reconstructions of the city’s changes; bird’s-eye views of the cantieri and their histories.

The exhibition has been conceived as enthralling journey through time, a learning experience that lets visitors track events and stratifications, recomposing the tiles of the grand mosaic of Venice’s millenary history. Professor Donatella Calabi has set a challenge and likens the research now on display as a still photograph of a study just begun, a snapshot of a work in progress. These partial results, however, test and validate the use of a new methodology for studying urban history, an approach that will be necessary for researchers of tomorrow. That is, of course, if they are willing to take urban history off the library shelves and let it become part of the cultural heritage and identity of a community that recognizes itself in these stories.

Visualizing Venice 4

The exhibition panels documenting the histories of the cantieri are accompanied by videos and an offline app (designed for an iPad), which—through the experiences of the professors and students who have participated in VV workshops—traces the parallel story of VV’s training program.

*Visualizing Venice is a project in collaboration with Duke University (Durham–NC, USA), the Università degli Studi Padova–Department of Civil, Structural, and Environmental Engineering (ICEA), and Nesting Scrl of Venice. The project was founded 2010 by Prof. Donatella Calabi (Iuav) and Prof. Caroline Bruzelius (Duke) and has involved about twenty researchers over the last three years.


Cotonificio veneziano
spazio espositivo Gino Valle
Dorsoduro 2196
30123 Venice


5 to 21 of December 2012

by Architect Alessandra Ferrighi

Università Iuav di Venezia

Exhibition Group

Visualizing Venice Featured Image


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