The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 9

island. But far more visitors make their entrance across the 19th-century causeway
which lumbers through the lagoon barely above water, low and heavy, an awkward
industrial umbilical cord. Ruskin hated it and campaigned against it, even praising
its partial destruction by bombardment in 1849. But to no avail of course, given the
pressures of tourism that bear down on Venice daily.
The jostling crowds spill out of the Santa Lucia Station, a low-lying Rationalist bulk
with a Fascist accent, onto a wide terraced plaza. This is the introduction for many
of Venice's 60,000 daily visitors: noise, electric lines, steel rails, crowds, timetables,
armed guards. These facets of the modern world make one last play for attention.
But the island nature of the place won't be denied. The crumbling asphalt of
Mussolini's 1933 road bridge gives way to squared pavers and cobblestones. Armco
barriers and concrete bollards demarcate the last of the car, the end of the bus, the
start of a new world of boats and walking.
Distance at once both shrinks and expands in this strange environment as the
physical accessible range of travel is limited to an island which is 4 km east to west
and less than 3 km north to south. After a few days in Venice, a sort of re-calibration
takes place. Your expectations about how long it takes to get places, about what is
a long walk, start to change. North and south lose their meaning and "being lost" is
normalized. This city seems unknowable.
It's a common sight to see tourists standing on a corner, guidebook in hand or
smart phone lighting a puzzled face, looking up in vain for street signs. They often
don't exist. In Rome, with a bit of Italian, you can ask a bus driver for your street. In
Paris, the Metro stops are well-signed. But in Venice, the limited public transit on the
vaporetto water-bus touches only the most outer fringe, plying the Grand canal route
mostly, hardly helpful when lost in the warrens of calli and alleyways dead-ended by
dark canals.
And so, you walk on. The artificial city, built on millions of wooden piles in the mud
of the Venetian lagoon, is essentially flat. There are no hills to lead the eye, no distant
vistas for markers. The only direction is sideways, the only landscape a man-made one.
A good map helps, but maps are of limited value in a city like Venice, despite it being
one of the most mapped places on earth. Invariably, maps only add to the confusion
because the calli are too labyrinthine, the intersections too confusing, the dead ends
are water and not even cul-de-sacs.
Mapping Venice has always been more of an art than a science anyway. Historically,
the maps that really interested the Venetians described the wider world. All roads,
canals and sea routes led elsewhere: to new markets, new conquests - they were
trade routes and lucrative destinations to leverage.
This city was the home of Marco Polo. Venetians travelled, traded, brought back
treasures. Amongst these were architectural styles, Venice being the grand mash-up
of East meets West: Byzantine and Baroque, Muslim and Christian, far and near, and
that fusion has helped create a city that has for centuries been a famous celebrity
of human habitation.
Maybe too famous. As Mary McCarthy wrote in her classic Venice Observed:
No stones are so trite as those of Venice, that is, precisely, so well worn.
It has been part museum, part amusement park, living off the entrance
fees of tourists, ever since the early eighteenth century, when its former
sources of revenue ran dry...and there is no use pretending that the
tourist Venice is not the real Venice...the tourist Venice is Venice: the
gondolas, the sunsets, the changing light, Harry's Bar, Torcello, Murano,
Burano, the pigeons. Venice is a folding picture-post-card of itself.
This might partly explain why, when an estimated 30 million people visit Venice annually,
less than half that number stay overnight. Tourists have a sense of déjà vu in Venice:
"I've seen this all before" - in a Canaletto print, on a glossy calendar of Picturesque
Italy, in a James Bond film. So a quick survey of well-known sites is all that's needed to
justify another checkmark on the bucket list; then back onto the cruise ship.
But there is another side to Venice and only after four or five days of wandering
does it start to reveal itself. The length of a stride becomes (as it always should have
The Right Angle | Summer 2018 | 9



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018

Message from the Board
Walking
Integrated Building Design... and More
Feature Project: Guelph Market Square
Index of Advertisers
Locations
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - Intro
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - cover1
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - cover2
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 3
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - Message from the Board
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - Walking
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 6
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 7
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 8
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 9
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 10
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 11
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 12
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 13
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 14
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 15
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 16
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 17
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - Integrated Building Design... and More
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - 19
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - Feature Project: Guelph Market Square
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - Index of Advertisers
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - Locations
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - cover3
The Right Angle Journal - Summer 2018 - cover4
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