JD: We thought it might be interesting to look at a project we've worked on together recently and because we worked together we thought it would be interesting to do that in the form of a conversation that picks up some of the topics behind the ideas and working out. And the project we've chosen is the competition for the, what was called The Venice Bus Station, The Gateway to Venice, indeed that title is quite a loaded title when you think about it. EJ: Well it has a sort of double reading in that when you describe it as 'bus station' for Venice it has an immensely utilitarian connotation. As soon as it's described as a 'gateway' to Venice it conjures up all sorts of grand and symbolic meanings in the project. JD: It's a very difficult city to get one's hands on because it's not a typical European city. It's very a-typical and its sensuousness and urban quality is not one that lends itself immediately to the kind of typologies one normally looks at in relation to urban cities and urban city spaces. So a number of topics in the competition roused our interest. EJ: Yes, the point of Venice not being a typical European city is evident clearly in that it doesn't have a sort of obvious Roman origin, it doesn't have that classic cross that sets up the majority of most cities that one knows in Europe. It's a-typical in its origins and a-typical in its fabric. So the act then of contemplating a motorised building, a building that involved locomotion, is a very odd thing to be thinking about in Venice. It has a kind of strange contradiction, "buses in Venice". JD: It's actually a contradiction in modernity against history, because transport systems are essentially a product of the 20th century, 19th but really 20th century. So how people arrive in Venice and how fast they arrive in Venice and how quickly they have to slow down and accommodate being on a water bus instead of being in an aeroplane is a sort of telling moment of transition. So to do a building, it is about how you arrive by modern transport means and become involved in the historical and slower methods of moving around Venice, on foot, on the boat. It has its own kind of poignancy. And I think that became a central theme in looking at the project. And that moment of rest, or the moment of arrival/departure, started to give the project meanings other than pure utility.
JD: If you look at the plan of Venice there's a very clear and memorable shape. It's on the one hand an island and there's a causeway and the straightness of the causeway. On the other hand, it's the separation of the island's two halves by the Grand Canal's sinuous S-shape. The interesting thing about the project for a new bus station is that it's located right at one end of the Grand Canal, the very point at which the Grand Canal ceases to be a beautiful and fine urban place and becomes a more utilitarian area to do with docklands. And one of the counterpoints that we looked at in the project is between the location of the bus station at one end and the Customs House, the arrival of shipping and monitoring of shipping which takes place right down at the other end of the Grand Canal. EJ: You could see this as front door and back door, I mean, that the Customs House was the front door of the Grand Canal in the 18th century, and the site we're building on now was a very minor player in the order of things at that time. So it's reversed, we're reversing that reading. And really the examination of the bus station is very difficult to do without trying to look at, and compare it to the railway station. They're both forms that are, so to speak, alien to the history of the city.
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