Wet Dreams

Image accompanying Wet Dreams essay

This essay, Wet Dreams, is an excerpt from the book Dream of Venice Architecture written by Jürgen Mayer H.

Wet Dreams

We got our feet wet. In the fall of 1979 I visited Venice for the first time. We came down from a vacation in the Dolomiti Mountains to spend two days in the city. It was the end of October, the weather turned from sunny in the mountains to rain and high flood on the seaside. While the first day was still an easy walk in the city, the second day turned into an adventure of how to find our way through the city with most of Venice being a foot under water. Elevated walks would help us maneuver through the narrow streets. And what I remember most is the Olivetti Store on San Marco Square being flooded. I guess it was the combination of technology and the challenge of nature condensed in one small space. According to the locals it was business as usual. For me it was a fascinating moment that I now can name as “performative city.” Venice´s relationship and dependency on weather, seasons, local traditional rituals and international events imposes a dynamic pulse on this extreme urban life.

Only later I better understood the relationship between weather and culture. My curiosity turned into teaching design classes at Harvard, in Berlin and Toronto on weather and architecture as a cultural phenomenon. We try to control or even create weather way beyond managing to forecast. And we try to solve dependencies on weather with technological inventions from fireplaces and air-conditioning to flood barriers. This disconnection from weather can protect and create comfort, but it can also create phenomena like sick building syndrome. Architecture used to be designed according to local weather conditions and cities were laid out and organized according to climate and topography. Weather can provoke stress to infrastructure, and it can kick and activate our body with climate changes. Venice seems to have all of that–to extremes.

 

Dream of Venice Architecture Cover

About Jürgen Mayer H.

Jürgen Mayer H. studied architecture at Stuttgart University, at Cooper Union New York and at Princeton University. His work has been published and exhibited worldwide and is part of numerous museums including MoMA New York, SF MoMA, and private collections. He has won numerous international architectural awards

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