If you ask a Venetian what a squero is, they probably won’t answer you right away. First they’ll give you a look of surprise. Then they’ll start gesticulating. And, eventually, they’ll shake their head, muttering words like tourist and foreigner under their breath. In Venice it’s as good as impossible not to know what a squero is. After all, as Venetians have always said, “Barca xe casa” (a boat is a home).
A squero is a typical Venetian boat building works. This was where Venetians originally made, maintained, and berthed boats of all sizes, from rowboats to yachts, from small sandoeti to large galleys. But when the Arsenale district became the center for building the largest ships (both military and merchant), the area of the squeri started specializing in smaller boats for private use. While a handful of squeri still survive, many have been repurposed. Among them is Spazio Berlendis. Formerly Squero Fassi (later, Squero Vecio), it’s located in the Cannaregio district, the beating heart of Venice. It was recently renovated by Caprioglio Architects.
Art exhibitions, performances, concerts, conferences, and more – Spazio Berlendis is intended to host all kinds of cultural events. Behind the project are Emanuela Fadalti and Matilde Cadenti, owners of the Marignana Artesi gallery. With the transformation overseen by Caprioglio Architects, the former squero has opened itself to the city with a new face that combines respect for the building type and the urban setting with a strong contemporary edge. Special attention has been given to the choice of materials and details, such as the concrete floor with a handcrafted resin finish (Architop Nuvolato by Ideal Work).
The design idea was to give life to a space that could combine the charm of its very special setting by the Venetian lagoon with the versatility offered by a neutral environment, without the constraints of a historic building, that would be suitable for hosting a variety of cultural events. A building with the characteristics of a pavilion but located in the heart of the city. The result is a backdrop that, although with a distinctive personality, is neutral enough that it doesn’t compete for attention with the exhibits at events.
The water gate entrance, off Rio dei Mendicanti, leads to 3330 square feet (300 m2) of floorspace with 2690 square feet (250 m2) of exhibition wall space. The building is of a completely new type for the city, a totally and intentionally contemporary design that also respects tradition.
The architecture has been designed to be flexible enough to accommodate all the different kinds of events hosted. The space can be used with natural light (from overhead), artificial light (with a highly flexible lighting system), or without light (for film screenings or special performances). Some of the exhibition walls are 15 feet (4.5 m) high, so that even large and more bulky works can be displayed.
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Building area: 500 mq ca.
Project: Filippo Caprioglio – Caprioglio Architects
Consultants: Miriam Mattana, Costantino Paparella, Angela D’Alessio, Filippo Bobbo, Riccardo Tommasi, Andrea Brisighella
General Contractor: Beta Costruzioni
Suppliers and solutions: iGuzzini, Ideal Work, Officina Fabbrile Momesso, Vimar
Photography by Silvia Longhi, courtesy of Caprioglio Architects