PROGRAM: University Campus

SITE: Poveglia Island, Venice

CONTEXT: Venice, Italy

Across the Venetian lagoon a collection of thin towers colonize a forgotten island. It is clear that there is life, but the purpose of these figures remains a mystery. As the randomness of their arrangement offers no clues, upon closer inspection you discover silhouettes in the deep windows of the towers. An artist sits at an easel while nearby another figure is reading. A group gathers around a table laughing. What appears to be a projection of a presentation catches your eye. A musician stands on a rooftop and you swear you can hear jazz.

Upon arrival, it is clear that there is no single path or totalizing order. The floor of the island is lush with overgrown flora making it impossible to know exactly where the path you are on will take you. The landscape gently pulls you deeper into the heart of the island and your mind sees potential in the possibilities of making the next conjecture.

Architecture here seems to offer points of entry in understanding the logic, but it too is fragmented as point towers that at times cannot be discerned from the terrain itself. Classrooms appear randomly in the forest and offer spaces for larger gatherings. Outside of these special moments, the island seems preoccupied with states of personal discovery.

The towers offer the best insight into the logic of the university and also the logic of the site plan. Marking each university department, the eight residential towers are themselves points of escape and wonder. As one spirals up the public core of the tower, study nooks, practice rooms, communal spaces, theaters, studios, libraries, game rooms, reading rooms, and any other university space you can imagine pop out from vertical circulation. These spaces are available to anyone on the campus and create even more incentive to climb every tower and search for a space that is uniquely yours among the thousands of possibilities.

The building program is a catalogue of simple scattered pavilions and towers that frame the landscape and emphasize the wandering nature of the island circulation. The composition evokes the complexity of a city yet is unobtrusive in the way it integrates with the landscape. An architecture of brick arcades, support structures, and brick towers is used throughout.

Each marked by a tower, the site plan consists of a combination of new serpentine volumes, newly covered and etnclosed ruins, and refurbished existing buildings. Each department is given autonomy with their own classrooms, lecture rooms, and administration spaces. The existing buildings to the south of the island have been re-purposed as central administration and shared lecture halls for unexpected demand. The most used public spaces (canteen, gym, library, art museum) are new volumes that swirl through the landscape. Study rooms are accommodated for in the design of each tower.

Emphasizing the importance of permanent and temporary occupation of the island university, eight thin mixed-use towers mark the location of each department on the island while also create hubs for unexpected activities. As the towers climb, a spiraling stair connects reserved unprogrammed spaces to be claimed by adventurous students. Opportunities for studying, practicing, socializing, and retreating are presented in hundreds of variations allowing each person to find their own unique space on the island.

University Island is a swirling shapeshifter, in both the landscape and the architecture, that offers it’s undefined field of opportunities to the students and anticipates that each will discover and produce their own individual relationship with the island and their education.