Back

City of broken umbrellas



VENICE IS A MEDIEVAL TRADE CITY. It has an affinity with cities on the Silk Road. The Silk Road was full of people and goods, and every city along the route was cosmopolitan.

Although Venice flourished centuries after the Silk Road it retains the spirits of an ancient market city where people and goods converge and mingle in countless ways, seemingly in confusion, yet maintaining equilibrium within the boundary. What links Venice to the Silk Road is not only Levant but also the social system in which things and deeds had their relative values – where commodity or service exchange was the basis of trade before money started to dominate the value system.

VENICE IS A LABYRINTHINE CITY. Unlike the larger cities that are conceived and built as global political centres, it has no gridsystem, and streets grow inwards with no apparent organisation. Buildings pile up and people live on top of each other. Yet it retains a sense of beauty throughout. It is not a sense implanted through commands coming from above, but arising from the everyday life on the ground. Venice entices people to roam around and become lost in it. Everyone discovers their favourite spots in Venice.

VENICE IS A CITY OF PATRONAGE. The patronage ranges from trade, military and religious campaigns, world expedition, cartography, to alchemy, magic, eschatology, you name it.

Venice is full of ‘specialists’ and their guilds, inspiring creativity, imagination and fantasy, and encouraging progress as well as excess. Music is no exception. Venice’s music patronage has brought about significant events and development in history, including the practice of antiphony and the birth of opera. Venice is a city where ideas become tangible reality.

VENICE IS A CITY OF WATER. Water dominates the city in its aesthetics and in everyday life. The vaporetto transport tourists, residents, pets, nuns and monks in their traditional attire but with a laptop and a mobile phone.

The city is still plagued by aqua alta every autumn, and no other city seems to produce more broken umbrellas. The water is dynamic but calm, in contrast to the fleeting street activities on land. The water frames the city. It shimmers and undulates in silence for eternity.

Venice Research Pavilion reflects all of this.

Writer Mieko Kanno is a violinist and a Professor of Artistic Doctoral Studies at the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki (Uniarts Helsinki).


This article has originally been published in the May issue of Uniarts Helsinki's IssueX magazine, this time a special edition dedicated to the Research Pavilion.