Water, earth, fire. Industrial architecture in the Veneto of the Renaissance

Water, earth, fire. Industrial architecture in the Veneto of the Renaissance
Water, earth, fire. Industrial architecture in the Veneto of the Renaissance
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site: Palladio Museum (Vicenza).
treatment: Deborah Howard.

If Palladio was able to realize his wonders it is certainly thanks to his genius. But also, if not above all, of the effects of that “economic miracle” which, in the 1500s, brought mainland Veneto to the top of European technological innovation and productivity.

When, exactly ten years ago, CISA Palladio opened the Palladio Museum in Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, a mulberry tree was planted in the center of the noble courtyard. To clarify to visitors that Palladio could not have created villas and palaces today object of universal admiration without that tree, that is without the activity of the silk factories that were fed by the cocoons woven by caterpillars, which ate on the leaves of the mulberry trees.

And it is no coincidence that the exhibition, for the first time, points out how that great entrepreneurial story was chosen as the flagship event of the Museum’s tenth anniversary.
“Water, Earth, Fire. The industrial architecture of the Veneto of the Renaissance ”, curated by Deborah Howard of St. John’s College in Cambridge, investigates the extraordinary industrial development that transformed the countryside and hills of the Veneto into highly efficient manufactures that were unparalleled in the world of the time. A very powerful Silicon Valley located in peripheral areas, at the foot of the hills of the upper Vicenza and Treviso area, above all. Here the waters that offered the driving force flowed with impetus, here the raw materials were treated which, molded with fire and the same water were transformed into innovative products, in great demand on the markets of the Serenissima and throughout Europe.

What made the difference compared to similar companies on the continent was the ability to innovate, to develop and patent new technologies and, at the same time, to focus on widespread commercial networks.

“The exhibition, the result of more than 3 years of research in museums, archives, libraries and in the” field “, research funded by the Leverhulme Trust of London (UK), highlights – anticipates the Director of CISA Andrea Palladio / Palladio Museum, Guido Beltramini – what until now had remained behind the scenes. Through paintings, maps, drawings, objects and ancient models he makes us discover the architectures of the industrial boom of the Renaissance Veneto, that is to say the factories of the North-East of five centuries ago. Without the wealth they produced, the villas and palaces of Andrea Palladio could not have taken shape ”.

“Thanks to Italian and international loans, paintings by Tiziano, Francesco Bassano and Bellotto will be exhibited, Renaissance drawings, precious ancient models of patented mechanisms, coming from the Maximilianmuseum in Augusta, maps and archival documents, rare books, objects of use produced from the Venetian Renaissance enterprises, such as the very rare men’s corset in leather and silk of the late sixteenth century, known as ‘cuoietto’, and equally art objects such as precious liturgical crosses with silver from the mines of Schio and swords forged in Belluno. For the occasion, the film-maker Fausto Caliari made nine films that tell the state of as many Renaissance “factories”, some of which are still in operation today ”.
“The installation, designed by the architect and theater director Andrea Bernard, is conceived to involve the general public on a journey to discover this little-known aspect of the European Renaissance culture”, concludes Beltramini.

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At the same time, the exhibition aims to draw attention to the precarious state of part of the proto-industrial heritage today, which must instead be protected because it is a fundamental trait of our identity. The lessons we can draw from it should not be neglected: the ability to combine development and beauty in harmony with the environment; the economic but also environmental and creative advantages of co-working production environments, in which the same resources can be reused; the use of cheap and locally sourced materials; the use of clean and renewable energy sources.

The exhibition is organized in synergy with the Veneto Regional Museums Directorate, led by Daniele Ferrara, within the framework of the Enhancement Agreement between the Ministry of Culture and the Andrea Palladio International Center for Architectural Studies.


Featured image
Tiziano Vecellio, Orpheus and Euridice, 1510 ca. (Bergamo, Accademia Carrara): in the background a foundry in operation with the hydraulic wheels that operate the bellows. (part.)

The article is in Italian

Tags: Water earth fire Industrial architecture Veneto Renaissance

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