architects_ Emmanuelle Agustoni, Benoît Jaques and Perin Matthieu.
location_ Poveglia, Italy
project year_ 2016
competition_ Program University Island Competition

from the architects_ The competition aimed to transform Poveglia into an university campus; a place of training, leisure and relax for the many students gathering in Venice.

But how to transform a desert island into a spearheading study and research center?

“By ‘modernity,’ I mean the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable.” Charles Baudelaire

The Laguna Veneta is an enclosed archipelago in the Adriatic Sea. An archipelago is a collection of natural and artificial islands set on a uniform surface that both unites and divides them. All the islands are connected and interdependent.
This particularly archipelago is defined by a boundary, which accentuates the separation between the Laguna Veneta and the outer world. The act of framing and redefinition forms a new universe, removes any sense of scale or reference and highlights the unity of the archipelago.

Situated in the lagoon, the University Island partakes of the archipelago. In order to affirm its status of spearheading study for the future generations, the project dialogues between the classical program of such a university and the infinite evolution of a contemporary study citadel. As a matryoshka doll, the project takes back the model of the enclosed archipelago in a smaller scale. The university becomes an enclosed yet permeable island surrounded by a frame that protects its own nomos.

The Island of Poveglia has several objects. These are islands within the Island. The islands are defined artifacts, they are immutable, uncontested and fixed; they contain the classical program: the forum, the medical center, the chapel, the amphitheatre, the cantina, the library, the administration, the bath and the cloister.

The second part of the program is the remaining place contained between the islands. This is what we call the «fugitive field»
This residual and un-programmed spaces are contingent, intangible and fugitive; they contain the classrooms, the laboratories, the fab labs,
the reading rooms, the cafeteria, the exhibition areas, the sport equipment, the vegetable garden, the inner sea pool, every kinds of open areas, and of course wireless (and spaceless) technologies. This area offers the possibility to evolve according to the new trends and needs.

The fugitive field acts as an unorganized and unpredictable place protecting the immutable objects and preventing them from being easily grasped as a whole. The vast but controlled field’s disorder reveals a precise composition and relation between the objects of the archipelago.

The whole complex is contained within a hard perimeter. Neither inside nor outside, both opaque
and transparent, between artificial and wilderness; a round colonnade mediates between the profane exterior and the sacred interior. The circle form interrupts the infinite inner system.

The presence of this passerelle is delicate yet substantial, a fragile beauty between the two places. This habitat for the flâneur acts as a third place for the university.

Courtesy of Emmanuelle Agustoni.