BA Bronze Medal Finalist 2011

Rodolfo Rodriguez tutored by Kenny Kenugasa-Tsui and Justin C K Lau from Oxford Brookes University has been selected as finalist of the RIBA Bronze Medal award. His project ‘The Glassblowing Workshop of Venice ’ was selected from submissions from over 240  School of Architecture around the world.

For more information: www.horhizonunite.blogspot.com

Student statement

During the Renaissance, glassblowing was the lifeblood of the Republic of Venice, and Venetian glass played a significant role in the economy. This meticulous craftsmanship has carried through its tradition to the present day. However, this cultural heritage is highly insular and hidden within the fabric of Venice. Hence, tourists are unable to access the knowledge of the glass masters to participate in this unique theatrical making.

The project aims to speculate and celebrate this once glorified industry that can provide a sustainable future to ‘open up’ a new era for young talents and tourists to engage this long established cultural heritage. Sited by the waterfront of Murano, the proposal provides a new home for traditional glassmakers. It consists of a large workshop, a permanent glass museum, a bio fuel farm and a new public landscape for the local community.

The research began in a hidden workshop where I learned the glass blowing techniques from a glassblowing master. This rigorously tactile process and hands on experience which later fused with digital design and synthetic aerodynamic stimulations allowed me to derive my own set of architectural tools to explore architectural skins and fluid circulation strategies.

The design of the building is embodied by a three dimensional skin which sits sympathetically within the surrounding context of the Island. The geometry of the overarching form articulates the volumetric organization of the interior spaces which offers visitors a natural instinct to navigate the building. It filters soft natural light and ventilation into the workshop and galleries as well as giving shades and shelter to the outdoor landscape. When entering into the workshop, the visitor’s senses are amplified by the heat and sound of the furnace and the visual opulence of the skin provides a ritualistic setting for the glass makers to showcasing the craftsmanship. Together, it creates a sense of up lifting spirit and optimism for the tradition.

Environmentally, the workshop revolves around a sustainable system that encompasses the production of glass through a series of sand and water filtration processes as well as utilizing the bio-fuel farm and thermal exchange to provide renewable energies for the use of the building.