Sometimes you come across a book that touches several of your passions and it immediately becomes a treasure. For me, Dream of Venice Architecture is such a book.
If you are interested in architecture, photography, and writing, I believe Dream will be a great find for you too. The concept is simple and elegant. As stated by JoAnn Locktov in the Preface, “For this book (the second in our Dream of Venice series), we invited contemporary architects and architectural writers to share their personal experiences of Venice.” Each of the short essays is paired with an extraordinary image captured by award-winning filmmaker and photographer Riccardo De Cal. The result is a beautiful book that communicates on multiple levels.
There are three dozen essays and related photographs. Initially, the reader will be satisfied to flip through the pages, noting the authors and taking in the images, happy to see a scene or a name that is familiar. There will be scenes and names that are unfamiliar, however, which is a compelling reason to go back through, ready to settle in and explore.
Even on a second pass, the eye will be drawn to the photographs. They are that captivating.
On subsequent tours through the book, the reader will select one essay, then another, finding each architects’ prose as varied and distinctive as their design work. (If I may say so, Architects have earned a reputation for using ill-conceived communication when the subject is architecture; proffering esoteric concepts and using obscure to idioms, rendering their intended point nearly unapproachable. There is no “archispeak” in these pages, however.) The designers and writers are communicating from the heart. They are telling us stories.
Another joy of the book is in comparing the text with the image. There is an added richness when we see one creator’s reflections of a space juxtaposed with another creator’s photographic exploration of it. (This depth doesn’t come from a one-on-one collaboration, I suspect, but is more attributable to the editor’s eye and heart for the subject.) The photographs do not have captions, nor do they need them. They are in an open dialog with the essays that they accompany.
For me, the most poignant essay is by the man who unashamedly states that he has never been to Venice. I am from that camp. I’m an outsider. Through the book, I listen in on the reflections of those who have journeyed to the city. I silently take it all in, and I’m made richer by the vicarious experience of the place.
There’s another level of communication offered in the pages of Dream. The Contributors list at the end of the book gives a micro-bio of each of the essayists, including a web address where their work can be found. These serve as portals to the return destination of each of the writer-creators.
Whatever your relationship to Venice is; part-time resident, frequent explorer, one-time tourist, or prospective visitor, I believe you will treasure this book. As an architect, writer, and photographer, I have a renewed desire to visit this iconic city and become a fellow traveler with those who have produced this book. Until then I will return often to its pages and dream of Venice architecture.
I wish to thank JoAnn Locktov, the aforementioned editor and publisher of Dream of Venice Architecture, for permitting me to review her book, for providing the images to share, and for sending me a copy to keep forever.
Please visit JoAnn’s site, Bella Figura Publications (bellafigurapublications.com), to purchase Dream of Venice Architecture (a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Foundation Querini Stampalia to support their architecture programming in Venice) and to see the other the Dream of Venice books.