Community Recreation Centre, Venice
Design Research Project, 1980

     This design research project was for a community recreation centre sited to the west of the Arsenale in Venice, adjacent to the Church of San Francesco della Vigna designed by Sansovino and Palladio It was conceived during an international workshop conference in Venice in 1980 and further developed in LA.
     The centre provides recreational and cultural facilities for the community. It accommodates three basketball courts, an indoor tennis court and multipurpose hall. rooms for meetings and games, supporting functions such as changing rooms, an open-air skating rink and an open-air amphitheatre and cinema.
     The basketball courts and tennis court are organised in a parallel manner and contained within a rectilinear plan which terminates with the amphitheatre on axis with the canal. In section, the basketball courts step up towards the canal, allowing the space below to be used for community rooms and support functions. Each basketball court is roofed with a barrel-vaulted structure constructed and covered in aluminium. The roof to the tennis court is used as a skating rink.
     Access to all parts of the complex is provided via external ramps situated along both sides of the building. The long, compact plan and the idea for the section were developed as a response to the narrow site The architectural expression attempts to make a connection to Venetian structures such as the salt warehouses and Rialto bridge. The proposed building, conceived in reinforced concrete with metal barrel vaults, is faced externally in locally produced ceramic tiles similar in colour to existing materials in Venice.
     Kenneth Frampton described the prefect in this way: 'A more structurally expressive manner possibly accounts for the varied antecedents cited by Koulermos as the basis for his project for a Community Recreation Centre in Venice... Acknowledged references range from the Rialto Bridge to Venetian salt warehouses, or from Louis Kahn in general to Palladio's Basilica in Vicenza. What we have here is a Rationalist tour-de-force in response to an invented programme and yet what is of most interest, aside from the extraordinary lucidity and lyrical articulation of the barrel-vaulted structure, is the implicit, hybrid-type form which, while a utilitarian building devoted to indoor sport, remains in part, at least, a monument with an open-air amphitheatre on axis, facing out over the canal. For all its rationality, this project has a decided Venetian flavour for the simple reason that the structure of the vaults reminds one of ship-building.

(From Context + Response, exhibition
catalogue. Los Angeles Municipal Art
Gallery, 1982.)

Design Assistant on Venice project : Steven Topkins. Bath School of Architecture
Model: Kiat Yee, John Weiss
Photos : Tony Nagelmann, Grover Gilchrist
Below : Entrance level plan