The theme of the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, “How will we live together?” encourages individuals to consider the role of the architect in creating spaces for inclusion, questioning the architect’s role as a “cordial convener and a custodian of the spatial contract”. GHETTO, our theoretical project, imagines a physical conduit for the redistribution of wealth from tourists to refugees by transferring the equity garnered in the development process in a mutually beneficial manner. While this project explores one iteration of this redistribution model, it can be applied across a variety of geographies, scales and contexts to provide a myriad of social benefits.
In collaboration with UNHCR and the ECC, Henriquez Partners Architects imagines proposes GHETTO, an architectural project that proposes the resettlement of 1,000 refugees into Venice financed by the sale of timeshare condominiums for tourists from America. The inspiration for the project came from the site of the ECC exhibition in Palazzo Mora located in Cannaregio, home of the Jewish ghetto, and our desire to illustrate our studio’s credo that architecture has the potential to be a poetic expression of social justice.
In the effort to explore our responsibility as global citizens to care for one another and to explore financial mechanisms that redistribute equity to provide social benefits, GHETTO is imagined across four architectural islands to demonstrate these intentions. Each of the islands are positioned near one of four compelling sites: the Venetian ghetto, Stazione di Santa Lucia, Piazza San Marco, and the Arsenale. These sites were carefully selected to parallel four key-influencing factors in Venice: the Jewish ghetto as project inspiration, the refugee crisis, Venetian over-tourism, and challenging the traditional role of the architect.
This theoretical architectural project proposes the provision of housing for refugees funded through a condominium timeshare model. The intention is to illustrate the power of the role of the architect in the creation of inclusive cities. The specific goal is to share a framework which leverages the power of the development community to provide social benefit to others who have less.
Contemporary architecture is often revered purely as an aesthetic rather than as a social force. The architect, as a navigator, has a leadership role in pursuing the meaningful intersection of justice and beauty, of ethics and aesthetics. In the creation of communities that encourage values of inclusivity, diversity and social benefit, the architect’s role has the potential to facilitate a transfer of equity to those most in need.