Veneto Narrative

Wiel Arets & Wim van den Bergh, Wiederhall 1, 1986, pp. 10

'The owner and the creator of this superb solitude have even had ruins, temples and ancient buildings built there, and times as well as places are brought together in a splendor that is more than human.' 

Although this eighteenth century quotation is not really a description of the garden of Filippo Farsetti, it might have been one. When the world had been discovered to be a garden, in the eighteenth century the garden encompassed the world. It became the creation of a scenic microcosm in which not just the world's different countries but its epochs could be found. So it is not a coincidence that landscapes and periods Filippo Farsetti attempted to recreate in his garden came from elsewhere. Scenes were piled up into the garden, like prodigies collected under glass in a cabinet of curiosities. An open air Wunderkammer was conceived. And if you read the villa and its garden's descriptions in the anonymous manuscript probably by De Tipaldo you cannot escape the idea of a space disconnected from the world outside. It is like a museum. It is a space that gains form and content by the existence of curious things gathered by a collector who might be the only one to know their correct relationships. 'Farsetti created a garden of marvels, a collection of beautiful and wonderful things. He built gardens, mazes, orangerie, conservatories and botanical gardens. He had two water ducts installed, running from the rivers Tergole and Muson for domestic purposes, fish ponds and fountains. He commissioned copies of the most beautiful sculptures, models of the most famous buildings and temples; he erected the Temple of Thunderous Jove, he built both, naumachia and an arena in rough stone in the middle of which he put a copy of Trojan's column, and planned the ancient spina, a Roman road with a Roman bridge. Summing up, he transformed the area of the Roman centuriatio into a visionary space, using architectural features from elsewhere while sometimes including original ancient architectural elements that blended together in a unique setting'. But of this visionary space as described here by Marino Zancanella there is little left. From the outside the villa being not utilized presently has its elevations unaltered. They maintain the grandeur and magnificence of ancient scenographic housing. The former panoramic terraces adorned with vases and statues have been covered by roofs diminishing the macchina idea of affording vantage points to admire the magnificent gardens that once surrounded the villa. Porticos and ground floor are filled in with brick walls. So the transparency towards the gardens has been lost. The restored guest wing and former stables need urgent structural restorations. Of the conserva we are only left with some perimeter walls and covering parts. Of the orangerie with its movable glass, wood and iron structure resting upon a high perimeter wall only the wall is still standing up. The attacks have vanished. No trace has remained of the classic gardens. Today a grassy field and cultivated areas occupy the place. Of the old waterplays we are only left with the fishponds partially filled with earth.

We might say that the history of a place is not continuous. The history of this place is an interrupted one. It is the locus of a historical void now. Today it is a nonplace. By its relics it arouses memories of times past. In the past it has been some place and maybe even more strongiy it was meant to be every place, following Farsetti's scheme. So the question is: is it possible to make the Farsetti villa some place again? What might architectural discipline contribute to provoke a historical start of this place again? In this peculiar situation architecture is restricted to the simultaneous act of both analyzing and expressing. As the site's architectural implications and possibilities came forth out of transformations the site underwent historically, they have to be analyzed. At the same time a strategy for developing the site in a creative reinterpretation must be expressed. By doing so, time will not have to be frozen or preserved. Nor will it be an act of reversing time by reliving it. What matters is the exposure of a particular history of this site, which is to render visible its specific memories, acknowledging that once it was special. Once it was some place. By designing a new place at the same time its creation will derive order from obscuring its own recollected past. Making it a place for public use the pragmatic of the program has to be combined with a conceptual idea both philosophical and formal in order to arrive at a buildable solution, In fact this almost happens to be the same way in which Filippo Farsetti himself recreated a world, a land of illusion, in his garden. In this kind of space and time the question of correct or incorrect relationships between things becomes unimportant if only the objects are meaningful. Like in the art of memory objects can be put together in a special kind of toponymy by a story or part of a story, By walking in his mind from one object to another the narrator will be able to recall it, being free to change order or the story itself in the way he likes it best, thus erecting his own personal story. It is a mechanism that guarantees repetition but at the cost of never experiencing the same feelings again because repetition implies the ending of history. It forms the beginning of memory.

So the story of the Farsetti gardens can always get new. It might be the repetition of an already experienced one as well. It is designing an architectural machine that might produce both history and memory. In our specific toponymy you will find only one of possible stories. It is the story of our own experiences when we made this design for the Farsetti villa as a project, combining research, intuition, forms, associations, history, feelings, pragmatism, memories, coincidence, and all sorts of other things, resulting into a product of architecture. Oscillating between elitist hermeneutic and creative reinterpretation poetry lends to the act of telling the story anew, visiting the amusement museum of the new Farsetti gardens as long as they are not realized.