Venice: Program Overview

The Venice Program is one of the longest running study abroad programs in the School of Architecture's history.

The Venice Program offers a unique collaborative experience:  the study of a centuries-old relationship between dwelling, the land, and in this case, the water.  Being immersed in the daily rituals of a foreign culture and in material, spatial constructs takes an unparalleled hold on the imagination.  In a one-semester, fifteen-credit curriculum, the students retrace the urbanization of Venice and the Veneto, attend lectures and visit examplars of the development of Venetian art and architecture, conduct independent research and participate in a design studio. The Venice program’s focus on strategies for resilience in dynamic settings is grounded in an understanding of landscape processes, the multiple histories embodied in the cities, buildings and art, and the cultural structures that enable communal life. The complexities of building and rebuilding a city in a preposterous landscape emerge again as contemporary challenges operate at nested scales of daily life, material constructs and landscape systems. 

The School of Architecture has a longstanding connection to Venice and the Veneto, initiated by the late Professor Mario di Valmarana over 40 years ago. As a commitment to Mario’s legacy, the school has continued the program through the generosity of alumni who have funded numerous student scholarships and the Mario di Valmarana Professorship. The semester-length program in Venice builds upon this deep tradition to offer the students of the School of Architecture the opportunity for immersion in the rich art, architecture, and landscape of the unfathomable cultural life of Venice.

Venice must be understood in relation to its landscape, where its land-water conflation dictates its unique urban form and systems, where its watery existence may find application around the globe. In its relationship to the Adriatic Sea, Venice offers the chance to study the ever-increasing risks posed to coastal urban centers as evidence of climate change and impactful land development. The Venice program explores how well-considered design analyses and interventions, from urban and infrastructural strategies to detailed building and landscape proposals, could imagine more resilient forms of inhabitation. Since its origins, Venice has been a key nodal point in a wide Mediterranean network, a center for mercantile, artistic, and architectural exchange. Long heralded as a major center of the international art and contemporary architecture world being host to the art and architecture Biennale, Venice is a cultural laboratory where the program has found a home for inspired design experiments and inventive scholarly research.

The program is open to fourth year undergraduates and final year graduate students of all of the disciplines of the School of Architecture. Following three weeks of structuring a research focus and initiating urban analysis in Charlottesville, the students embark on a six-week residence in Venice from mid-September to the end of October. Upon their return, students apply lessons from Venice in an immersive design studio or independent study.

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