Emeritus Professor Julian Cooke, School of Architecture, University of Cape Town

The course explores the old cities and architecture of the Veneto, primarily Venice but also includes Padua, Vicenza, Verona and Mantua. The aim is to learn something of their quality and beauty and in the process to draw out lessons for the present world.

The spatial structure and nature of Venice as a city is examined in relation to its growth from early beginnings, its situation, site and resources, its political and social structure, and its economic development. From this will be elicited its main features: spatial clarity, richness of spatial experience, multi-centredness, multi-functionality, accessibility and sustainability.

The public spaces of Venice, and other cities of the Veneto, are designed as public living rooms. Although mainly they are irregular in shape and appear to be somewhat arbitrary, they obey certain ‘rules’ of design. These ‘rules’ or ‘patterns’ help, firstly, to create the sense of enclosure and atmosphere of an outside room; secondly they constitute a system of indicators to guide movement and articulate importance; thirdly they shape spaces which have served for centuries, and continue to accommodate comfortably a great mixture of human activities, twenty-four hours a day. The living rooms are equally accessible to rich and poor citizens. Almost all the buildings of Venice, and other cities, derive from one type. The type has innumerable variations, examined in homes for working class citizens and in palaces of the wealthiest aristocratic families.

The ‘ordinary’ fabric of every city of the Veneto is punctuated by extraordinary buildings. They help to give identity and add magnificence. However, almost without exception, they are not designed as individualistic objects, but act as elaborations or points of emphasis in the walls of city rooms. In the countryside, the free-standing villa was brought, especially by Palladio, to a new peak of clarity and refinement, to something of lasting iconic quality. However, it too never appeared as a personal statement, but rather as a type of universal value. It was aimed not to be unique and individual but to be modified by others to suit particular applications.

Almost all new buildings added into the cities’ fabric politely. This does not mean that they copied those in existence. Many introduced entirely fresh ideas, using respectful form and scale and architectural character. Two architects, Sansovino of the sixteenth century and Scarpa of the twentieth century, exemplify this practice.


Lecture titles

1.  The coherent city

2.  The urban living room

3.  The neighbourly building

4.  The special building

5.  Polite addition

Participants will earn 0.5 CPD points for this course.





DATE: Monday 17–Friday 21 January
TIME: 5.00 pm
COURSE FEES: R375 (online)/R550 (in person)