Pierre Cardin cancels vast skyscraper behind Venice
A victory for the people as the ministry of culture follows them in the defence of the historic skyline
By Anna Somers Cocks. Web only
Published online: 09 July 2013
The Palais Lumière, a 254 metre-high skyscraper planned for the ex-industrial area of Marghera, 9.5 kilometres from the centre of Venice, will not now be built. On 27 June, Rodrigo Basilicati, nephew of its designer, the fashion entrepreneur Pierre Cardin, told the Italian news agency ANSA that they were abandoning the project because two and a half years had gone by without the necessary permissions being granted. He singled out opposition by the ministry of culture, which has confirmed that the area is subject to landscape planning controls.
Opposition to the project began last year among Venetians and Italians, who are tired of seeing Venice abused by the vast cruise ships and mounting examples of the crudest commercialism. Franco Miracco, then a special advisor to the ministry of culture, began to mobilise the media and get the support of distinguished Italian figures including the cultural commentator and academic Salvatore Settis, the architect Vittorio Gregotti, the Nobel prize-winning author Dario Fo and the lobby group, Italia Nostra.
In September 2012, The Art Newspaper showed in a photo-montage that the tower, 44 metres taller than the Tour Montparnasse in Paris, would be clearly visible on the Venice skyline. This was denied by the mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, but the specialist London firm Millerhare confirmed the findings of The Art Newspaper in the June issue of The New York Review of Books, an article republished in La Repubblica newspaper.
Miracco persuaded the regional representative of the ministry, Ugo Soragni, to ask the ministry whether planning controls applied. Last December the ministry invoked a law saying that all construction within 300 metres of the lagoon edge required planning permission. Orsoni launched an unsuccessful legal appeal against this opinion, and last month the ministry confirmed its judgment.
The Palais Lumière had the support of Luca Zaia, president of the Veneto Region, and Orsoni, who hoped that a Dubai-style wonder-building would kickstart the redevelopment of Marghera’s industrial wasteland.
Zaia told the Corriere del Veneto newspaper (30 June) that the cancellation of the project would discourage foreign capital from investing in Italy. Orsoni said that he blamed “certain circles in Rome” [the ministry of culture] for obstructing Cardin’s plan through “incompetence and stupidity”.
The collapse of the scheme will make it difficult for Venice town council to balance its books this year as it was counting on €22m from Cardin for the sale of the land on which the skyscraper would have stood.
When Venice was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1987, the Italian government committed itself to delineating a buffer zone around it to protect its visual and enviromental integrity. This never happened.
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