Architects Femia, Ricciotti collaborate for new palazzo project

Imagine attending a Lido gala in a big space-age theater shaped like an upside-down ship, where stars make their entrance from one of two fire-red catwalks overlooking the lagoon.

Sound like science fiction?

Actually, if young Italo architect Alfonso Femia has his way, just three years from now the entire grounds of the Venice fest could be transformed into a modern “metaphysical” area, graced by a new Palazzo Del Cinema, plus a large lower-level market.

Femia is a partner of a Genoa-based firm, Studio 5+1, which in collaboration with star French architect Rudy Ricciotti won the competition launched this year by the Venice Biennale for a new palazzo project.

“We want to give new meaning to the existing landscape,” Femia says about the plan, which intends to integrate existing Fascist-era buildings and gardens with an added 2,400-seat main viewing venue, the outer shell of which would be made in Venice’s shipyards with a mixture of resin and organic earth-colored materials.

The drafter of the late-model Lido said he envisions two silk-lined catwalks, both with sea views, leading to the new palazzo respectively from the Excelsior and the Casino docks.

Femia said the new catwalks would be “a lot longer and more free-form” than those at Cannes where, he opined, “stars are too caged in.”

Nine smaller screening venues, meant mostly for market screenings, are also part of the project that got the nod, which includes a 1,500-square- meter film market with two lounge bars to be built underneath the Lido’s Casino.

The government-run Biennale foundation, which administers the fest, picked the winner out of nine proposals — all of which are to be on display in the Casino — praising the project’s “quality” and “usefulness.” This second attribute refers to the fact that the E73.3 million ($89.4 million) project is a multi-function structure which would become a year-round convention center — if it ever materializes.

With Italian national elections around the corner next year, that is a big “if.”

“The country has to realize that what’s at stake is the survival of one of its most important international cultural events, which is also hugely important for Italian cinema,” says Biennale prexy Davide Croff.

“This should be perceived as a bipartisan project,” he pleads.

Femia hopes at least some of the financing could be in place by the end of this year.

“In that case we could start construction right after the fest’s 2006 edition and have the work completed in 2008,” the architect promises.

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