COMMUNITY SPACES: Venice, Italy
In 2012, Sweet Sparkman Architects was invited to participate in the Palazzo Bembo auxiliary exhibition for the Venice Biennale for Architecture. It was an honor to be asked to exhibit our work on an international stage. David Chipperfield, the British architect, was the Biennale Director who gave the overarching exhibition direction for all participants. He asked all to explore "Common Ground."
The exhibition was remounted for the Sarasota Museum of Art in 2014.
What follows is the text from the exhibition catalog.
Our design work is significantly influenced by context and our understanding of place. As such, the exhibit is a conceptual interpretation of a common local material, with the intention of expressing how its origins and characteristics have influenced and inspired design.
The primary focus of the exhibit is the examination and expression of one material, Siesta Key sand. This 99% pure quartz sand is the common base upon which many of our projects are founded. Having traveled over hundreds of millions of centuries and approximately 800 miles down the Mississippi River, from the Southern Appalachian Mountains to the west coast of Florida, quartz has been transformed from crystalline solids into fine, powder-like sand. This “sugar sand,” considered the finest and whitest sand in the world, was shipped over 5000 miles to Venice. The imported sand creates a new base from which the exhibit is experienced, transforming the room and altering one’s perception of place.
By removing a material common to a place and changing its context, we raise awareness of both material properties and origins. The exhibit places a local Sarasota, Florida material in an unusual context with the intent of provoking an emotional response to the material. The manner in which the sand is displayed encourages interaction, stimulating a range of sensory experiences that convey an essence of place.
Furthermore, the idea of the origins and transformation of materials is explored in the exhibit. Our local sand is recast into a vitreous wall expressing a transformation from one state to another. The result alludes to natural material processes and change over time, i.e., mountains eroding into beaches.
The allure of Florida, particularly Siesta Key Beach, is due in part to its material properties, the texture of sand and the way it refracts light. Quartz sands, derived initially from prismatic solids, shimmer and sparkle as sunlight moves across its faceted surfaces, creating a highly reflective, intensely bright environment. Our exhibit space includes two southwest-facing windows, introducing natural light to the installation with an orientation similar to the west coast of Florida. As a result, Florida sand will receive Venetian light. Material common to thousands of beachgoers is imported to Venice and re-introduced to a different type of light and an unusual context—a unique experience with a common material. This phenomenon serves as a primary source of investigation throughout the exhibit and forms part of the spatial experience.
This exhibit is the result of a unique community collaboration between Sweet Sparkman Architects, Ringling College of Art and Design, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, and Visit Sarasota. The tireless support and commitment of the following people made this exhibit possible: Jason Beale, Michele Demperio, Marjorie Floyd, Marilyn Garman, Virginia Haley, Scott Hamblin, Teri Hansen, Mark Humphrey, Christine Johnson, Devon Keene, Christine Lange, Diana Lueken, Agneta Ramoskaite, Dehne Sibbernsen, Christopher Sol, Jerry Sparkman, AIA, NCARB, Todd Sweet, AIA, LEED AP, and Dr. Larry Thompson.