On this Earth Day, I’d like to recognize a project that focuses our attention on critical issues and is also paired with the grace of elegant design.
Water is one of the planet’s most vital and possibly one of the most endangered resources that life depends on. Filtration plants come in all sizes and shapes and have various processes from heavy chemical treatment that is dumped into the oceans to biofiltration systems that can bring grey and black water up to drinking standards. Most plants are somewhere in the middle, doing their best to eliminate the use of chemicals and to retain and reuse water locally. One of these plants is the WFP of Sant’Erasmo Island in Venice, Italy by C+S Associati.
As part of a larger urban infrastructure and environmental upgrade plan, the WFP is located on the southeastern edge of Sant’Erasmo Island on public land. The large programmatic elements required by the water filtration system were going to take up most of the public land on the island. C+S decided instead to place most of that space under ground and to only house the areas that need to be accessible for
maintenance to be above ground. The area above the buried elements could then be dedicated to the public where paths intertwine with the landscape plantings.
C+S’s design of the now much reduced building above ground reflects this relationship by having linear concrete walls of dyed concrete to reflect the color of the ground that seem to rise up out of its roots that are buried deep within the earth. This is reminiscent of the Austrian batteries that inspired the architects with their utilitarian beauty. The parallel arrangement of these heavy, linear walls speak to the cultivation of the landscape nearby where artichokes are grown. The building, which can only be experienced from the exterior by the public, interplays with the landscape and directs views to the horizon where land meets sky.