Foster joins protest against adverts on Venice's historic buildings
Norman Foster has added his voice to an angry protest to the Italian government over the use of giant billboards on Venice’s historic buildings.
The architect is among the signatories to a letter to the country’s culture minister Sandro Bondi, published in the Art Newspaper, which says that the giant adverts “hit you in the eye and ruin your experience of one of the most beautiful creations of humankind”.
Also adding their names to the letter are the directors of the British Museum, the V&A, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Modern Museum in Stockholm, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Dresden State Museum.
The city, which is a Unesco world heritage site, began selling advertising space on its buildings in 2008 to help fund renovation and restoration work after special funding was redirected to build barriers between the Adriatic and Venice’s lagoon.
According to the Art Newspaper, it currently costs around €40,000 a month for a three year contract to cover part of the Doge’s Palace overlooking the lagoon and connecting to the Bridge of Sighs – a bargain in advertising terms.
The letter in full
An appeal to Sandro Bondi, Italian Minister of Culture, and Giorgio Orsoni, mayor of Venice
“We appeal to the Italian government to change the legislation that permits huge advertisements on the scaffolding of public buildings. Only ten years ago, Venice was a city without large advertisements. Today, they are proliferating. They hit you in the eye and ruin your experience of one of the most beautiful creations of humankind. Their scale dwarfs the fine detail and proportions of the buildings, and now that they are also illuminated, you cannot escape them even by night, when they are the hardest, brightest lights in town by far.
We ask you to imagine the disappointment that the 17.5 million visitors to Venice this year will feel. They come to this iconic city with an image of it in their mind’s eye and instead they see its famous views grotesquely defaced.
To those who say that the money the advertisements bring is necessary to restore those buildings, we remind you that after the great flood of 1966, when Venice was in a much worse state and Italy a much less rich country, no one contemplated using this method to raise funds.
Other ways of financing restoration must be found, otherwise Venice is doomed to be covered in advertisements for the rest of its life because its buildings will always be undergoing work due to their great age and the environmental fragility of the city.
Finally, we remind you that Venice is a Unesco World Heritage Site and that a preceding government of Italy undertook to protect its essential nature in perpetuity when it accepted this nomination.”