The Image of Venice (Beach)

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Reading the article “How Images Shape our Cities” in “The Guardian” made me think about Venice CA. One of the most fascinating things that made me love Venice Beach is the thrill of imagination that you can find around. Venice Beach, area of Los Angeles on the Pacific Ocean, has been artificially created by Abbot Kinney between the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th; canals and boats echoed what for him was his image of Venice. Nevertheless when America changed his relationship with urban space and cars mainly became the transportation system, Venice canals had to disappear and replaced by roads. Memories are still kept though through toponymy, for instance Grand Canal avenue reminds the biggest water way that one day passed through the same place.

Names are not the only memory left. If you walk around the roundabout nearby Grand Canal Avenue, where a gondola is still in place, you might find an anonymous building completely covered by graffiti. It represents those ancient days, when Venice was still the city to be experienced by boats and bridges. The graffiti location is, nevertheless, perfect, because it does make you travel through time to join those ancient days of American Arcadia.

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Such vibrant relationship with “real” space doesn’t resemble only the past, as it also portrays an imaginary city of the present. Many blank building’s facades along the Ocean Walk are the scenario of different kinds of Venice(s) that might exists in parallel with the “real” one. Architectural historian Reyner Bahmam celebrates one of these graffiti in his fantastic documentary “Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles”.

Venice, then, makes me wonder about the “real” space of the city, what is it exactly? Venice has been created under a visionary dream and, to some extent, the dream is the thread that gives continuity to its urban image. Whether it might appear a sequence of flamboyant buildings that enrich the landscape of such popular tourist area, its unique character is definitely given by the discontinuity of its urban horizon, which makes its own image.

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