Shiftspace Design

Shiftspace Design

Philadelphia, PA


Shiftspace recontextualizes traditional tile making with an oyster-inspired façade system at Venice Architecture Biennale.

Part of the Venice Architecture Biennale, Shiftspace has designed a twisted arch clad in cascading porcelain tiles. 'OSTREA' draws inspiration from the oyster-lined walls of Venetian canals and their filtration capabilities. Over 300 hand-glazed tiles wrap the delicate wood and aluminum screen to create a physical and metaphorical filter. As a habitable public sculpture, the portal juxtaposes hard angles with soft forms creating ephemeral mosaics of filtered light.

OSTREA questions how architectural devices might counteract the hostile realities of climate change to create high-performing and tranquil spaces. The experimental installation imagines dimensional tiles used in a concave orientation to collect and ultimately filter rainwater, while inverted tiles serve as protective skin like armored scales. The tile units are attached using a flexible tubing system and layered in an overlapping gradient that peels away to reveal the underlying structure. The petal-like composition — in hues of the Venetian lagoon — provides a dynamic canopy from within. 

Shiftspace partnered with Botteganove, a heritage tile manufacturer in the Veneto region, to produce the custom tiles. These overlapping handmade elements, born of ancient design practices reinterpreted through contemporary research and aesthetics, clad the angular structure to create an organic composition while adhering to a rigid orientation system. While the design team utilized both 3D printing and CNC technology to design the complex forms, an artisan hand-glazed each tile, fusing contemporary design and traditional craft. The glazing process generates various colors, textures, and finishes, bringing artistic expression and agency to the geometrically precise tiles. In the United States, architecture students from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture in Philadelphia assisted in designing and fabricating the structural components ahead of its journey to Venice. 

OSTREA is located in the public Marinaressa Gardens, accompanying works by Norman Foster & Holcim, Snøhetta, University of Stuttgart, and Takaaki Fuji as a part of this year's edition of the Time Space Existence exhibition, curated by the European Cultural Center. The installation is on display from May 20th to November 26th, 2023.

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Status: Built
Location: Venice, IT
Firm Role: Design/Build
Additional Credits: Botteganove / Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University