Ben Hansen

Ben Hansen

Galway, IE


B.Sc Design Project - Maternity Unit and Respite Care for the Elderly, Murano, Venice

Murano is a small island situated in the Laguna Veneto in the north-east of Italy. The island is a 40 minute boat ride from Venice to the south.

The brief presented a range of challenges, both in terms of scale and complexity as well as questioning how to respond to the powerful character of the local urban fabric. The site itself is located right in the heart of Murano in a prominent position on the Grand Canal. The existing structures consist of two vast, semi-derelict warehouses and an assortment of smaller ancillary buildings. The entire complex was an industrial facility and is fortresslike in configuration, forming a massive industrial island within the fine medieval tissue.

The scale of the site necessitated planning on an urban scale, and my initial design moves involved opening up and re-establishing routes with the intention of knitting the site back into the urban fabric. The large warehouses are iconic structures which provide identity to the local area. Maintaining and re-appropriating them became a crucial part of my intervention.

At the building scale key concepts evolved, acting as rules which helped to tie the many disparate aspects of the site and brief together into a coherent whole. There is a clear definition of zones of privacy, and a well-defined tectonic strategy. New accommodation is housed in linear buildings made from reclaimed brick while key spaces such as the chapel and swimming pool are housed in steel shells, echoing the importance of the sea to this community. The plinth was used as an organisational element and the existing warehouse walls were retained where possible, acting almost as a second skin for the new build.

The scale and complexity of the brief made it necessary to work at several different scales. While a coherent whole was required, the elements within this whole were treated as almost self-contained design problems. Each area has its own specific function and character, and the building is designed as a series of distinct ‘Places’ which come together to form a harmonious whole.

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Status: School Project
Location: Venice, IT