It takes the gaze of a child to discover the pilings of Venice. To adult visitors walking on their own, the city usually appears in otherwise spectacular ways. Canals and lagoon, piazzas and palaces, monuments and mosaics, bridges and slabs, bricks and marble: the list is long. Extraordinary
surfaces are there to be explored, wherever you go.
To be sure, there are pilings in the foreground: wooden, grayish pilings are accessories in the urban setting. But as neutral extras, these pilings fade into the dramatic cityscape. It is not until a child or the child within you points to their pervasive presence that you start paying attention to piling as an essential component of the Venetian urban space. The number of ordinary pilings for boats and bridges is so impressive that it soon becomes difficult not to delve into their material and spatial variety. For pilings are omnipresent in the waters of the canal city as well as in the lagoon surrounding it.
For more than a millennium and a half, the city of Venice has evolved in the vitalizing and restless realms of the lagoon. Within this cultural environment, pilings offered holds to boats and fixpoints to people. Moreover, they generated spaces for urban activity as well as for human contemplation. Thanks to pilings, the liquid and horizontal surfaces become spaces for heterogeneous urban practices. Like poles of an electro-magnetic field, the piles in the waters of Venice delineate intermediate spaces in a city of becoming. Complex yet overlooked, the pilings of Venice provide spatial and cultural hieroglyphs of a magic city.