Venice is full of stunning examples of architecture. There are the typical old palazzos but there are also more recent projects that are as interesting and beautiful. Whether you are a tourist visiting the city or a professional attending the Architecture Biennale, you will certainly be intrigued by the sheer beauty of the city. For this post, I have selected a series of 8 books which give you an overview of the wide variety of architecture in Venice. Click on the cover of a book for more details or to order it.
This has been my favorite reference book since it was developed as a parallel research project of Fundamentals, the 2014 Architecture Biennale, which was curated by Rem Koolhaas. Every time I look at my bookshelf, the orange spine draws my attention. I can’t resist browsing it as I always discover something new. It describes the architecture of Venice starting from different architectural elements (such as the floor, windows, stairs). You will find a lot of background information on the construction methods used in the city and the evolution over time of different styles. The architectural details of many buildings all over Venice are also described. You can choose between one comprehensive book or a series of booklets on the specific elements.
The origins of the architecture of Venice date back to the Byzantine architecture at Torcello, which is the cradle of Venice. It evolved over Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles to Palladionism and neoclassicism. This paperback gives you an introduction to the architecture in Venice from a historical point of view. When you love the city, you will certainly love all this background information even if you are not a specialist. The book has been revised with additional information, both on historic facts as on the last decades. The black and white pictures have also been replaced by color photography.
62 of Venice’s most beautiful palazzos from the 13th to the 19th century are featured in this large photo book. Besides hundreds of pictures of the exterior and interior, you will also find out more about the history of each palazzo, as well as about the family who owned it and the architect who designed it. Many of these palazzos are not open to the public, so instead of wondering what’s behind all these beautiful facades when you are in Venice, you can now get a feel of this glamorous lifestyle.
The English art historian John Ruskin first published this three-volume book on Venetian art and architecture between 1851 and 1853. It examines the Venetian architecture in detail, describing for example over 80 churches. The first volume, The Foundations, presents a short history of the city and discusses the functional and ornamental aspects of the architecture. The second volume, The Sea-Stories, examines the Byzantine era and the architectural developments of the Gothic period. The third volume, The Fall, looks at the Venetian spiritual and architectural decline during the Renaissance. If you are planning a trip to Venice in the coming months, you can visit the ‘The Stones of Venice’ exhibition in Palazzo Ducale. It runs until June 10.
Giardini is one of the main sites of the Biennale with 29 national pavilions. Each of these exhibition pavilions has been designed with great attention to detail as it is represents its country. Giardini is therefore an exquisite showcase of ‘national’ architecture. I was immediately drawn to this book when I saw it in the bookshop. As a Biennale lover, this guide will certainly add a lot of value to your visit. You will no longer only look at the art or architecture on display, but also at the venue. You can find plenty of interesting information about the history and architecture of the buildings, as well as pictures from the archives.
This architectural travel guide is perfect to explore the modern architecture of the different sestieri in Venice. The itineraries will take you to the new residential areas and restored warehouse docks, to the works of Carlo Scarpa and Tadao Ando and other modern restorations. The guide also includes the Biennale pavilions in Giardini and projects which haven’t been realized, such as Le Corbusier’s hospital. Each chapter has a map and an aerial photograph to easily locate the buildings as well as the Venetian landmarks. The book also gives compelling information as well as beautiful pictures of each project. Finally, you can easily search the information by building as well as by architect.
Carlo Scarpa is one of the most important Venetian architects of the 20th century. This monograph includes more than 350 photographs, sketches, and architectural plans, along with in‐depth ‘walk throughs’ of over 15 key projects such as the central pavilion of the Biennale in Giardini or the Olivetti showroom on Piazza San Marco. It is a great introduction to the work of Carlo Scarpa, which you can use to plan your trip to Venice or to read more details about the works you admired in the city. You can order the book in paperback or hardcopy. Alternatively, you can also follow my walk around the works of Scarpa in Venice: ‘Explore Venice in the steps of Carlo Scarpa’.
This brand-new research raises the question what inspires so many artists, writers, architects and ordinary people in Venice. Sophia Psarra uses Venice as a prototypical city to examine how cities evolve as complex spaces and by which mechanisms they foster imagination and innovation. She discusses the spatial characteristics of Venice alongside its social structure from its early origins to the 20th century. She also includes Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and Le Corbusier’s unbuilt project for a hospital in Venice. The book is free to download or you can order a hard copy.
You can find more books to prepare your trip to Venice in my post ‘9 inspiring books to prepare your trip to Venice‘. Or if you prefer to sit down with a novel which is set in Venice, I suggest you look at ‘My 10 favourite novels that are set in Venice’. If you want to know more about the 2018 Architecture Biennale, you can find all my posts on this Biennale page.
Enjoy the reading!
PS: Several links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you when you order a book.
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