Venice (dpa) - The UN's scientific and cultural arm described
Venice as a unique architectonic masterpiece when it added the city
to its list of world heritage sites 25 years ago.
Now a Palais Lumiere - or palace of light - created by fashion designer Pierre Cardin is to be added to the famous buildings of centuries past, but building a modern masterpiece in the city is problematic as plans by the Benetton group to turn a Renaissance Palazzo into a modern department store have made clear.
Cardin's idea is as unusual as some of his fashion designs. The aim is to build a 245-metre glass building in Marghera, one of the industrial areas on the mainland. This Palais Lumiere is to resemble three blooms in a vase.
The curving towers of unequal height are to be linked via six platforms. The building will house restaurants, a shopping mall, a concert hall and a cinema.
The core of the project is a fashion school, along with apartments and offices with a view out over the lagoon, and the whole thing is expected to cost 3 billion euros (3.7 billion dollars).
Cardin intends to pay homage to his Italian roots. Pietro Cardini was born near Venice in 1922, his family emigrating to Paris soon after.
Other possible venues for the palace of light are Moscow, Paris and cities in China, but Cardin prefers Venice, saying he would like to enrich the city with a "symbolic shape."
Venetians are in disagreement about the aesthetics of the project, with some seeing it as over the top. The height is a particular problem - it would be twice as high as the Campanile on St Mark's Square and even if it is well away from the centre it would change the city's skyline.
But money talks in highly indebted Venice which has a declining population. Cardin's 60-storey complex would generate jobs during the middle of an economic downturn, providing as many as 5,000 jobs over the four years of construction.
The aim is to create 7,000 longer term jobs in the Palazzo and in supplier companies, numbers that have put Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni on his side.
The building is to be ecologically green and surrounded by a large green space. Flight traffic controllers withdrew their initial objections, making a special exception for the towers. The city council has also backed the project, but the well known architect Vittorio Gregotti has called for changes to ensure that it fits better into its surroundings.
Developer Rodrigo Basilicati, a relative of Cardin, is opposed to any changes that would reduce the impact of the project. For his part Cardin is certain that his palace of light will become "a symbol of Venice, just like the Campanile of San Marco," as he told the French magazine Le Point.
Despite doubts over whether a modern project could ever be made to fit into the city's architecture, building is set to start in September. Cardin at the age of 90 sees it as the realization of a life-long dream.
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