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 the Venetian canals and their filtration capabilities. Over 300 hand-glazed tiles wrap the delicate wood and aluminum latticework to create a physical and metaphorical filter. As a habitable public sculpture, the portal juxtaposes hard angles with soft forms and a mosaic of filtered light.

Conceptually, OSTREA considers how architectural devices might counteract the hostile realities of today, like 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-designed tiles. While the design team utilized both 3D printing and CNC technology to design the complex tile forms, each tile was hand-glazed by an artisan, creating a fusion of contemporary design and traditional craft. The glazing process generates various colors, textures, and finishes that bring artistic expression to the precision-produced 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.

Project Credits

Year: 2023
Project Team: Mario Gentile, Tim Barnes, Amelia Best, Mike Cucinotta