Ding-Dong Venice!

17.11.2017 | art.

Niki Ng

Venice Biennale Intern

Three weeks in Venice passed like a blink of an eye. If you ask me what I favour Venice the most, apart from its magnificent cityscape, it is the city that without any vehicles, which walking on foot or by water boat would be your only fashions to travel around!

From my daily walk to the Hong Kong pavilion, I particularly enjoyed taking a good glimpse of the liveliness of the city and the uniqueness of the Venetian architectures along the journey. What drew my attention the most was the robot-like, bell intercom systems which could be found in most local doorways. These systems were aesthetically pleasing and functionally well-designed. To further visualised the texture of the systems’ surfaces, I had traced some rubbings as an alternative impression of them. It was interesting to discern the contrasts from the originals.

A typical Venetian bell intercom system.

A typical Venetian bell intercom system was shielded with a hard, marble stone panel; the family name plaque would be displayed on a thin, bronze metal plate with a circular, bronze doorbell underneath it. The rectangular intercom area was constructed by small round dots, with a thin, long letterbox area beneath it. As informed by my Italian colleague, the white marble stone was a supreme material to preserve the inner electronic parts of the system, while its tone and texture had harmonised well with the bronze components. It had satisfied the functional and aesthetic means for the system and the building itself.

In addition, there were abundant of other distinctive forms of intercom systems found in the city:

The above systems had shared some interesting round dotted formations, casted uniformly within the rounded forms and correlated well with the rest of the components.
Intercom areas in oval, hexagon and octagon forms.

In Venice, the symbol of lions was ubiquitous within the city. To the Venetians, lions symbolised the city with power and strength. While, the winged lion represented the evangelist, Saint Mark.

Apart from the robot-like bell system, the 3-dimensional bronze lion’s head was one of the ordinary bell ornament, with the lion’s mouth as the bell button (see in the above image). The lion’s head was well sculpted in symmetry form and I was particularly impressed of the wavy hair form and its intense gaze. From what I had observed, the majority of the lion’s bells here did share a similar characteristic, which they might be probably created by the same sculptor.

Bronze lion bells and door handles were found in a local shop which sold traditional Venetian ornaments.
Above were some other unusual designs of intercom system which I discovered near our pavilion. They are composed with various geometric forms, with the lego-like as its frames, the design revealed a sense of primeval and natural touch. The rough stone surface has a strong antique sense of touch.
It was a coincidence when I encountered these elves-like bell design in an alley on night. I was fond of their facial details with the pointed hats and jaws and they comprehended well with the family’s name plates and the stone surfaces.
”CONDOMINIO ALLA TANA”, in English, meant “a building shared by different families at a street named TANA.”. The above 16 gold bells were arranged in symmetry form, with 8 belles on the either sides.
Intercom area with the sun ray-like form.

To conclude, I was fascinated by these bell intercom systems designs and glad to witness that they were well preserved by the city. It was such a delight to see the composition among the bells and the intercoms. The symmetry forms could be found among the majority intercom systems, resembled the sense of balance and harmony. If you ever plan a visit in Venice in future, please do come and visit these well-preserved Venetian architectural design and I would assure you would be amused by their beauties and the good, old wisdom of Venetian Art.

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