In the discussion of morphological architecture, Menges and Hansel argue for an “ecological model for architecture that promotes an active modulation of environmental conditions across ranges and over time through morphological differentiation. this approach promises both a new spatial paradigm for architectural design and advanced sustainability that links the performance capacity of material systems with environmental modulation and the resulting provisions and opportunities for inhabitation.” (Menges 14). This is a means for an architecture to interact with its environment continuously, making it consistently relevant to the site it is reacting to. The concept of atrophic retopography upon Venice brings into play the notion of morphological architecture. Atrophic retopography refers to a collapsing or decaying field, which in this case is Venice, and the purpose of the concept is to reapply a topography that will react to this field. With this in mind, we ask the question: what about Venice is decaying, or getting lost?
There is a preconception of Venice in the minds of all who have heard of it. There are stories of its history, reiterating its importance in terms of the Arts and Sciences, and a refinement in culture that has developed over time and earned Venice the reputation of a magical and romantic city where adventures are born. This is a very loaded view of Venice today, as so many people travel to visit each year- and the places they visit is, in today’s times, generally guided by tour guides explaining where the “most magical” places are in Venice. The history in all of these places is rich, yes, however the reality of them is crowded with other tourists, and the magical nature of the spaces is almost diluted with tourism. Venice becomes an unreal city, more for show than for living; this is becoming a statistical fact as well that more and more tourists enter Venice while more and more true Venecians are leaving Venice. This view of Venice that the world has is the one that the rhizome will inherently preserve- the atrophy that will create a new topography. The rhizome will react to places of interest, based on the loaded information on Venice that any potential tourist could read online. A statistical comparison of the “best places to visit in Venice” will guide the rhizome to aggregate in areas of more importance. This generally consists of particular museums, churches, palaces, and schools. Outdoor areas such as courtyards and markets are also of high interest, due to their apparent epitomization of culture in Venice. These are the areas of aggregation for this rhizome.
This retopography could be argued as an architecture of desire. Penelope Haralambidou describes architecture of desire as “re-constructing the imagination through drawing and testing the boundaries between reality and its [aesthetic and] philosophical possibilities” (Haralambidou). So, the rhizome will satisfy the desire to view the places they came to see, and will react to their logged desires, creating spaces from which to view the sites. The spaces would then be connected by an infrastructural connection that allows people to get from one space to another. In its own way, a new Venice can be born through this rhizome as a reflection of our virtual vision of it.
Now in order to fully understand the architere, one must ask: exactly what is a rhizome? In this context the word refers the the conceptual rhizome as defined by Deleuze, who describes it as an object or field in which “any point [of a rhizome] can be connected to anything other, and must be. This is very different from the tree or root, which plots a point, fixes an order” (Deleuze, 7). This form of connection making is more complex than that of the more commonly known dichotomous root system, which is used in programming as binary code. However, the rhizome can apply to more situations at the same time, through one given instance acting in multiplicities. Its functionality “ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” (Delueze, 8); this is precicely what the rhizome will do in Venice.
Within this rhizome of the crux, new insfrastructure of sorts lays out for pedestrians where they are designated to go next, on a preset path that is of the rhizome. However, every space is directly connected to one another in some way, due to the inherent quality of the rhizome. These connections between may actually become quite chaotic, leading here and there but always meeting at a specific space as a result of the human desire. In this way, the new rhizomatic Venice inherits the same hectic uncertainty as the old; getting lost in a tangle of paths, finding its way through to the open spaces and aggregating in areas that data and reputation has deemed a crucial key to the heart and soul of Venice.
The behavior of this rhizome as a physical form derives from studies of cotton, which can expand and condense in relation to the environment, a physical embodiment of the rhizome, in a way. Although generally heterogenous, the rhizome in its consisten heterogeneity becomes homogenous on a large enough scale, as a field. This project will push the study of the field as an instance, or object, and explore what rules and limits can allow it to offer a mapping of the Venecian dream, inheriting its chaos, majesty, and ever changing desire. “All would like to follow the thread of their own action’s consequences; but the more they sharpen their eyes, the less the can dichotomous root rhizomatic root discern a continuous line” (Calvino, Cities and the Dead 5).

Venice Flood Map

Most Commonly Recommended Places To Visit

Tourist to Citizen Ratio

Rhizomatic Growth Rules

Desired Aesthetic Result

Growing Rhizome - 2D

Growing Rhizome - 2D

Growing Rhizome - 2D

Rhizome Seed Points [green] and Attractors [red]

Focus Site for 3D Implementation

Rhizome Growing

3D Implementation: Iteration 1

3D Implementation: Iteration 1

Extract 3D Focus Site Model - Imply Relationship Beyond Extents

Attraction Tests

Rhizome In Site

Rhizome Pulls Away To Create Space

Strands Hover And Stick Together, Then Harden

Rhizome Pulls Away to Create Space

Assumed Optimal Viewing Directions

Focus Site

New Repellants to Create Views

Cotton With Water - Initial Behavioral Study

The Analogy


Model - Iteration 1

Model - Iteration 2

Model - Iteration 2