By now, Venice's Grand Canal is iconic. From Italian restaurant murals (like at our local "Rose's Old World Restaurant & Pizzeria" in Windham, Maine) to dime-store art (more on that forthcoming!), nearly everybody seems to have an image of the Canal Grande in their minds' eye. And that image doesn't exactly jive with modern architecture!
But things were nearly different... Back in the 1950s, famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (creator of innumerable, breathtakingly innovative structures, of which I've seen Fallingwater & Taliesin West, just for starters!) nearly built a dormitory for IUAV, Venice's architectural university. It was planned to be right on the Grand Canal on the site of the rather unassuming "Palazzetto Masieri" there now, next to the modern-day Venetian fire station and near the splendid Ca' Foscari, the 15th-century seat of today's UNIVE, the University of Venice. As chronicled in the Time Magazine article of the day, "Wright or Wrong," however, international outcry put the kabash on the provocative project almost immediately.
I can't help but wish that things might have gone differently... I find the mere idea of its design (pictured at right) of a "four-story structure of dark-veined marble with colored glass from the famed factories of nearby Murano," keeping "the balconies for which Venice is famous, but separated... with sheer, vertical protrusions which would give the building definitely modern lines" and toying with its own reflections in the waters below (not unlike Fallingwater) tantilizes my imagination with such a daring, alternative vision of Venice's Grand Canal!
UPDATE: I couldn't find any picture of the current Palazzetto Masieri available online, so here's one from the absolutely splendid book by Daniele Resini called Venice. The Grand Canal (which is actually an amazing continuous photo of both sides of the Canal Grande that runs over 27 yards long!) Palazzetto Masieri is the brown little palace that's the second on the right.
I have to admit though that the model I just found that's a liberal interpretation of Wright's plans for the Masieri Hostel doesn't quite inspire me to such flights of fancy as much as does the original architectural drawing above. Nor really does the slide show for the redesigned interior of the old Palazzetto Masieri, which would later be created by an Italian architect influenced by Wright,
Paolo (erratum: please see the comments below) Carlo Scarpa. So much for innovation for innovation's sake...