Tuesday 28 May 2013

Photo Essay: Colours of the Island of Burano in Venice Italy

The vividly hued houses that form colourful rows along all of the glinting canals of Burano 
Andreas Romagnoli travelled to the Venetian island of Burano to shoot the remarkable jewel-like small houses lining narrow canals and tranquil piazzas. The island is otherworldly and silent but for the washing flapping in the wind and the staccato calls of one neighbour to another, write Andreas Romagnoli and Jeanne-Marie Cilento.

THERE can be few other places in the world where primary colours are used with such abandon to decorate houses. The buildings of Burano may be less sophisticated than the better-known main island of Venice seven kilometres away across the lagoon, but the sense of joy created by its little houses overlooking boats passing slowly by along the canals make an enchanting atmosphere.

Each house in Burano is unique, painted in vibrant reds, pinks, blues, greens and violets. The small, rectilinear buildings encapsulate centuries and layers of history and traditions. The rows of houses symbolise the hopes and fears of a small seaside village that consciously chose to have an optimistic vision of its urban spaces.

First settled by the Romans, for centuries the men of Burano have earned their living from the sea. The women still make lace in the doorways of their shaded front rooms. The island's famous lace has its origins in the 16th century when needles arrived on the island from the then Venetian colony of Cyprus. Leonardo da Vinci visited in 1481 and purchased a cloth for the main altar of the Milan cathedral. The lace was exported across all of Europe but by the 18th century was in decline. The industry revived in 1872 when a school of lace making was opened and today is still made carefully by hand.

Wandering through Burano's narrow alleyways and along the town's canals gives you a sense of the island’s history. Fishermen prepare their craft, children play in the backstreets while lines of washing float in the breeze overhead and old men gather to pass the time of day. Community life here seems timeless. The men sitting in the piazzas or by the canals seem to wait for you to ask why their houses are painted the colour of ripe strawberries or plums, why they still live in a small village pummelled by strong winds and full of wintry isolation in the long, cold months. But speaking to the islanders, they give you a strong sense of their pride and endurance.

The towns simple architectural shapes and forms stir the heart and imagination, some gleam in the sun and others are half in shadow. Burano has a heady mix of local tradition and globalisation, calm waters and green grass, crowds and solitude. As you leave the entrancing little island behind on the jugging vaporetto, you look back at the disappearing houses glowing like precious stones in the last rays of the sun and wonder if it was all a dream.

Click on photographs for full-screen slideshow
The local government controls the range of colours inhabitants can choose for their houses

This vibrant magenta is one of the town's signature hues combined with the traditional green shutters

Washing hangs across piazzas and canals across Burano flapping in the sea winds

The brilliant colour gives life to the roofscapes

Fishing boats are parked in front of their owner's doors ready to head out into the lagoon

The rows of jewel-coloured houses form some of the most enchanting urban piazzas in Italy

The painted walls also give a sense of Oscar Niemeyer's use of brilliant colour but on a miniature scale

The brightly-coloured Venetian chimneys of Burano's houses add to the sense of light-hearted design

The houses have a simple, rectilinear design and appear almost two dimensional

Sharp shadows and angles of light heighten Burano's palette of colours

Geometric details stand out like art installations against the blue sky of May

 Wrought-iron decorates the facades of the houses providing small balconies and shelter from the rain
The contrasting colours and shapes create a heady mix of different hues within the narrow streets 
Even cleaning implements take on the look of an art installation in Burano

Pale violet and celestial blue make a charming combination topped by a roof of terracotta tiles

 Not all of Burano is postcard perfect ~ the damp from the sea is always rising and here the stucco separates from the ancient brickwork

A dilapidated house creates one of the only pale corners in the town

Small building details become like works of modern art against the backdrop of Burano

Wooden shutters close up the  houses against the hot afternoon sun

Clothes float in the breeze while two women talk in one of Burano's quiet piazzas
Boats and bicycles are the main modes of transport in Burano

A calm-eyed image of Christ gazes out from one of the terracotta-coloured walls of the town

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