on the Italian Peninsula, claiming (among other cities) Treviso, Padua, Vicenza, and Verona. The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, and the discovery of the New World in 1492, heralded her commercial and political demise. At Sapienza in 1499 the Venetian navy was defeated by the Turks, who took control of the Adriatic. At that moment, Vasco da Gama returned to Lisbon with news of a faster route to the Orient. Venice was forced to relinquish her long-held trade supremacy to the Portuguese, Dutch, and English. In 1797 the Treaty of Campoformio gave Venice to Austria; she next came under Napoleonic rule (1805–1814), and after several revolutions and wars of independence, in 1866 she was absorbed into the kingdom of Italy.

Venice is again in danger. The enemies are both natural and man-induced: eustacy (variation in sea levels due to global climate changes); seasonal high tides and water surges as well as subsidence, caused largely by mismanagement of subterranean water sources; and pollution. The combined result of the three means that, in effect, the city in the sea is drowning. In the twentieth century it sank about 10 inches (25 centimeters), about twice the average rate of the previous fourteen centuries. Only half of that was due to uncontrollable changes in sea level. Pollution is of several kinds: Venice has no drains; vast quantities of human and industrial waste of all sorts flow into the lagoon, and its self-cleansing capacity has long been overtaxed. Although authorities recognize the need to address these problems, there is a paradox: the resident population has been displaced by millions of tourists, changing the city’s economic profile. Although a series of defensive measures has been planned since 1994, the municipality of Venice finds it increasingly difficult to meet the cost of maintaining its precious monuments. That is despite an April 1973 resolution of the Italian central government, which declared “the safeguarding of Venice and her Lagoon … to be a question of preeminent national interest” and guaranteed to protect her “landscape, historical, archaeology and artistic heritage” as well as to “preserve its environment from atmospheric and water pollution and to guarantee her social and economic vitality within the general framework of regional land development.”

Further reading

Concina, Ennio. 1998. A History of Venetian Architecture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Goy, Richard. 1997. Venice, the City and Its Architecture. London: Phaidon.

Romanelli, Giandomenico, and Mark E. Smith. Portrait of Venice. New York: Rizzoli.

Villa Savoye

Poissy, France

The Villa Savoye at 82 rue de Villiers, Poissy, has been described as “a house so important that architects travel from all over the world to experience its presence” and “an icon of European Modernism.” Designed in 1928–1929 by the Swiss architect Charles Edouard Jeanneret (1887–1965), best known as Le Corbusier, it was completed by 1931. It is an architectural milestone, much copied (although often without an understanding of the design principles that underpinned it) and the fullest expression of the modernist belief, first expressed by Le Corbusier in 1923, that a house is “a machine for living in.”

By that, he simply meant that a house should be designed in the same way as any contemporary machine—he cited automobiles, airplanes, and ocean liners—by clearly defining the associated problems and solving them as thoroughly as possible. At the beginning of the twentieth century that was a different way of making domestic architecture, whose forms were usually dictated by adherence to largely esthetic formulas. Yet Le Corbusier’s houses were not altogether independent of geometry; he admitted that he was “possessed with the color white, the cube, the sphere, the cylinder and the pyramid.” His standardized Citrohan House (1922) exhibited the five elements that he believed constituted modern architecture: the structure was raised on columns (pilotis), an open floor plan; strip windows expressing the independence of the walls from the structural frame, a rejection of applied ornament, and a roof terrace. There followed the La Roche house (1923); the Michael Stein villa at Garches, France; and two houses in the Deutscher Werkbund’s Weissenhof residential suburb in Stuttgart, Germany, both in 1927. All were functionally planned and starkly austere.

The Villa Savoye in semirural Poissy, designed a year later, was the climax of those experiments, and