Thursday, January 12, 2012

Teatro Marinoni on Lido: An Introduction

The "introduction" I refer to in the title of this post was my own, as I'm sure some of you reading this already know Teatro Marinoni, and know it better than I do. But hand-printed flyers that I noticed recently appearing around the city suggested that even a lot of native Venetians knew little or maybe nothing about it--and invited them to pay a visit to the place and find out more for themselves.

The official introduction provided by the city of Venice (if it were to provide any introduction at all) would state that Teatro Marinoni is one of many abandoned derelict buildings in the Ospedale al Mare complex near the northeastern end of Lido that was sold in 2010 for 94 million euro to the same company that bought the famous Hotel des Bains (and is in the process of converting it into luxury condos).

What the city would not tell you is that Teatro Marinoni was designated as a gift to the residents of Venice by the man who built it, Mario Marinoni, and as such--argue a growing group of residents--cannot be sold to private developers without violating the terms of Dr Marinoni's bequest.

A detail from Giuseppe Cherubini's ceiling fresco
This group of residents, some of whom have taken to occupying (or "squatting") in the theater, would like to see the theater reborn as the public community cultural space it was originally intended and used as. In fact, they have already began holding cultural events in the space.

As more and more people have began to realize, the immediate peril facing Venice is not environmental or architectural, but demographic and sociological. (See The Venice Report: Demography, Tourism, Financing & Change of Use of Buildings, Cambridge University Press; or Veniceland Atlantis: The Bleak Future of the World's Favorite City by Robert L France:

A recent headline in the local paper announced that the population of the lagoon has now dropped below 59,000 for the first time. The architecture and art of Venice may survive, but is a city without actual residents a city at all? Whatever jobs may eventually become available in the Hotel des Bains luxury condo site will not pay enough for the workers to reside in the lagoon. Nor will any similar luxury development of the Ospedale al Mare complex. As the ex-Thatcherite John Gray pointed out in his 1998 book False Dawn, untrammeled free markets (of the sort that now determines policy in Venice) have consistently undermined the very social institutions--family, career, community--they purport to value.

In any case, that is more than enough for an introduction. For more information I refer you to the website:

And to some few pictures of the theater, present and past, below. I'll try to get more information on this group and its project soon.

The rear of the house and its balcony
Another detail from Cherubini's 1920s fresco: Neptune as a beach bum
The theater building during its heyday in the 1920s
Cinema paradiso perduto: the theater's small metal projection room
Above the theater are a couple floors of rooms that could use a little TLC


  1. And, so it sadly goes, the death of the real Venice by a thousand (Capitalistic) cuts.That theatre must have been just magnificent in its day. Thank you for reporting on this, Steven.

    Have you visited the marble workshop in Cannaregio, right near S. Fosca? It's another piece of Venice that will be lost, come this November. They have been told the workshop must move from their present location. The family of artisans have served Venice since 1896.

    1. I'm very sorry to hear about the marble workshop, I hope they can find somewhere else in the city proper. And I hope that the theater can be converted into a better and more community-oriented use than simply more luxury accomodations.

  2. More about the Ospedale here ...

    There's a photographic exhibition planned, and a book of photos, from the people behind the website.

    1. Thank you for the leads and for the link to the fictional cities website which I enjoyed but foolishly neglected to insert a link to.

  3. Hi! I visited Ospedale two months ago and I'm preparing some post for my polish blog about that place and I have few question, that you might answer. I didn't find contact to you here, so if you could write me at koralinatr[at] I would be very grateful and I'll write you what information I want:) Thank you!

    1. I don't know how much help I can be but, having just visited the place again today, I will send you an email.