Ocean Space


Austrian powerhouse Francesca von Habsburg has restored the epic San Lorenzo church – derelict for nearly a century after suffering damage in WWI – to house the Ocean Space Centre. This cross-disciplinary centre showcases the work of the TBA21 Academy and offers a platform to artists, scientists and policymakers tackling the challenge of climate change. Via a programme of lectures, workshops and events, the academy hopes to transform Venice itself into a lab for the future rather than a relic of the past.

The awesome proportions of San Lorenzo, one of the tallest buildings in Venice, are a fitting space for the large-scale contemporary installations. Dating back to the 9th century, the church was rebuilt in the 16th century and formed part of the neighbouring Benedictine monastery, although its bare brick facade was never finished. It is said that Marco Polo and his father, Niccolò, were buried here but that his sarcophagus was misplaced during the rebuilding. At any rate, years of excavation have failed to turn up any hint of the great explorer, although the ghost of his pioneering presence hopefully augurs well for this groundbreaking gallery.

At time of writing, the church was expected to close from November 2019 to March 2020 for further restoration and expansion, including the addition of a new bookshop and workshops.