A thousand years ago, the Venetian Arsenal woke up at dawn, as soon as the sun would rise in the east: bustling trade with the Orient was what gave life and power to this volcanic smithy on the lagoon.
For centuries, architects designed canals to allow log driving from Cadore, and triumphal arches to impress the crowned heads that came to visit La Serenissima. The ‘arsenalotti’ – laborers, caulkers and master craftsmen – were the people working behind the war and trade fleets importing spices and textiles, and exporting epic battles. Then, in the XVII century, the Arsenal started to fall asleep, slowly turning its gaze to the sunset.
A few years ago, the monumental complex started to reawaken thanks to the cultural events it continuously hosts, first and foremost the Biennale, which uses the ‘Corderie’ – where hawsers and naval ropes used to be made – to showcase works of contemporary art.
The large warehouses are now the location of exhibitions and events such as the Arte Laguna Prize, when artists from the world over compete with each other with sculptures, installations, photographs and performances.
In 2012, the Arsenal also housed the Sports Village of the America’s Cup: more boats, more epic challenges.