A couple of weeks ago, we visited the Favini factory, our exhibition partner and the leading paper manufacturing company. The trip became an opportunity to explore the Bassano area. In the morning, we visited Villa Angarano, a sixteenth-century Palladian residence listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
We were welcomed by Giovanna Bianchi Michiel, one of the five sisters who now own the villa originally commissioned to Palladio by Giacomo Angarano, a noble friend of the architect.
We learned how the work on the villa started in 1548. Eventually, Palladio’s contribution was limited to the construction of the Barchesse and the farm buildings, namely granaries, dovecote, stables and cellar. The rest of the villa, including the late Baroque main building and the church in front of the Barchessa, was completed in the 17-18th centuries by the Venetian architect Domenico Margutti. After several changes of owners, the villa became a property of the Michiel family at the beginning of the 19th century.
It was interesting to note how the villa retained its agricultural functions up to the present day, since it also serves as the headquarters of Le Vie Angarano winery managed by the Bianchi Michiel sisters.
At the same time, it was a treat to trace Venetian influences in the architecture of the central building, a sign of how far the influence of Venice spread beyond the Lagoon, not just stylistically but above all economically.
In the afternoon, we moved to the production plant of Favini, producer of the seaweed paper we’re using to print all the contents we’re developing.
We learned the factory’s history during the tour, which was born in 1736 when the Serenissima Republic of Venice granted permission to convert a mill located in Rossano Veneto into a factory for paper production. The Favini family then purchased that factory in 1906.
The company’s success is mainly due to the patent of the production process that led to the conception of the Alga Carta, conceived in 1992 when the Venice Water Authority asked for collective help from companies to solve the problem of the excessive increase of this invasive species in the lagoon.
From there, the company’s foresight led it to become one of the leaders in the sector and to expand, over the years, its production to various types of by-products from the agricultural and textile industry and making upcycling its founding philosophy.
During the tour, it was fascinating to learn how these values translate into material choices and the production chain itself. The plant, in fact, in addition to relying on proprietary turbines along the adjacent canal and sustainable energy sources to meet the demand, is not producing any waste except for water vapor and non-toxic sludge that could be anyway used as fertilizers.
It was also helpful from our research perspective to discover how the legislation concerning algae changed about 7/8 years ago when they were officially labeled as waste.
This means that they must be subjected to a new regulation (precisely the one concerning waste disposal), making impossible their use in production.
Luckily the expertise gained during the years allows them to produce paper with a vast range of other by-products. Despite the company’s effort to solve this regulation problem, indeed, they’re now forced to import the raw material to keep the Alga Carta production.
Speaking about our goal to rethink architecture, this topic of regulations is crucial because it shows that the architect alone could not be enough to change things. Collaboration with authorities to make a twist in the law is needed to start making things differently.