The project title Darzanà means dockyard and it is a hybrid word, like the Turkish word tersane and the Italian word arsenale. These words are derived or distorted from the same root, the Arabic dara’s-sina’a (place of industry). They all originate from the common language that developed in the Mediterranean from the 11th to the 19th century among people such as sailors, travellers, merchants, and warriors. Known as Lingua Franca, this was a shared language when Mediterranean was the main vessel connecting the surrounding cultures. In the same vein, it is possible to talk of a common architectural language and to define it as Architectura Franca.
Despite their very different identities and populations today, Venice and Istanbul once both featured considerable dockyards of similar sizes and production. The common core of these dockyards was the shipsheds called “volti” in Italian and “göz” in Turkish. The shipshed is the building block of a shared architectural heritage; its proportions grow out of the dimensions of boats and of common building technologies. Darzanà links a shipshed of İstanbul with a shipshed of Venice by a vessel. For the project Darzanà, a last vessel, Baştarda was built earlier this year at an abandoned shipshed at the Haliç dockyards in Istanbul.
Similar to Darzanà, Baştarda is also a hybrid word. Derived from bastardo, Baştarda is a cross between a galley and a galleon and is propelled by oars and sails. As a symbol of Mediterranean hybridity, Baştarda creates a bridge between the two shipyards, one left to rot away in the megacity of Istanbul, the other springing to life only at certain times of the year in the museum-city that is Venice.
In Istanbul, Baştarda was constructed beneath a reproduction of the wooden trusses of the hall in Sale d’Armi of Venice shipyard that hosts the Pavilion of Turkey. Measuring 30 metres long and weighing four tons, the vessel was built from more than 500 pieces including seven kilometres of steel cable and abandoned materials found on site including wooden moulds, discarded furniture, signboards and boats. In April, the components were shipped to Sale d’Armi, where Baştarda was re-constructed in May for the Pavilion of Turkey. When La Biennale closes in November 2016, Baştarda will continue her journey and she will eventually become the centrepiece of a museum of arsenal, when the site is opened to public in Istanbul.
Darzanà’s main theme raises the question of whether it is possible to transform borders, fronts and other spaces of conflict into thresholds and spaces of consensus. In this vein, Baştarda becomes a vessel of frontier infringement. She came to Venice, and she will eventually go back to Istanbul, travelling back and forth, just as the languages, the architectural forms, and people of the Mediterranean, have done throughout history. Reporting from Darzanà, one can announce the futility of demarcations on the seas and in between the words.