Venice as a Cultural Heritage 

How can new techniques change the flood scenario of Venice Cultural Heritage? - Sheet1
SOURCE- fodors

Ah! The city of Venice. With its romantic gondolas, floating buildings, and background music, how can someone not love it? Looking around and reading this city’s packed historical culture and heritage. Venice was founded during the fifth century and is constituted out of 118 little islands. 

The city became influential as a significant maritime basin during the Middle Ages and Europe’s commercial door to Asia. Dear fellow architects, Venice is an out-of-this-world masterpiece, collecting famous pieces from Titian, Veronese, Giorgione, and much more! 

Venice, from the Italian Venezia, is the capital of the province of Venezia and the region of Veneto, located in the North of Italy. 

Venice, being under constant threat, always stood as one of the most important capitals. Its lagoon creates a beautiful landscape, worthy of being classified as a UNESCO World Heritage. Indeed, the Venetian Lagoon was designed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. 

The dynamic process of various interactions between the natural environment and its people creates this unique artifact. Indeed, Venice is known for its architectural patrimony and heritage, a city with its sublime charm.  

The Flood Scenario 

How can new techniques change the flood scenario of Venice Cultural Heritage? - Sheet2
SOURCE- ny times

In November 2019, Venice was endangered of losing its UNESCO World Heritage status following extreme and disastrous flooding. Each year, the city attracts more than 22 million visitors but has only 55,000 inhabitants (175,000 in 1951). Mechtild Rössler, UNESCO World Heritage Center’s director, claims that “we do not want a museum city. We want a lively city where people can actually live”.  

Tourism has its take too on damaging Venice’s structure. In fact, huge tourism ships that sail through the Canale Grande, with around 6,000 passengers on boards, could be causing erosion and harm to the structure by its shock waves. 

On the other hand, climate change is pushing more water into the lagoon. This event forms the main reason behind the threatening rise of the water levels: 1.87 meters above sea level! It is recorded as being the second-highest recorded in 100 years back, and the highest in 53 years!  In addition to that, warmer water means a direct and prominent attack on the wood on which Venice is built.

Adding on to that, when the seawater enters into the lagoon, its salt crystallizes and promotes material decay. This is why, after each flood, one could observe a brownish-like powder on the bottom of brick walls: the result of the deterioration. 

The expected value of the damage is likely to be in billions, as flooding is expected to rise, year after year, as Venice should sink around 1 millimeter annually. 

One of the main reasons behind flooding is the hot air coming up from North Africa, where we can find the Sahara desert. This air pushes up into the Mediterranean and mixes with the Mediterranean air, which makes its way up to the Adriatic Sea. When these winds are combined together with high tides, they stop the water from leaving the lagoon and cause the high waters. 

Mose: the Sea Gates

How can new techniques change the flood scenario of Venice Cultural Heritage? - Sheet3
SOURCE- geoengineer

Mose is the name given to retractable sea gates placed at the Venetian Lagoon entries: one at Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia. These walls implemented in the sea only rise when in need while not blocking the view for boats. 

Nevertheless, this project, firstly proposed in 1988, was linked to corruption as the Italian authorities claimed in June 2014 having arrested the mayor of Venice as well as 30 people for a corruption situation related to the flood-protection project. They claim that the Mose project is a multibillion-dollar one, reaching 9 billion USD. 

A high sea level of 135 centimeters hit the lagoon on the fifth of December. These sea gates showed being super useful in the prevention of Venice’s flooding. Indeed, during the last week of November 2020, Mose saved the city from a 120-centimeter rise. As the mayor states, “today, everything is dry; we stopped the sea.” Mose sea gate can protect the city from high levels up to three meters.  

The Polemic

The Mose sea gates sound like the best opportunity to help Venice recover from the over-flooding. Nevertheless, according to Cristiano Gasparetto, a Venetian Architect, “more than 1 billion euros in bribes were paid to get the project through”. 

Furthermore, environmental experts argue that blocking the Venetian Lagoon’s water from the sea would take place for months; because of the continually rising level. Thus, no more water will neither flow out nor inside of the lagoon. And this constitutes a huge environmental problem seeing that 81 municipalities as well as agricultural sites, pump their waste into the lagoon’s water. Some of this waste is evidently, chemically contaminated.

Will Venice be brought back?

Today, young Venetians and volunteers are envisioning catastrophic flooding events in the upcoming years. Having the Mose project in work, that somehow aids to a certain extent Venice’s situation, the citizens are trying to save as much as possible their heritage-city by positioning protections on the floors, walls, and precious objects. 

Some architectural changes would be required to do too, for instance, changing electric plugins’ placement so that the water cannot touch them. 

In the long run, global warming is entirely challenging our lives and our responses to emergencies. This is why small and quick strategies are being implemented and acted upon today.  

Author

Dima Fadel is a passionate and curious architect, constantly seeking new knowledge. She graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Architectural Studies from the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts in Beirut last summer, and is currently pursuing her MSc in Integrated Architectural Design at La Salle, in the urban laboratory of Architecture: Barcelona.

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