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Venice on Stilts

Speaking of Venice, there were some reports a couple months ago telling us that officials are “pursuing [a] proposal with great interest” that could save the city from sea level rise.

According to Agence France-Presse, “Local officials and engineers are planning to lift buildings under operation 'Rialto' by up to one metre (3.3 feet) using piston-supported-poles to be placed at the bottom of each structure. This will take around a month per building if each structure is raised by eight centimetres (3.14 inches) a day.”

Project Rialto

Project Rialto

Project Rialto

There is another project, one that is actually being realized, to save Venice. Called the MOSE Project, it involves constructing adjustable barriers at the three entrances to the Venetian Lagoon. While these barriers may protect the city from future floods, buildings whose lower levels are already submerged will remain inundated, continuing to rot at their foundations. In other words, there is really no change in the status quo.

Project Rialto, on the other hand, will restore access and functionality to once flooded floors. There is also the possibility of lifting the building still higher if needed, for instance, if sea level rise exceeds the design parameters of the barriers and overtops them. Meanwhile, the city and its neighborhoods may begin to resemble what they were like before things started sinking.

Of course, we have to wonder why would you want to revive an image of its past? It won't reverse the exodus of its citizens or prevent it from becoming an open air museum.

Why not use this opportunity to play around with the built environment? You could, for instance, jack up this palazzo up higher than 3.3 feet. Or that palazzo by a towering 50 feet.

Sculpting negative spaces, reconfiguring campi, creating a second piazza.

Better yet, you slip in a barge under them. Venice as a tectonic jigsaw puzzle, its mini-island pieces floating but firmly tethered for most of the time until the curator of a future edition of the Architecture Biennale wants to rearrange things.

Or until the Art Institute of Chicago decides to organize a blockbuster exhibition on Venetian palazzos or Tate Britain on Turner's Venice. When their entreaties for loans are answered, chunks of the city will unmoor themselves from the lagoon. Once equipped to ward off Somalian pirates, they will simply sail away, leaving behind some scaffolding wrapped with full-scale photographic replicas of the borrowed architecture to let disappointed tourists know what they are sorely missing.

Galveston on Stilts
  • Anonymous
  • May 10, 2008 at 3:12:00 PM CDT
  • Better idea: Put Venice on barges, leave them moored. Hire an architect (Paolo Solieri?) to build a wall-like arcology on a barge across the southern edge of the lagoon-- this would serve both as extra protection from storms and as room for Venice to expand without giving up its aquatic lifestyle. Venice would be reborn.

  • Anonymous
  • May 11, 2008 at 12:08:00 PM CDT
  • isn't this idea originally from Jetsons? ;)

  • tristan
  • May 17, 2008 at 9:18:00 AM CDT
  • a suggestion provoked by a recent visit ...

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