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The new bridge by Calatrava in Venice October 1, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, travel.
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Two weeks ago, after several years of straggling with respect to the original due date, the “Constitution Bridge” designed by Santiago Calatrava, and built on the Grand Canal between Piazzale Roma and the train Station, was finally opened to the public. The construction was ridden by many problems, and the initial cost almost increased by a factor of four, to a respectable 16 million euros. However, I have to say it is a really, really beautiful bridge! Below, some pictures I stole from an italian newspaper.

The tormented story is not over, apparently. First of all, the project includes a means of transportation for the walking-impaired, which has not been installed yet. This caused a protest which prevented the inauguration ceremony from taking place as planned upon opening the bridge to the public: Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano had originally been invited, but the ceremony was waived after being threatened by a demonstrative action by a group supporting the rights of people with disabilities. So the bridge was opened without any ceremony, an oddity which is after all not so bad news: Napolitano deserves everybody’s respect, and his presence had a symbolic meaning (he has always been and still is a strong defender of the italian Constitution, which is more and more threatened by the present government); but the usual depressing show of politicians cutting ribbons and smiling on TV, and then proceeding with praising themselves, has for once been avoided.

Second, the bridge appears unsecure. Many citizens have reported missing a step and falling, in the places where the pace of the steps halves (a few points along the arch): they expected a step, found none, and fell down. The direction of construction work has assured they will quickly solve the problem, although from what I understand this will mean that some of the very nice glass steps will be replaced by ones made of stone.

Third, blind men might risk running into the large blocks of marble set at the feet of the stairs, on each side. These have a protruding, sharp edge (it is the only part of the bridge I do not like, indeed). Again, this will be solved soon, by applying some suitable floor markings around the obstacles.

Despite all these troubles, I must say that the area has been greatly improved both in functionality and in the aesthetics. First of all, the bridge allows for a quick commute from the train station to the buses: what was once a 12′ detour takes now less than five minutes. This also eases the congestion of boats carrying people across the grand canal. The bridge provides also a revitalization to an area next to the train station which had been left in disuse -rumors have it that a big building just across the bridge, next to the train station, will become a large mall. Finally, the bridge itself becomes a meeting point. The very architecture of the construction, with a center wider than the entrances, creates room for people who desire to linger around or have a look from a vantage point at the most beautiful town in the world.