We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Friday, February 22, 2013

More controversy on the Calatrava bridge

The Calatrava bridge is making headlines once more in Venice. This time it's the delay in the scheduled inauguration on Saturday of the "Ovovia"  (translation=gondola)  which has been installed on the side of the bridge to transport handicapped people from one side to the other. The problem is the ovovia has not yet passed all of  it's functional  tests. What's absolutely laughable about this is this Pod-like thing has been in the works for around 2 years already, and is estimated to be around 80 percent over budget, according to local papers.


This bridge, also known as the Ponte della Costituzione (Constitution Bridge) opened to the public on September 11, 2008 amidst massive controversy. Firstly, the bridge was not constructed for handicap accessibility. Secondly, many felt this bridge was not necessary as it is so closely located to the existing Ponte degli Scalzi. Thirdly, the bridge's very contemporary design is not in keeping with any of Venice's architecture. All three of these issues get my dander up.

I would love to know what these bridge designers were thinking when they came up with this pod as a solution for handling wheelchairs. The pod hangs over the side of the bridge. What handicapped person in their right mind would get into this contraption for a ride hanging over the Grand Canal???? It's  more like an amusement park ride. Seriously. Who is going to get in it?  And then there is the question of whether the pod will be accessible 24/7.  Do they have to hire Pod operators who are specially trained to run the thing?  Seems to me they could have hired a whole staff of porters to push anyone in a wheelchair across the bridge for a whole lot less than constructing this non-functional pod.

Not withstanding this new pod thing and the issues surrounding it's viability and costs, the bridge has other issues. In cold weather, ice forms on the steps which make it hazardous and barely passable.  On normal days, the steps themselves are dangerous because of the abnormal height and length of the each one. It's impossible to walk over the bridge using a normal gait, thus if you aren't extremely careful you will trip and fall down.  And, this one is the best in my opinion, the steps that are made of glass are broken frequently.  Why have glass steps when you have to cover them up with temporary metal sheets ?  I wonder how much each glass step costs to replace?

My "quasi" Venetian-ness rears it's ugly head whenever I think about this bridge.  Venice has many other critical issues to deal with, probably most important is the problem of rapidly declining population.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for another interesting story about another quirk in this enchanting city. Your perspective on the comings and goings in this great place is always interesting and fun!
Lori in upstate NY

Jon (Bilbao) said...

This Calatrava Spanish arquitect is a mess, and awfully expensive. We had the same problem with the bridge he built in Bilbao


Slipery floor and the glass breaking tiles (6.000€/year spent to replace specially designed glass tiles)
In the end we had to lay a carpet on the bridge to avoid people getting hurt and wasting more money on tiles

karen said...

Oh my, Calatrava has similar steps on another bridge? I'm scratching my head wondering how anyone can allow such awful design. So impractical.

karen said...

Grazie, Lori!!

Dianne said...

I once heard a comment from an architectural design professional that architects seldom have to live with what they desig. Maybe if they were forced to live with their designs, they would design better ones. In one of our former apartment, the architect had specified trash compacters in each apartment and then designed garbage chutes with openings too small to accept the compacted bags. Go figure!

Andrew said...

Talking of architects, have you ever been to Treviso airport? When called to the gate you have to go down a staircase which ends in a tiny atrium with very little seating. People end up queuing on the staircase. It gets hot. If your flight is delayed you can end up there for two or three hours. Thank goodness our flights can now be to Marco Polo.

Anonymous said...

Being a venitian myself, I am glad to inform all frinds of this blog about the fact that the bridge has been quickly nicknamed, in venitian dialect, "Calabraga" (pants off!) just to mean that citizens had to accept, passively, this "gift" by the spanish architect to the city (and to local administrators)