Venice Draws Global Attention with Climate Change Sculpture

Posted by - June 22, 2017 | Category: Contributing Author

Gondolas at sunset in Venice Italy

Venice is one of civilisation’s most magnificent treasures. Each year, the city shares its magical beauty and cultural jewels with 30 million tourists. From the spectacular Byzantine styling of Saint Mark’s Basilica to the opulent Gothic design features of Ca’ D’Oro, this Renaissance city is richly endowed with architectural splendour and diversity. Works by Titian, one of Venice’s greatest artists, can be found throughout the city including frescos in the Doge’s Palace and the altar-piece of the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.

The city was raised on an archipelago of 124 islands. The original Venetian architects drove wooden piles into the marshy seabed to create a ‘floating city’ divided by canals and connected by 438 bridges. Man fought with nature to accomplish this engineering feat, but nature is fighting back relentlessly. Climate change puts this beautiful city at risk.

Venice Is Slipping Away

Time, gravity, and the motion of the sea have put the very existence of Venice in jeopardy. Over centuries in time, the physical weight of the city has compressed its foundation and caused sinking or settling at a rate of one to two millimetres per year. Global warming hasn’t helped. Rising sea levels, especially when coupled with storm surges, become flood waters that turn the courtyards and squares of Venice into inland lakes.

Show of Support

The renowned artist Lorenzo Quinn shows love for Italy’s ‘City of Canals’ and announces its plight to the world with his sculpture, titled Support. The temporary exhibit features a pair of enormous hands that reach up from the depths of the Grand Canal to steady the corner of the Ca’ Sagredo hotel.

The hands appear to hold up the edge of the city in an effort to save it from the ravages of the sea. The sheer size of the sculpture commands attention and creates dramatic impact. The artist makes a strong statement about Venice’s vulnerability to climate change, and he calls on mankind to step up and take a hand in making a positive difference.

How Does Venice Protect Itself?

Venetians have always worked to hold back the sea, and from the beginning, Venice was built to last. Foundation edges exposed to canals were finished with brick cladding to prevent erosion and stop the lagoon from reclaiming precious land.

Maintenance has always been essential to Venice’s longevity. Damaged paving stones are routinely replaced, and the restored paving is raised to resist flooding. Crumbling brick walls are patched, replaced, and treated to inhibit the spread of moisture.

The MOSE project is Venice’s latest answer to damaging effects of rising sea water. The project involves the construction and installation of 78 flap floodgates to control the flow of water from the Adriatic Sea into the Venetian Lagoon. The gates are laid at inlet sea beds, but they can be raised to block incoming water flow. Each massive gate can be moved independently. At high tide, the gates are positioned to stop the sea and safeguard the city.

There’s no question that Venice is an Adriatic gem worth preserving. The immense scope of the MOSE project underlines the irreplaceable value of the city.

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