Venice to Replace Glass on Santiago Calatrava’s Slippery Bridge


VENICE — As vacationers wandered obliviously on the glass flooring of the footbridge, locals proceeded with warning. Venetians made certain to stroll on the slim stone strip on the middle, some lifting fogged glasses to maintain their eyes on the bottom. When a customer tripped, they barely lifted their gaze.

“That is not a bridge,” mentioned Angelo Xalle, 71, a retired port employee who recalled serving to individuals with damaged chins or foreheads stand up from its smooth flooring. “It’s a trap.”

The bridge, Ponte della Costituzione, by the star architect Santiago Calatrava, is a multimillion-dollar work of glass and metal that opened in 2008. Its clean curve above the Grand Canal, close to Venice’s prepare station, was meant to symbolize town’s embrace of modernity, however it has change into higher often known as a stage for ruinous tumbles and harmful slips.

Now, after years of protests and issues, town has determined to substitute the translucent glass with much less slippery — and fewer glamorous — trachyte stone.

“People hurt themselves, and they sue the administration,” mentioned Francesca Zaccariotto, Venice’s public works official. “We have to intervene.”

The metropolis’s resolution to allocate 500,000 euros, or about $565,000, to substitute the bridge’s glass part comes after a number of failed makes an attempt to restrict slips with resin and nonslip stickers. Last month, because the winter chilly and rains made the ground particularly harmful, officers positioned keep-off indicators on the glass portion of the bridge, which is most of it.

Acclaimed all over the world for work together with the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York, Mr. Calatrava was commissioned to design the bridge in 1999. When it opened 9 years later, after protests about delays and hovering prices, complaints about falls started rapidly.

Protests intensified in 2013, when town put in a cable automobile on the bridge to make it extra accessible. The purple, spherical cabin — not designed by Mr. Calatrava — price about 1.5 million, was sluggish to cross the bridge and have become unbearably scorching in the summertime. It was later dismantled.

In 2018, town changed a few of the slabs of glass with trachyte, however throughout the pandemic, when nationwide tv filmed individuals strolling over the bridge to illustrate the return to normalcy after a lockdown, it inevitably caught someone slipping. This previous 12 months, the administration gathered the funds to totally substitute the glass.

Venice isn’t the primary metropolis to expertise issues with Mr. Calatrava’s initiatives. In 2011, Bilbao, Spain, laid an enormous black rubber carpet over a Calatrava footbridge paved with glass tiles as a result of so many pedestrians had slipped and fallen.

While Venice’s plan nonetheless wants to bear structural exams and be accredited by town’s architectural authority, metropolis officers are decided to proceed to stop the “almost daily” falls, Ms. Zaccariotto mentioned.

While she appreciated Mr. Calatrava’s work, she mentioned that aesthetic standards shouldn’t outweigh security ideas and that as a result of the lawsuits have been addressed to town and never to the architect, Venice was going to deal with the state of affairs.

“We can’t always do poetry,” she mentioned. “We must give security.”

Mr. Calatrava has confronted lawsuits and fines for troubles relating to the bridge, however has defended himself in opposition to detractors. “The bridge was checked with sophisticated methods,” he mentioned in 2008, “which determined that it has a solid structure which is behaving better than expected.”

Mr. Calatrava’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark on the brand new security plan or criticisms in regards to the footbridge.

One of the claimants, Mariarosaria Colucci, a retired Roman trainer, was headed to the theater to watch her son carry out in 2011 when she broke her humerus — “in five parts like an artichoke” — by falling on the Calatrava bridge. She sued town and was initially awarded compensation of about 80,000, however she misplaced within the attraction and is awaiting a choice by Italy’s Supreme Court.

“That bridge is beautiful for an architecture magazine,” mentioned Ms. Colucci, 76, “but you must be good not to fall.”

Anna Maria Stevanato, who took a bus to town for a burraco event that 12 months, broke her shoulder on the bridge.

“I fell like a bag of potatoes,” she mentioned, including that Mr. Calatrava “ruined the most beautiful years of my old age.”

To Ms. Stevanato, 80, the issue stems from the truth that Mr. Calatrava, who’s Spanish-born, has not mastered the artwork of constructing secure bridges like locals. Venice has some 400 bridges, and Ms. Stevanato and plenty of Venetians delight themselves on having the ability to cross them whereas studying books, or with their eyes closed. On the Calatrava bridge, although, Venetians say the blended dimensions of the steps and the colour of the tiles go away them confused and their ft adrift.

“A Venetian would have never built such nonsense,” Ms. Stevanato mentioned.

Some welcomed the brand new change to the footbridge. “It’s going to be uglier,” mentioned Leonardo Pilat, 19, whose mom fell on the bridge, “but it’s necessary.”

Not everybody agreed.

“It’s an exceptional bridge, and they should keep it like this,” mentioned Demetrio Corazza, 85, a retired professor who regularly crossed the bridge along with his spouse to go grocery purchasing. “Beauty must save the world.”