Venice must be a kind of Urban Planning hell…


Venice has three major problems. The first is the basic logistical problems of transportation, trash collection, living space, etc; the daily basics of life in a city, which must be tremendously complicated by the water based nature of transportation. There is a causeway that can sustain limited road and rail traffic, but that is about it. Everything must come in by boat. The water bus system and the water-borne garbage collection system seem to work, but I wonder how far these systems can go in bad weather, or logistical stress. At every step of this problem there is the overwhelming fact that every inch of Venice is essentially a historical landmark. This means in a practical sense that new pathways, structures, infrastructure, is not really an option.

Then there is the problem of the actual sinking of parts of Venice. I don’t know any of the science behind it, but it seems a unique problem. This is different than mere flooding, its a combination of rising global water levels, but the actual physical land supporting the city is apparently giving way under the weight. Ok, maybe not the entire city, but certain sections, absolutely.

Then there is the demographic, economic problem. Venice, the islands of Venice are little more than a weird tourist trap. My understanding is that the number of Italians who live in Venice declines ever so slightly every year. At one point, the mayor Venice proposed an entrance tax for tourists. The problem for Venice is: how does it maintain a healthy level of tourism, while attempting to maintain and maybe even grow Venice as an actual, functioning, Italian city.

I do feel like the easy ‘out’ would be to turn Venice into a kind of urban ‘national park.’ A handful of residents that lived their year around for maintenance, and then bused in kids on their summer college breaks to work at restaurants and man gift-shops. Give up on Venice as a live city.

I don’t think I agree with that though. That would make it a very weird place, ultimately. Part of the charm of a place is its liveliness. How do you get Italians to move to Venice and work outside of the tourist trade? That of course is the hard part. The mainland shore is lined by some heavy industry, but most of the people that work at the heavy industry probably don’t live on the Rialto.  There is a tension between the expense and inherent logistical problems of Venice with it being able to attract new forms of enterprise. For example, with the age of the internet, the idea of working at home becomes far more viable, but again, there isn’t an easy solution.


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