Slippery in Venice

John Hill
20. August 2019
Photo: Filippo Leonardi per Comune di Venezia/Wikimedia Commons

An Italian court has ruled that architect Santiago Calatrava must pay €78,000 to the city of Venice for "negligence" in his design of the Ponte della Costituzione.

The footbridge — aka the Calatrava Bridge — spans 300 feet over the Grand Canal between the parking garage, bus station, and train station that serve the car-free city. In turn, the 11-year-old bridge sees tens of thousands of roller-bag-wielding tourists traverse it every day. 

But, according to The Telegraph's report about the court ruling, "Judges said the steel tubes in the bridge were too small and some of the glass stairs, which were supposed to last at least 20 years, had already had to be replaced." The glass steps become slippery in rain and fog, leading to spills and injuries; it seems these glass surfaces are the main reason the audit court hit Calatrava with the fine.

The ruling is not the bridge's first controversy though. When it opened in 2008 it lacked wheelchair access, leading to the addition of a glass pod, or bubble, that moves along one side of the bridge on rails. Yet even that piece has ongoing problems: Earlier this year an audit court "ordered that the bubble, which is no longer operational, should be dismantled," per the article.

The €78,000 fine is no doubt a manageable sum for the world-famous Calatrava. But considering that the bridge's cost escalated from €7 million to €11.6 million last decade, and it has been a big headache for Venice since then, the fine is on the low side — a number more symbolic than functional.

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