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’s not a bridge,” mentioned Angelo Xalle, 71, a retired port employee who recalled serving to folks with damaged chins or foreheads stand up from its smooth flooring. “It’s a entice.”
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 easy curve above the Grand Canal, close to Venice’s prepare station, was meant to represent town’s embrace of modernity, however it has grow to be higher often called a stage for ruinous tumbles and harmful slips.
Now, after years of protests and issues, town has determined to interchange the translucent glass with much less slippery — and fewer glamorous — trachyte stone.
“Folks damage themselves, and so they sue the administration,” mentioned Francesca Zaccariotto, Venice’s public works official. “We have now to intervene.”
Town’s choice to allocate 500,000 euros, or about $565,000, to interchange the bridge’s glass part comes after a number of failed makes an attempt to restrict slips with resin and nonslip stickers. Final 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 around the globe 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 shortly.
Protests intensified in 2013, when town put in a cable automobile on the bridge to make it extra accessible. The pink, spherical cabin — not designed by Mr. Calatrava — value 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 number of the slabs of glass with trachyte, however throughout the pandemic, when nationwide tv filmed folks strolling over the bridge for instance the return to normalcy after a lockdown, it inevitably caught someone slipping. This previous yr, the administration gathered the funds to totally substitute the glass.
Venice will not be the primary metropolis to expertise problems with Mr. Calatrava’s projects. 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.
Whereas Venice’s plan nonetheless must endure structural assessments and be permitted by town’s architectural authority, metropolis officers are decided to proceed to stop the “nearly each day” falls, Ms. Zaccariotto mentioned.
Whereas she appreciated Mr. Calatrava’s work, she mentioned that aesthetic standards mustn’t outweigh security rules and that as a result of the lawsuits have been addressed to town and to not the architect, Venice was going to deal with the scenario.
“We are able to’t all the time do poetry,” she mentioned. “We should give safety.”
Mr. Calatrava has confronted lawsuits and fines for troubles referring to the bridge, however has defended himself in opposition to detractors. “The bridge was checked with refined strategies,” he said in 2008, “which decided that it has a stable construction which is behaving higher than anticipated.”
Mr. Calatrava’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the brand new security plan or criticisms in regards to the footbridge.
One of many claimants, Mariarosaria Colucci, a retired Roman trainer, was headed to the theater to observe her son carry out in 2011 when she broke her humerus — “in 5 elements 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 Courtroom.
“That bridge is gorgeous for an structure journal,” mentioned Ms. Colucci, 76, “however you should be good to not fall.”
Anna Maria Stevanato, who took a bus to town for a burraco match that yr, broke her shoulder on the bridge.
“I fell like a bag of potatoes,” she mentioned, including that Mr. Calatrava “ruined essentially the most lovely years of my outdated 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 depart them confused and their toes adrift.
“A Venetian would have by no means constructed 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, “however it’s vital.”
Not everybody agreed.
“It’s an distinctive bridge, and they need to preserve it like this,” mentioned Demetrio Corazza, 85, a retired professor who continuously crossed the bridge together with his spouse to go grocery procuring. “Magnificence should save the world.”