Fixing the Calatrava Bridge
4. January 2022
Photo: Filippo Leonardi per Comune di Venezia/Wikimedia Commons
The Ponte della Costituzione in Venice, designed by Santiago Calatrava and completed in 2008, will have its glass steps replaced in favor of stone, after years of tourists and residents falling on the slippery surfaces.
Spanning nearly 100 meters over the Grand Canal, from the parking garage and bus station on the south toward the train station on the north, the Ponte di Calatrava, or Calatrava Bridge, as it's more widely known, is one of the first things tourists encounter when visiting Venice. It was controversial well before its 2008 opening, due to cost overruns and delays, but since then controversies have been focused on safety concerns. A woman fell in October of 2008, resulting in fractures to her face that required surgery and leading her to file a lawsuit for damages. Accessibility concerns led to the installation of a bubble-like cable car in 2013, but then in 2019 a court determined it should be removed due to operational issues. That same year, an Italian court ruled that architect Santiago Calatrava had to pay nearly €80,000 to the city of Venice for "negligence" in his design of the bridge, with reports indicating at the time that "some of the glass stairs, which were supposed to last at least 20 years, had already had to be replaced."
The bridge features a small strip of stone paving between wider sections of translucent glass. (Photo: Google Maps)
Now the New York Times is reporting that Venice is allocating 500,000 euros to replace the glass with trachyte stone "after several failed attempts to limit slips with resin and nonslip stickers." The paper quotes Francesca Zaccariotto, a city public work's official: "People hurt themselves, and they sue the administration. We have to intervene." (The article also links to an ironic Twitter post, in which a news crew showing people crossing the bridge as a sign of normalcy following pandemic closures inadvertently captured someone falling.) Zaccariotto also indicated to the Times that Calatrava will not be involved with fixes addressed at the "almost daily falls," with the city's architectural authority handling the retrofit. There is no indication of when the fix will be carried out or how long it will take.