• The bridge as it is now ©Santiago Calatrava Click image to expand

    The bridge as it is now ©Santiago Calatrava

  • Transporting the bridge via barge in Vienna (Copyright SEBASTIANO CASELLATI/AFP/Getty Images) Click image to expand

    Transporting the bridge via barge in Vienna (Copyright SEBASTIANO CASELLATI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protests as the bridge is transported by barge down the Canal Grande, Vienna, in August 2007 (Copyright SEBASTIANO CASELLATI/AFP/Getty Images) Click image to expand

    Protests as the bridge is transported by barge down the Canal Grande, Vienna, in August 2007 (Copyright SEBASTIANO CASELLATI/AFP/Getty Images)

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Venice divided

Laura Salmi
Thursday 28 Aug 2008

Official opening of Calatrava bridge stalled as tempers rise

Massimo Cacciari, The Mayor of Venice, announced with regret that there will be no official inauguration of Calatrava’s Quarto Ponte following a string of protests and rows over issues of accessibility and cost.

Venice Council and Italian disability associations have been at odds over the inadequacy and incomplete status of disabled access to the bridge. The administration feared protests would interfere with the official state presidential inauguration by President Giorgio Napolitano and have decided to open the bridge with no official event once all works are completed.

The original design by the Spanish architect did not include disabled access and in 2003 Prof. Paolo Costa, then Mayor of Venice, urged the architect to come up with a solution. At the time Calatrava suggested a ferry crossing as an alternative measure, later this resolved into a cable car solution that was approved and is currently in construction, now two months from completion.

An on-line petition called "a bridge for everyone" organized by Roberto Scano, an Italian accessibility expert, urges the postponement of the inauguration of the bridge until the structure will be accessible by all citizens. Mr. Scano remarks: ”How can the Government inaugurate a publicly funded structure that does not allow the possibility for everyone to use? As it stands now the bridge is limp.”

The 93.8m long steel bridge with 74 glass ribs strategically connects Venice’s railway station with the car, bus and ferry terminal of Piazzale Roma giving visitors their first impressions of Venice and providing a panoramic view of the Grand Canal. Eleven years have passed since Calatrava won the public selection process to design the prestigious structure. Official figures still quote the budget as €6.7 million but costs are said to have tripled due to a myriad of problems that have halted works leading to delays, variations and the monitoring of possible bridge movements.

Despite a plethora of nicknames including The Carpet of Light thanks to its fluorescent night bulbs and The Bridge of Controversy, the Fourth Bridge currently remains unnamed. The Mayor of Venice suggested “the Constitution Bridge” as a possible name due to the occurrence of the 60th anniversary of the Italian constitution in 2008 but the final decision rests with the Board of the Venice Council.

With the officially ceremony scheduled for the 18th of September now called off, a press conference has been schedule to take place on Tuesday the 2nd of September at 1 pm. Santiago Calatrava and Massimo Cacciari will be facing the media and details of the new opening date are expected to be unveiled.

Laura Salmi
Reporter

Key Facts:

Transport
Architecture
Italy

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