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venice: Venice to replace glass on star architect’s slippery bridge


VENICE: As tourists wandered obliviously on the glass floor of the footbridge, locals proceeded with caution. Venetians made sure to walk on the narrow stone strip at the centre. “That is not a bridge,” said Angelo Xalle, 71, a retired port worker who recalled helping people with broken chins or foreheads get up from its sleek floor. “It’s a trap.”
The bridge, Ponte della Costituzione, by star architect Santiago Calatrava, is a multimillion-dollar work of glass and steel that opened in 2008. Its smooth curve above the Grand Canal, near Venice‘s train station, was meant to symbolise the city’s embrace of modernity, but it has become better known as a stage for ruinous tumbles and dangerous slips.
Acclaimed globally for work including the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York, he was commissioned to design the bridge in 1999. When it opened nine years later after many delays, complaints about falls began quickly. Now, after years of protests and problems, the city has decided to replace the translucent glass with less slippery – and less glamorous – trachyte stone. “People hurt themselves, and they sue the administration,” said a Venice public works official. “We have to intervene.” The city’s decision to allocate ₹500,000, or about $565,000, to replace the bridge’s glass section comes after several failed attempts to limit slips with resin and nonslip stickers.
Venice is not the first city to experience problems with Calatrava’s projects. In 2011, Bilbao, Spain, laid a huge black rubber carpet over a Calatrava footbridge paved with glass tiles because so many pedestrians had slipped and fallen. Calatrava has faced lawsuits and fines for troubles relating to the bridge but has defended himself. “The bridge was checked with sophisticated methods,” he said in 2008, “which determined that it has a solid structure”. Calatrava’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

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