THE TIMELINE: 2003 to 2014
THE BUDGET: €3 billion
TURN THE TIDE
Venice undoubtedly ranks as one of the most striking cities in the world. Stretching across 118 small islands in the Adriatic Sea, it stands as a showplace of renowned art and architecture interwoven with a twisted warren of bridges, canals and piazzas.
There's just one problem.
Although its location atop the marshy Venetian Lagoon gives the city its Old World charm, it also puts the landmark urban center at risk every time the tide rises. After years of battling winter flooding, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport launched a citywide program in 1987 to protect its people and cultural treasures from water damage. A group of major Italian construction companies and local firms called Consorzio Venezia Nuova was tasked with leading the effort.
At the heart of the plan is the Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico project, known as MOSE. The design includes construction of a series of mobile barriers at the lagoon inlets that can be closed when waters rise.
“In normal conditions, the oscillating gates will not modify the currents or tides. But at high tide, they will operate to isolate the lagoon from the sea,” explains Alberto Scotti, engineer and project manager on MOSE.
GO WITH THE FLOW
Because Venice is such an unusual city in its design and location, Mr. Scotti and his team had few models to emulate.
“The biggest challenge we have faced was the complexity,” he says. “We are used to building structures that don't move, but these gates will always be moving and floating with the waves.”
The team also had to meet stringent city regulations stipulating that the design would not modify water exchange between the sea and lagoon, which could damage lagoon morphology and water quality. The gates also couldn't interfere with navigation, port activities or fishing.
Mr. Scotti and his team of 120 people spent months weighing their options. “We knew at the beginning that we were facing something new and we decided that we would compare all possible solutions before making any decisions,” he says.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MINISTRY OF INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT
SEEING IS BELIEVING
Mr. Scotti's team shares design decisions with the ministry as they're made. “It is the only way we can be sure they are fully aware of our approach,” he says.
He and his team also take great effort to keep an open dialogue with the public. Citizens can read about the project as well as view diagrams and pictures at two spots in the city. For an even closer look, the team hosts weekly visits to the project site “because people have to understand what we are doing,” Mr. Scotti says.
Some citizens were worried the project would be too large or overpowering, and he was eager to show them otherwise.
“If we just say that this is not true, it has no credibility,” he says. “We understand that the only way to contrast the community's concerns is to let them see our work. When they come to the work site, they understand immediately.”
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
The project is approximately 60 percent complete, with all above-water components in place.
Mr. Scotti, who has been involved with the project from the beginning, seems well aware of the history in the making. “A project like this will never happen again.”
PM NETWORK MAY 2010 WWW.PMI.ORG