Project Management Institute

Flood plan

THE TIMELINE: 2003 to 2014

THE BUDGET: €3 billion


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.


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.




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.”


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.”

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.




Related Content

  • PM Network

    Playing with Fire

    By Jones, Tegan With the coastline of an entire continent burning, a scorched-earth urgency had teams across Australia racing to control the damage. Between September 2019 and January 2020, bushfires ravaged…

  • PM Network

    Trees of Life

    By Hendershot, Steve The world needs more trees—and a lot of them—to stem the damage wrought by mass deforestation. Brazil alone is destroying the equivalent of three football pitches per minute in the Amazon rainforest…

  • PM Network

    Rising Risks

    By Nilsson, Ryan For as long as humans have been building cities, they have migrated toward the coasts -- for food, ease of transportation and any number of ecological benefits. Today, it's estimated that more than…

  • PM Network

    From the Rubble

    By Thomas, Jennifer Puerto Rico's infrastructure woes began long ago. But a series of earthquakes this year coupled with hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017—which racked upUS$139 billion in damage—exacerbated the U.S.…

  • PM Network

    Trading Transformed?

    Blockchain—the technology that made cryptocurrency mainstream—is now entering the U.S. stock market. In November, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved a pilot project to use…