Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pont Neuf in Venice

I was in Venice to see the Biennale (and admire the pavillions used to display the art--the Canadian building is particularly wonderful)...but while I was there, I couldn't help making a detour to see how the new bridge is coming along. They don't built bridges over the Grand Canal very often. There's the famous 16th-century Rialto Bridge--most poetic to go under but I've never been that impressed walking across it. Then there's the marble bridge near the railway station (completed in 1932)--surrounded by a hubbub of vaporetti stops, gondolas, garbage boats, and deliveries being dragged up the bridge steps, dodging the tourists. And there is the wonderful wooden Accademia bridge (also built in the 1930s)--which I think has the best views and has a kind of thrown-together temporary look.

But now, there's a fourth pedestrian bridge, a new red steel arc at the top left-hand corner of the Grand Canal (imagine it on the space-photo of Venice, above).

The bridge is designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava (he designed the Olympic sports complex in Athens & has built marvellous bridges around the world). His new project links the railway station with the bus and parking terminal. Not a very poetic task, since the parking lot is the ugliest thing in Venice, but the bridge looks good. It isn't finished yet--there are ducts and scaffolding obscuring the lines--but Calatrava's design is light, elegant, and an interesting contemporary addition. It relates well to the Accademia, I think, and is surprisingly unshocking to see. It should be open by December, though we're talking about Venice here, and construction delays & scandals are legendary.

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