It started being attacked by saline formations. The water evaporates but as it evaporates it deposits salts. These salt, especially sodium clorine, has been concentrated on the masonry for over 900 year. On top of this there are cyclies of salt dissolution and recrystallization. When this takes place the formation of crystals breaks up and not only doeas have an impact on the stone materila by eroding it but it only have an impact on the mosaic preparatory layers. This means they become loose and sometimes they detach. This is the main phenomenon we have seen and continue to see

Ha cominciato a essere aggredita dalle formazioni saline ma l'acqua evapora ma evaporando deposita stalle si concentrano sempre più nelle murature oramai sono più di 900 anni che questi stabili soprattutto cloruro di sodio si concentra dell'oratore e poi ci sono i cicli di scioglimento di cristallizzazione Salina con cristallizzazione salina e la formazione di cristalli rompe soprattutto non solo aggredisce il materiale lapideo e quindi li aggredisce facendo perdere il materiale ma separa tende a separare anche gli strati di allentamento dei mosaici portandolo al distacco e talora alla caduta. Ecco questo fenomeno è il fenomeno principale che ha sofferto e che continua a soffrire

Mario Piana is the Proto of St Mark’s Basilica, the man responsible for the conservation of one of the world’s most iconic landmarks. Since 2016, he has been monitoring the state of the Basilica, tracking even most infinitesimal signs of change, planning maintenance, and finding solutions to prevent damage from water infiltration, salt, pollution, as well as the wear prompted by the moisture emitted by the bodies and breaths of its 5 million annual visitors.

Without the constant, extensive maintenance work, St Mark's Basilica could turn into chalk and slowly dissolve, like a giant sandcastle assaulted by the sea invading the lagoon. It wouldn’t be the first disappearance of one of Venice's iconic buildings. On the 14th of July 1902, Saint Mark’s tower collapsed at once, brought down by the weight of time and lack of upkeep. Will a similar fate befall Venice’s other landmarks in future? How can we save them?

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (quote - read by a different voice?)

In a memorable passage from Exodus, Moses parts the Red Sea in order to allow the people of Israel to escape Egypt and reach the promised land.

For Venetians, the promised land is an integrated system of 1.6km-long stretch of rows of mobile gates 4 rows deep, installed at the Lido, Malamocco, and Chioggia inlets. When the acqua alta strikes, the system temporarily shuts off the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. Much like the biblical Moses, the Venetian MOSE (a clever acronym for Experimental Electromechanical Module) promises to save its people from catastrophe.

MOSE is one of Italy’s biggest publicly-funded infrastructure projects ever, a truly pharaonic piece of engineering which took almost 40 years to build. The first trial run took place on the 3rd of October 2020. A year too late for the acqua alta of the 12th of November 2019.

Humans have interfered in water courses and bodies of water throughout history. But through MOSE they are reshaping the very environment that has defined Venice for centuries. The choices that will be made now about the use of the MOSE will be fundamental for the direction the venetian ecosystem will evolve towards. With MOSE Venice will oscillate between being a lagoon, when the gates are open, and a lake, when they are closed.

Venice will be protected from floods, but the changes in water flow will also alter the lagoon’s composition and biodiversity. Tough decisions will have to be made about whose needs – fishermen’s or shop keepers’ for example– will be granted priority and how to strike a new balance among competing objectives under these new conditions. Without a doubt, the case of Venice highlights how even the most sophisticated adaptation tools always come at a price. Whenever we think we’ve found a solution to our problems, all that we are doing is negotiating the physical world which defines us.

In this sense we are a paradigm of the ecological transition which needs to happen on our planet in order to secure a sustainable future [...] We don’t know how much time we have; it could be fifty years or one hundred. It could be even longer... it all depends on the politics of mitigation we’ll be able to adopt on a global scale .....At some point we’ll have to move on towards other solutions, where the separation from the sea is not temporary, but permanent. And we will slowly get used to that. The MOSE will allow us to prepare for this scenario by enabling us to develop and operate this technology.”

Venice is a city in constant flux. Its built environment sits on wood; its natural one is the product of human action across many centuries. Paradoxically, for a city like Venice, preservation can only mean constant evolution. Even MOSE won’t be the magic wand that solves all of Venice’s problems - all it will do is buy Venice some time.

There's been no shortage of other proposals. Pietro Teatini, Associate Professor of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, has suggested raising Venice by 25-30 cm by injecting seawater into geological formations at a depth of 650-1000m over the course of a decade. This project would not only counteracts Venice’s ongoing subsidence - theoretically, CO2 could be used instead of seawater. In an ironic twist, the very same gas responsible for global warming could grant the city a little more time, if injected underground in a liquified state. It would not just shore up the soil beneath the city, but also permanently store millions of tonnes of dangerous emissions, emissions which would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere, heating the planet further. In Venice’s case, at present this remains but a theoretical proposal. Nonetheless, similar projects have already been successfully implemented in other parts of the world: cities like Shanghai are currently pumping water underground to reverse subsidence.

Thus the future of a city like Venice has become a battleground of ideas.

A city’s defining environment is not purely natural. It is also made up of its people, its physical infrastructure, its monuments, its economic models, and its social ties. Each of these parts are inter-connected and exert an influence on one another. There is no technological fix that can solve global warming: we must tackle broader societal issues, making hard choices about our current economic system, perhaps even rethinking the very idea of economic growth.

Some insist that we should stop thinking of Venice as a static open air museum in need of preservation. They posit that we should view it as a space undergoing constant change, one that will and should evolve.

As the art historian Salvatore Settis wrote in his essay If Venice Dies: “The paradox of conservation is that nothing can ever be truly preserved nor handed down if it remains static and stagnant. Even tradition is an act of perpetual renewal, and if this necessary, constant motion should ever stop, it would exact an incredibly high price: death. No metaphor more appropriately fits the city than the one fashioned by Plutarch: the city is like a living organism, which grows as it mutates and yet still remains itself, in accordance with its DNA which is inscribed in its own history. The soul of the city—the invisible city—which manifests itself through its visible form, symbolizes this very balance between permanence and change, between the city and its citizens, between the stones and the people.”

Conceiving of Venice as an evolving entity opens up new thoughtscapes, sparks creativity and opens up all sorts of possibilities. In no way does it imply disregarding Venice’s cultural heritage, nor its nature. Rather, it frees our thinking from the constraints of the present, a present heavily marked by converging crises.

Perhaps if we stopped thinking about Venice’s present as the last possible opportunity to save the city, but took it as a vantage point from which to look to the future we would start seeing constellations of ideas appearing like stars at dusk.

Professor of Experimental Architecture Rachael Armstrong was walking through the city when she had an idea for the future of Venice.

Future Venice is the idea where we can literally transform the foundations of the city, using semi-living technology called a protocell. Protocell is a hotly contested term, some people say it's the first actual life form, very artificial, and other stages of life form before life. So it's a primordial chemical agent. That's the definition I look at. So, in other words, a smart chemistry that's able to form a body because it's made of fat, and use its surface as a site for reading the environment and responding to change simply by the way that it is chemically constructed.

What if Venice could organically grow its own defences against the waves generated by the big ships cruising its canals? What if time was an ally, instead of an enemy of the city’s future?

So to create an artificial reef by literally seeding it using these art Facial chemistry is called protos cells at the shoreline of the city. So that it could form like a limescale coat, like you find inside a kettle, around the Venetian foundations. And therefore when the large ships go past and create a huge weight that sucks the water out from underneath the foundations and exposes it to the air, then because they are sealed by mineral, then the foundations don't rot. And also over time, perhaps a certain thickness and integrity could be deposited.

Rachel Armonstrong looks at the city from a different perspective. Her suggestion is to leave it up to bio-architectural techniques to counteract the erosion of the city's banks

I'm very interested in using the tactics of life, to enable structures, bodies, sites to persist, but really drawing on those fundamental principles that the living world uses. And the living world really doesn't go for solutions. It engages in an ongoing conversation in a kind of hotly discussed or negotiated situation between body and site. And that conversation is never over. And what's interesting is the way that we think, the way that humans think, about permanence, about fixing things, about finding ways to put an issue to rest, and when you actually think of the life of a place and the way that communities of organisms persist.

But thinking organically is not just about the materials that are used. If the city is a living organism, then every place within it must be thought of as multifunctional and not simply destined to a single activity. It must keep public spaces, essential for the weaving of the social fabric that keeps a place alive and evolving.

Guy Standing, Professor of Development Studies, describes a system where everything that is public has no price, and everything that doesn’t have a price has no value.

We have a global economy, with extreme financialization, where finance dominates everything, and where short-term profit maximization means that we deplete resources as fast as possible. We see a system in which the returns to property are what determine one's income and wealth, and more and more of the income is flowing to the owners of financial property, physical property, intellectual property. And this has created a situation where we are losing the Commons because the Commons has no price. It belongs to society. It belongs to us as commoners. It is handed down to us.

When the islet of Poveglia, located in the Venetian lagoon, was put up for auction in 2014, the citizen-led association “Poveglia per Tutti” managed to raise 400.000 euros to try and buy it. But none of the buyers matched the asking price, so the island remains unsold.

After the unsuccessful auction, the Association applied for a 6 year concession to take care of the island so that at least it wouldn’t be left prey to overgrown vegetation and to avoid further decay to the remaining buildings. “We have enough money and people to do this'', says Anna Brusarosco, the group’s spokesperson. Yet the government didn’t concede the request.

So we took care of the island without having a long-term permit. The Government speaks a lot about valorisation, but the only value they see is of the financial kind. The kind which would allow them to sell to private investors, as has already happened in the past to other islands. That’s why we felt the need to act. We want the island to remain public so that citizens could still visit it and so that there could be activities (and value) for them. Poveglia is a great example of how activism can protect citizenship and places. We started out as a group wanting to save an island, then we realised that we cared about much more, that we wanted to protect our collective heritage.

E appunto noi ci siamo presi cura dell'isola pur non avendo una concessione. Il Demanio parla molto di valorizzazione perché loro vedono la valorizzazione solo economica, per una possibile vendita a privati, come è già successo a altre isole. Noi abbiamo sentito l’esigenza di agire. Nel nostro volerla mantenere pubblica la vogliamo comunque valorizzare ma perché ci siano attività per i cittadini. È emblematico questo caso di Poveglia, perché siamo partiti da persone che erano interessate veramente a salvare isola e abbiamo fatto un percorso di crescita. Dall'interesse nel salvare la singola isola, siamo passati all'interesse verso i beni comuni, la tutela dei beni comuni in generale.

The Poveglia case shows that in instances where the government lacks the political imagination, the vision to come up with solutions to pressing problems, activist groups can step in. What they can bring to the table is their foresight, or, at the very least their vigour and desire to take action.

I think that in the current climate everybody is obsessed with solutions and everybody wants this one solution, the silver bullet that's going to stop it all. And then it just needs to be scaled and then we can implement it everywhere. [...]

Marcus Reyman, Director of TBA21 and Ocean Space, a new global centre for catalysing ocean literacy, research, and advocacy through the arts recently opened in Venice, is convinced that we need to stop thinking about change as being policy-driven. Instead, he sees it as being propelled by ordinary people and the care they put in.

...what we need is a cultural response to the crisis. [...] I think we need to make care, repair, restoration, regeneration, a cultural practice brand, and so that it's not descriptive, that it's not the government telling me I need to do this. [...] if we actually manage to install this as a cultural practice to take care of our neighborhood, our community or our wider environment, I think then we might be able to get somewhere.

New technologies and organic materials could be tested to reinforce the city’s foundations. Islands could become spaces where new models of social and economic integration could spring up, as squares were in the past and still are to this day. The city could be revitalised. Venice could, once again, become a home for many.

So really a question of home. And I think that Venice, again, is a great instrument for being able to find those welcoming spaces, find the places that give you your unique view of Venice. And when you find that connection, you actually want to take care of Venice, it is not something to be consumed by the eyes, or through the food you eat…

As our technological capabilities continue to expand, the question of humanity’s place, whether within or above nature, is gaining urgency.
In 1968, Stewart Brand, writing in the first edition of the American counterculture magazine Whole Earth Catalog, put forward the following idea: “We are as gods and we might as well get good at it”. The biologist Ed Wilson later dismissed his view, stating: “We are not as gods. We are neither intelligent or sentient enough to be much of anything.” “We have paleolithic brains, we have medieval institutions and space-age technologies.’ It’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish between what is part of our natural environment and what isn’t. When only 3% of our entire terrestrial surface remains ecologically intact, is there even an original state of nature for us to revert to? We are increasingly the masters of our own destiny.

In her book, Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert talks about a future where humans will focus on finding technological solutions to our planet’s ills. We could genetically modify corals, resurrect lost species, and create a white sky which will reflect solar rays back into space to reduce global heating.

Much like in the case of the Venitian lagoon, humans should at long last realize that we are not above nature, we depend on it. We thrive and we fail with it. At the same time, we now have technological solutions which allow us not only to adapt to what the future has in store, but to rethink it. It’s a discussion worth having.

But our future does not hinge on clever technological solutions alone. Venice's survival depends on the answers that we, as a society, come up with in response to the pressing issues these environmental and socio-economic crises have thrown into stark relief. Can we imagine a system where consumption is not the ultimate achievement? A system in which sharing and collaboration play a central role? Can we make our societies work within nature’s boundaries, giving nature room to regenerate?

In nature, nothing grows forever and no system remains immutable in time and space. Even we humans evolve and undergo myriads of changes over the course of our lives.

This series was created as a reaction to the tense silence which descends after the sounding of the fourth siren, the highest flood warning level in use in Venice. It’s impossible to predict what could happen after the fourth siren is sounded, as the acqua alta that hit Venice in November 2019 aptly demonstrated. After the fourth siren goes off, we’re in uncharted territory, cast adrift by global warming. The environmental crisis is sparking other types of crises and forcing us to rethink who we are and what we value, as well as to imagine a future which is radically different from our present. In that sense, Venice is a testament to humanity’s ingenuity, but equally to our ability to destroy even our most precious and fragile environments. All of these crises are of our own making. However, we can change, we can imagine a different system. Venice has reinvented itself again and again. So can we.

In George Bernand Shaw’s “Back to Methuselah”, the biblical snake tells Eve: “You say things as they are; and you say “why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say: “Why not? Why not?” The words belong to the language of visionaries.

Let me reiterate it: water equals time and provides beauty with its double. Part water, we serve beauty in the same fashion. By rubbing water, this city improves time’s looks, beautifies the future. That’s what the role of this city in the universe is. Because the city is static while we are moving. The tear is proof of that. Because we are headed for the future, while beauty is the eternal present. The tear is an attempt to remain, to stay behind, to merge with the city. But that’s against the rules. The tear is a throwback, a tribute of the future to the past. Or else it is the result of subtracting the greater from the lesser: beauty from man. The same goes for love, because one’s love, too, is greater than oneself.