A world-renowned architect was fined by an Italian court for designing a bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice that was seemingly unequipped to handle the city’s volume of tourists.
Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was fined for “macroscopic negligence” when designing the Ponte della Costituzione (Constitution Bridge) over Venice’s famous Grand Canal. The sweeping glass and steel bridge was installed in 2008 but has been marred in controversy since. Namely, for not being wheelchair accessible when it first opened (a lift has since been installed) and for being ill-equipped to handle the wear and tear from the large number of tourists who cross it daily en route to the nearby train and bus stations, dragging wheeled suitcases over the tempered glass surface.
According to the New York Times, the Court of Auditors in Rome ruled this month that Calatrava should have foreseen these issues - considering Venice’s tourism problem is well known and Calatrava has experience in designing bridges, including in Dallas, Texas and Calgary, Alberta - and fined him €78,000 for alleged errors. The court said the steps wore out too quickly and the 94-metre-long bridge required constant maintenance.
Ponte della Costituzione is the fourth bridge to be built over the famous 16th century canal and the first to be built in central Venice for 125 years. The bridge has many nicknames ('fishtail' and 'glass tongue') but it was officially named in honour of the 60th anniversary of the Italian constitution in 2008. It links Santa Lucia train station with Piazzale Roma - a large square that acts as the main bus station for Venice with parking and drop-off points for buses, trams and taxis.