Watch Venice’s New $7 Billion Flood Defense System in Action

There are cap­i­tals unlike­ly to be much afflict­ed by ris­ing sea lev­els — Indi­anapo­lis, say, or La Paz — but Venice looks set for a much more dire fate. Still, there is hope for the Float­ing City, a hope held out by large-scale engi­neer­ing projects like the one pro­filed in the Tomor­row’s Build video above. Called MOSE (an acronym stand­ing for MOd­u­lo Sper­i­men­tale Elet­tromec­ca­ni­co), the sys­tem con­sists of “78 gates, each 20 meters wide, that rise up out of the water when flood­ing is immi­nent.” This sounds like just the tick­et for a city that, “built in the mid­dle of a lagoon,” has “been sus­cep­ti­ble to a nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­non known as acqua alta, or ‘high water,’ since its found­ing in the fifth cen­tu­ry.”

MOSE is now “final­ly up and run­ning, eigh­teen years after con­struc­tion began” — and a decade after its orig­i­nal com­ple­tion dead­line. This was too late, unfor­tu­nate­ly, to spare Venice from the 2019 flood that ranked as its worst in 50 years, leav­ing 80 per­cent of the city under­wa­ter.

“The good news is, it passed the first major test,” suc­cess­ful­ly pro­tect­ing the city in Octo­ber of last year “from a 1.3‑meter high tide, and it’s per­formed mul­ti­ple times since. But this does­n’t mean that flood­ing’s been stopped entire­ly. In Decem­ber, it was unable to pre­vent an unex­pect­ed­ly high tide from sweep­ing in and drench­ing the city once again.” Tech­ni­cal­ly, that inci­dent was­n’t MOSE’s fault: “Weath­er fore­cast­ers under­es­ti­mat­ed how high the water would get, so author­i­ties kind of did­n’t think to switch it on.”

This speaks to the dif­fi­cul­ty of not just design­ing and installing a com­plex mechan­i­cal defense mech­a­nism, but also of get­ting it to work in con­cert with the oth­er sys­tems already per­form­ing func­tions of their own (and at var­i­ous lev­els of reli­a­bil­i­ty). At a cost of over €6 bil­lion (or $7 bil­lion), MOSE has become “far more expen­sive than first pre­dict­ed,” and thus faces that much high­er a bur­den of self-jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, espe­cial­ly giv­en the cloud of “cor­rup­tion, envi­ron­men­tal oppo­si­tion, and ques­tions about its long-term effec­tive­ness” hang­ing over it. Seen in action, MOSE remains an unques­tion­ably impres­sive work of engi­neer­ing, but its asso­ci­at­ed headaches have sure­ly con­vert­ed some to the posi­tion on Venice once advanced by no less a schol­ar and lover of that sto­ried city than Jan Mor­ris: “Let her sink.”

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Venice Works: 124 Islands, 183 Canals & 438 Bridges

Huge Hands Rise Out of Venice’s Waters to Sup­port the City Threat­ened by Cli­mate Change: A Poignant New Sculp­ture

The Venice Time Machine: 1,000 Years of Venice’s His­to­ry Gets Dig­i­tal­ly Pre­served with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence and Big Data

Watch City Out of Time, a Short Trib­ute to Venice, Nar­rat­ed by William Shat­ner in 1959

Venice in a Day: From Day­break to Sun­set in Time­lapse

Venice is Way Under Water…

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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