August 28, 2008Venice cancels opening ceremony for hated Santiago Calatrava bridgeRichard Owen in Rome
Venice. The Fourth Bridge
The Mayor of Venice defended a controversial new bridge over the Grand Canal as Italyâ€™s â€œmost important contemporary architectural achievement of recent decadesâ€ yesterday despite complaints that it was unnecessary, unsuitable and four times over budget.
Plans for a grand inauguration of the new steel and glass bridge â€” dubbed the â€œcarpet of lightâ€ by its admirers â€” built by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish architect, have been scrapped because of the row. The 94-metre (310ft) single arching span links Veniceâ€™s railway station with Piazzale Roma, the car, bus and ferry terminal on the other side of the Grand Canal.
The bridge, Veniceâ€™s first for 70 years and only the fourth to be built over the Grand Canal, was to have been opened on September 18 by President Napolitano.
Right-wing members of the city council said that it was â€œa monument to bad administration and a waste of Veniceâ€™s moneyâ€.
Critics also noted that it lacked access for the disabled.
Massimo Cacciari, the centre-left mayor, said that it was â€œtypical of this city to do itself downâ€. The absence of facilities for the physically handicapped could be traced to the beginning of the project, when planners had assumed the disabled would use the existing ferryboat across the canal. A lift for the disabled would be installed but this would take â€œseveral monthsâ€.
Critics claim that the cost of the bridge has risen from an original estimate of Â¤5 million (Â£4 million) to Â¤20 million, partly because of delays and legal disputes with the construction company. The council insists that the final cost will be about Â¤10 million.
Maria Rumiz, head of public works, said that the row meant that the bridge would be opened without fanfare â€œon or near September 18â€.
The bridge, which was first planned 12 years ago and was scheduled for completion in 2005, was installed last summer after a two-year delay caused by fears that the bridge supports in the canal banks would prove unstable. Other late adjustments included a decision to add glass steps.
Vittorio Sgarbi, the art critic and former deputy Culture Minister, said that the bridge looked like a lobster and hid the Venice skyline from Piazzale Roma.
Arrigo Cipriani, the owner of Harryâ€™s Bar, Veniceâ€™s famous watering hole near St Markâ€™s Square, said that he did not like the bridge at all, asking: â€œCan you imagine what it will look like with chewing gum visibly stuck to the glass?â€