How Engineering Will Save Venice from Mother Nature

By: | November 25th, 2013

Anyone who’s seen Venice’s crisscrossing canals knows how beautiful the Italian city is on the outside. But what you don’t see is what happens on the inside. The world-renowned destination is living under the threat of rotting from inside out. Blame it on the climatic changes over the past decades that are now resulting in more frequent and intense Venice floods.

The flood of 2012 took 70 of the 118 islands under saltwater from the canals. Unless it’s stopped, all the provincial capital of Veneto shall be left with are dozens of eroded foundations.

Venice now incorporates 78 underwater floodgates in the historic lagoon around the city to prevent further damage. Named MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico; means electromechanical experimental module), the floodgates are made to withstand and block tides (max height 10 feet) and will be controlled from an artificial island on the north of the Lido inlet with compressed air. At the center of the inlet, there is the barge and the framework to hold the floodgates, which are hinged to a submerged caisson.

However, most of the MOSE infrastructure shall stay invisible during normal tidal conditions, allowing water to flow in; it’s only during the high waters (6 feet or more; occurred 11 times in 2012) that will drive compressed air into the gates to drive them up.

This one-of-a-kind project is estimated at $5.5 billion with the first four floodgates already installed in June. As for the remaining 74, they’re scheduled to be installed over the next few years before the project’s 2016 completion date.

Michael Cooney

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