As flooding in the low-lying city becomes more frequent, Venice is investing in a system of floodgates unlike any other in the world.
The crisscrossing canals of Venice make this beautiful city a world-renowned destination — but they also threaten to rot it from the inside out.
Over the past decade, in the wake of climate change, the infamous Venice floods have grown more frequent and intense.
Last year, more than 60 percent of the city was inundated by saltwater overflowing from the canals, eroding the foundations of dozens of historic buildings and plazas.
One of the places affected was St. Mark’s Square, seen here, which became an unofficial public swimming pool.
As the ocean closes in, the best hope for saving Venice is a series of underwater floodgates to block tides up to 10 feet high from entering the historic lagoon surrounding the city.
A new island connecting Lido Inlet’s floodgates, shown here, will house their control rooms.
On the Lido’s north side is an artificial island, and at center, a barge and the red framework that holds a floodgate. The gate will be lowered into place onto a submerged caisson.
The floodgate will be one of 78 which can be raised to prevent the flooding of Venice (top right).
Here, a massive crane prepares to lower one of the mobile barriers into place.
The yellow floodgate is lowered into place under the surface of the Venice Lagoon where it will be connected to a massive hinge.
Workers inspect massive elements of the hinge connecting system that rest on a massive caisson.
They’ll be part of the floodgate mechanism under the surface of the Venice Lagoon.
Most of MOSE’s infrastructure is designed to be virtually invisible. During normal tidal conditions, the gates will lie flush with the bed of the inlets to the lagoon and water will pass over them as if nothing is amiss.
But during high-water events, which occurred 11 times last year reaching a crescendo of 6 feet at the max, control centers will direct compressed air into the gates, causing them to rise.
Creating a system that remains submerged during normal tide was a formidable challenge, but mandatory for Venice and its iconic views.
“People said, ‘I don’t want to see it,’ ” says Giovanni Cecconi, one of the top engineers for Consorzio Venezia Nuova, which designed the system. “It is the landscape of Venice.”
If everything goes according to plan, the only visible change to Venice will be the absence of severe flooding in the city’s historic streets.