No replacement of Venice’s Accademia Bridge

The ‘temporary’ wooden Accademia Bridge (see image below) will not be replaced by a new wooden and steel structure, as announced by Venice’s Public Works Councillor Alessandro Maggioni on 30 November 2011. Even though the proposed replacement was commended by Maggioni for its design (see image below) and being economical, he stated that the primary reason for rejecting the replacement is the current lack of funding. The cost of the replacement is estimated to be €6 million, as noted in the Venice daily newspaper La Nuova Venezia on 30 November 2011.
Maggioni acknowledged during a press conference on 30 November 2011 that replacing this bridge is one of the more important projects in the city, but argued that it is not an urgent priority. This is despite the heavy flow of pedestrians over this bridge, which is one of only four bridges over Venice’s Grand Canal.
After many recent incidents when this much-used bridge has caught on fire, one wonders just how long it will take to find an alternative since the creation of the ‘temporary’ wooden bridge in 1932-3. Although the wooden structure was renovated in 1985-6, it has existed as a temporary replacement for the iron Accademia Bridge since this was demolished in 1932-3. Englishman Alfred Neville designed the iron Accademia Bridge (see image below), which was completed in 1854. “Neville’s Accademia bridge, one of the most anathematized features of Venice at the time of its demolition in 1933, was praised by the Illustrated London News as a ‘handsome structure’ with ‘elegance of form’,” writes John Pemble in his book Venice Rediscovered (1996, 125). Nevertheless, this iron bridge became a victim of conservationist pressure. “Neville’s bridge had a relatively brief existence: it was demolished in 1932 as it was increasingly felt that its design was out of sympathy with the environment,” explains Margaret Plant in her book Venice: Fragile City. 1797-1997 (2002, 147).

Just imagine if the iron Accademia Bridge had not been demolished, Venice might not be facing the embarrassment of being unable to replace a ‘temporary’ bridge for almost eighty years!

This is the latest episode in many Venetian ‘bridge battles’ examined in my book ‘Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and Reality’, which will be published by UPA in the USA in early 2012.

Drawing of the iron Accademia Bridge:

Wooden Accademia Bridge:

Proposed replacement design:

3 Responses to “No replacement of Venice’s Accademia Bridge”
  1. Dominic Standish says:

    There was a development of this debate about the Accademia Bridge on 1 December 2011, reported in an article in La Nuova Venezia by Roberta di Rossi.

    Venice City Council has announced that having shelved plans to replace the Bridge, it will seek a private sponsor to restore the current wooden structure. The Council is looking for private funding of €2.5 million for this restoration, which it hopes to secure by January 2012 for work to begin within 2012. It was noted that if work is not carried out on the Bridge, the situation would become very serious. The article reported that proposed improvements to the wood should include protection to prevent it from catching fire, which happened on several occasions this summer.

  2. southafricanstories says:

    Why was the iron bridge so anathematised at the time? It seems to have the delicacy of filigree lace and looks quite beautiful. Was it because of the new material ‘iron’ that was used or the fact that it wasn’t curved in the traditional Venetian style?

    • Dominic Standish says:

      Both this bridge and the Ponte degli Scalzi by the railway station were replaced because their iron structures were championed as symbols of modernization. The iron Ponte degli Scalzi was replaced by a stone bridge in 1933-4. Conservationism had triumphed in the centre of the city by this time with modern projects largely restricted to the outskirts. These trends were reinforced by the strength of the fascist party in Venice.

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