Metropolitan Governance and Spatial Planning: Comparative Case Studies of European City-Regions

By Willem Salet; Andy Thornley et al. | Go to book overview

15

Venice

Mariolina Toniolo and Turiddo Pugliese


Metropolitan development in Venice: ordinary trends in an extraordinary city

Phenomena associated with suburbanisation appeared in Venice earlier than in similar Italian cities due to the peculiar nature and shape of the city, clearly divided as it is into (at least) two parts, namely: the ancient, water-based one - consisting of the city core with a smaller lagoon island - and more recent developments on the mainland. 1 The relationship between the old and the new parts of the city - or between the archipelago and the mainland - have always been uneasy (see figure 15.1).

During most of its existence, Venice was a maritime republic having closer relationships with the eastern shores of the Mediterranean than with the nearby regions on the mainland. Since Venice ceased to be an independent state two centuries ago, the task of preserving the peculiar character of this unique city was often associated with isolating it from the rest of the world.

Shortly before the First World War, industrial and residential overspill from the old city caused the development of a new city around the villages of Marghera and Mestre. New developments were, and still are, neither just peripheral to the old core nor do they constitute a totally independent city. Therefore, in Venice the typical dilemma, integration-oriented movements opposing those supporting the self-sufficiency of different parts, common to every metropolitan area, does not occur only among municipalities but is deeply felt even within the city itself.

This is why in Venice special attention was always devoted to suburbanisation processes, and statistics were provided to distinguish the different parts of the city earlier than for similar Italian cities. As early as in the 1960s the outflow of population and economic activities was detected from the old core to what was then the periphery on the mainland, but was explained in light of the peculiar nature of the city rather than being seen as part of a trend common to most European and northern Italian cities. For people who cared for the city's preservation - and many people all over the world do care - this was a clear symptom of urban decline (see UNESCO, 1969, for probably the most relevant example). 2 As a consequence, solutions stressed the need for special policies for this very special city rather

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